The amazingly high quality Leap Year Sessions show just how good Greensky Bluegrass is at making the best out of a bad situation. Like every band on the planet they are unable to share the intimate connection of in-person performances at the moment but their novel solution of recording eight NEW performances and sharing them out weekly is inspired in concept and stellar in execution.
Of course, with 4k recording being captured by 201 Productions (most widely known for their extensive work capturing LivePhish), these performances at the venerable St. Louis venue The Pageant are astoundingly clear. The lamentable lack of crowd noise let’s each nuanced note ring out perfectly, delivered to pay-per-view audiences by HYFI every Friday night throughout the months of August and September. Check out this gorgeous clip from last week’s stream to get an idea of how perfect the presentation is:
Greensky Bluegrass- “Worried About the Weather” – 8/28/2020
Like all the best live bands, Greensky are masters of stoking the fires of their audience. Drop steel guitarist Anders Beck is known for his love of scanning the crowd for the faces of fans who’ve closed their eyes as they get lost in their bliss so he can be there smiling at them when they return to reality. While Beck may not have that direct link to the fans, these streams are an incredibly intimate look into the band’s on-stage camaraderie. Their love of each, creating the music that only these five players can make together, pours out of your home speakers and screens just as powerfully as it does at a live show.
Last night’s stream showed no rust as they wound their way through a tight ninety minute set. Paul Hoffman started the stream singing his welcome to the fans before wielding his mournful voice and joyful mandolin skills while bassist Michael Devol cracked wise and had my subwoofer rumbling. Guitarist Dave Bruzza‘s gruff vocals provided a perfect sonic counterpoint to Hoffman and his playing is as nuanced as ever. The speed and precision that Banjo Mike Bont performs his rolls is as impressive as ever and Beck’s peels and squeals of rage and joy are as cutting as ever.
For context I should mention I’ve been seeing Greensky Bluegrass for thirteen years. Watching them rise from Tuesday night shows to near empty rooms to selling out multiple night runs at Red Rocks has been one of the most inspiring stories I have ever witnessed. I remember watching Paul Hoffman try to convince a potential fan to come into an empty show by offering to wave the cover and I knew then that this band was gonna go places.
Those early shows to tiny crowds had to have been good practice for playing to their crew, who knocked it out of the park. Bringing in their stellar touring crew to handle these shows added to the experience. Their lightning director Andrew Lincoln in particular demonstrated his uncanny connection with the band and the intricacies of their performances with spot on switches and beautifully varied light washes.
I’ve got a few last takeaways from last night’s stream, in convenient bullet point form:
-Paul Hoffman’s stage fan is the unsung hero of every show.
-Yelling requests at my TV has about the same percentage of success as it does at shows.
-A band encouraging mass consumption and drunkenness is waaaay more acceptable when the only thing fans are driving is their feet from the couch to bed!
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that this has been one of the most unpleasant years in my beloved music loving life. Adding to the tragic loss of life we’ve lost one of our best coping mechanisms: gathering together for the healing power of live music. While that synergy and energy might be dampened, it was truly cathartic to share last night, and the coming shows, with the band. I strongly suggest you pick up the three remaining Leap Year shows and check out the preciously aired ones that are part of this stunning love letter to Greensky fans around the world. It may not be ideal but I definitely am feeling the love thanks to one of the best bands in the land!
Setlist: Greensky Bluegrass | Leap Year Sessions | The Pageant | St Louis, MS | 9/4/20
Set: Wish I Didn’t Know, It’s Not Mine Anymore, Against the Days, Runnin’ the Briars, Cathedral Eyes, Little Maggie, Yellow Eyes, The Radio Blues, Past My Prime, Bone Digger, Into the Rafters, I’m Working on a Building, Courage for the Road