With the Billy Strings & Don Julin duo starting to “pull back” from performing quite as much, the Ionia-bred guitarist is writing songs and reveling in jams with other musical pals.
THE ARTIST: Billy Strings
THE MUSIC: Bluegrass
WHERE YOU CAN SEE HIM: 6 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) at SpeakEZ Lounge as part of the Local Spins Wednesday series, with Hank Mowery & The Hawktones playing at 8 p.m.; 6:15 p.m. Thursday at The Eddy music festival in downtown Grand Rapids; 9 p.m. Friday with Don Julin at Holland’s Park Theatre
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Billy Strings is branching out.
The bluegrass guitar phenom from Traverse City who’s created a stir nationally and crisscrossed the country the past year with mandolinist Don Julin is hammering away on solo material and performing with a host of other musical pals these days.
“I’ve got a batch of songs that I’m going to make a record out of. I’ve been focusing a lot more on original material,” he told Local Spins, noting that the Billy Strings & Don Julin duo will be “pulling back” from performing 200-plus gigs a year in the near future.
They’ll still be touring and playing together, though the guitarist stressed, “I’m going to focus more on my solo stuff.”
As part of that, Billy Strings, aka William Apostol, will be playing at 6 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) at SpeakEZ Lounge in Grand Rapids, joined by Dobro player and multi-instrumentalist Mark Lavengood, of Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys. That special performance will be followed at 8 p.m. by Grand Rapids blues group Hank Mowery & The Hawktones as part of the Local Spins Wednesdays series. Details online here.
The 11th-hour booking at SpeakEZ Lounge came after The Eddy music festival off Monroe Avenue NW – an ArtPrize-related 10-day event hosted by Traverse City’s Porterhouse Presents – experienced dismally low turnouts for their scheduled shows during the week. Billy Strings was to play a free show there tonight, but organizers suggested shifting the show instead to SpeakEZ Lounge for the Local Spins Wednesdays series to improve attendance.
Other changes to the music festival lineup for the rest of the week are expected, though haven’t yet been officially announced. The Avett Brothers show on Saturday drew 3,500 people but attendance has been disappointing for other shows. Billy Strings, The Outer Vibe, Mike & Ruthy and Ty Beat are still scheduled to perform at The Eddy starting at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, with special guest Alex Johnson joining Billy Strings. Some details online here.
COMING HOME TO THE GRAND RAPIDS AREA: ‘A BIG JAM SESSION’
For Apostol, playing shows in Grand Rapids is akin to coming home. He grew up in Ionia and expects plenty of friends and relatives to swing by to cheer him on and, perhaps, even sit in with him.
“It’s going to be kind of like a big jam session on the stage. I’ll be the El Capitano,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to playing in Grand Rapids. Whenever I play down there I get to see all these hometown friends. It’s like a reunion.”
After his Grand Rapids shows, Billy Strings will rejoin Don Julin for a concert Friday night at Park Theatre in Holland, followed by an appearance Saturday in Traverse City for Harvest @ The Commons, presented by the Groundwork Center, formerly known as the Michigan Land Use Institute.
The duo, usually accompanied by Traverse City standup bassist Kevin Gills, quickly have become one of the country’s most sought-after bluegrass outfits, releasing two highly praised albums and touring with the likes of the legendary Del McCoury and David Grisman, aka Del & Dawg.
They’ll be crisscrossing the country again later this year, with tour stops as far-flung as New York, California and Minnesota. This comes after the group played a host of high-profile, bluegrass-driven festivals this year, including Grey Fox, Wintergrass, DelFest, Rockygrass, Romp and, most recently, last weekend’s Albino Skunk Music Festival in South Carolina.
“All those big festivals we get to hang out with our heroes and play music with them. It’s just amazing,” Apostol said. “We’re so lucky to be inside that community.”
Admission to the show tonight (Thursday) at SpeakEZ Lounge is free, with Michigan craft beer specials available. ArtPrize badgeholders also get discounts tonight: $3 well drinks, $3 house wine glasses and $4 appetizers.
Read more about Billy Strings & Don Julin in this special Local Spins Artist Spotlight, with a full video of their performance at River City Studios earlier this year below.
VIDEO: Billy Strings & Don Julin, Local Spins Live at River City Studios
Copyright 2015, Spins on Music LLC