The Kalamazoo progressive bluegrass powerhouse brought its summer U.S. tour to a familiar venue, enchanting a sold-crowd Wednesday at the Meijer Gardens amphitheater. Review, photos, video.
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No matter how far they’ve come — or how far they’ve traveled — Greensky Bluegrass has always returned home to an adoring sea of faithful, diehard Michigan fans.
Two days after wowing northern Michigan devotees at Interlochen Center for the Arts with a special guest joining them (Traverse City singer-songwriter Joshua Davis), the Kalamazoo-bred progressive bluegrass band revved up another crowd-pleasing, homecoming affair at a sun-and-haze-drenched Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park on Wednesday.
This time around, the band spotlighted Full Cord mandolinist Brian Oberlin, a Rockford native, as the evening’s special guest, joining Greensky for several rousing songs at the end of the first set.
“I learned how to play the mandolin from this guy,” Greensky mandolinist Paul Hoffman exclaimed as Oberlin took the stage.
Fans packed the space at the front of the amphitheater, while others opted to sit back and take in the music from the lawn. Friends Vanessa Buittner, Meghan Lehner and Kelly Vredevoogd attended the show together and were among those who claimed spots up front early.
“Good vibes, good jams, good people, good times,” Buittner said. “Always happy to be at a Greensky show.”
Added Lehner: “They’re the best band ever, that’s what I have to say,” Lehner added.
Indeed, the five-piece band – Hoffman, dobroist Anders Beck, banjoist Michael Arlen Bont, guitarist Dave Bruzza and bassist Mike Devol — has helped put Michigan on the map in terms of the current wave of modern bluegrass, paving the way for another bluegrass superstar, Ionia County’s own Billy Strings.
IMPRESSIVE LEGACY WITH TRIBUTES TO BLUEGRASS ICONS AND THE BEATLES
Formed in Kalamazoo in 2000, Greensky Bluegrass has cultivated a devoted fan base while touring nationally and internationally, and their much-anticipated return to West Michigan drew a sold-out crowd of all ages to Meijer Gardens on Wednesday.
Kicking off the night with “Monument” from the band’s most recent studio album, “Stress Dreams,” Greensky touched on a bevy of crowd favorites from its catalog over two sets, including “Grow Together,” “Courage for the Road,” “What You Need” and “Bottle Dry.”
Ever pushing the boundaries of the genre with elements of psychedelic rock and jam-band vibes, the band entrances its fans with lengthy instrumental breakdowns, complex tempos and time changes. Accompanied by strobing, multicolored spotlights, one particularly complex instrumental break lasted several minutes before morphing into a call-and-response refrain with the crowd during “Leap Year.”
On its way this week to an appearance at Milwaukee’s Summerfest, Greensky Bluegrass also paid homage to iconic bluegrass artists of the past, including the late Jesse McReynolds and Bobby Osborne.
They closed out the long night with a magical encore performance of The Beatles’ classic, “Let It Be.”
It inspired Hoffman to proclaim: “We’re all family here.” And the homecoming officially was complete.
PHOTO GALLERY: Greensky Bluegrass at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Anna Sink
VIDEO: Greensky Bluegrass at Meijer Gardens
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