The bluegrass guitarist’s fans traveled from across the country to catch his wild Grand Rapids concert this week. Local Spins on WYCE spotlights their ardor, Billy’s music + tracks from other Michigan acts.
They came from across the state and across the country – from the Carolinas, from Kentucky, from Wisconsin, from the West Coast.
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They consider themselves part of Billy Strings’ extended family, more than just devoted fans but “Billy Goats” who follow his tours across the globe as true disciples of his modern bluegrass movement, his loving approach to his audiences, his instrumental prowess, his meaningful lyrics.
Many of them keep track of precisely how many times they’ve seen him in concert: 40, 50, 80, 100 and more.
There’s even an uber-popular Billy Base fan website at billybase.net that tracks all of his shows, his set lists and his songs while also offering a dizzying array of Billy Strings-related merchandise, from posters to key chains to sweatpants.
So when the Michigan-born bluegrass hero revved up his long-awaited Halloween extravaganza at Van Andel Arena on Tuesday – the wrestling-themed, star-studded “Van Andel Scramble” – hundreds of these fans rolled into town early, setting up shop and browsing the “Billyween” vendors’ market at downtown’s Courtyard by Marriott or lining up amid chilly temps outside the arena many hours before the show.
“Billy’s been an inspiration to my life for at least the last three or four years. He has the ability to play with extreme talent and humbleness that comes across almost in an inspirational manner almost the way gospel might to some religions,” saidly batik artist Shaun MacWilliams of Chambersburg, Pa., who made the nine-hour, 570-mile drive to Michigan just to catch Billy’s Halloween show and sell his wares.
“We’re more than happy to make that drive to see Billy.”
Costumed to the max for Halloween, Rich May of Louisville, Ky., was catching Billy in concert for the 81st time, thrilled to be “hanging out with friends” and embracing this fast-expanding, loving community of fans. Oh, and marveling at the way Billy Strings and his band strut their stuff in ever-more creative ways.
“It’s like five guys that excel at what they do. When those pistons are firing, there’s nothing like it,” he said. “Those guys create magic on stage.”
They certainly did on Tuesday, electrifying upwards of 12,000 fans with a five-hour spectacle of rock and bluegrass that covered a lot of territory and featured a bevy of special virtuosic guests. Read the Local Spins review here: Billy Strings unleashes rock ’n’ bluegrass ‘destruction’ at jam-packed Van Andel Arena.
To wrap up coverage of Billy Strings’ homecoming blitz, Local Spins on WYCE this week spotlighted several tracks from the bluegrass powerhouse along with some comments from diehard fans.
The show also debuted new music from several other Michigan artists: The Erly, Hail Your Highness, Steven Malcolm, Abe Savas, The Mickeys, Peekaboo, Brother Elsey and Y-Not. Listen to the radio show podcast below and check out more comprehensive coverage of Billy Sttings at Local Spins here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (11/3/23)
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