Playing the first of three nights at the Caledonia-area ranch, the Michigan-bred progressive bluegrass band earned a rousing welcome from fans. The Local Spins review, photos and video from Night No. 1.
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For Greensky Bluegrass and ardent fans of the Michigan-bred band, it was a long-delayed homecoming that will long be remembered.
Friday night’s first-ever appearance by the nationally revered bluegrass powerhouse at Shagbark Farm – the Caledonia-area cattle ranch that’s long hosted Cowpie Music Festival – was nothing if not a triumph.
In part, it represented a victory over isolation, over separation, over silence and over touring obstacles provoked by an unprecedented pandemic.
Consequently, the throng of festival-starved attendees gathering for the first of a three-night Shagbark stand responded with over-the-top glee, fervor, camaraderie and devotion for “hometown” heroes who’ve long distinguished themselves as a Herculean live act.
Playing their first Michigan show since 2019 after being forced to cancel the band’s June Camp Greensky festival two years in a row, members of GSBG clearly reveled in the first show at this new venue – a super-sized, polished production in a new location on the farm that felt like Cowpie on mega-steroids.
Dobro whiz Anders Beck conceded from the stage that the band wasn’t sure at first how this alternative to Camp Greensky 2021 might fare.
“Now, it feels like we have a goddamned festival on our hands,” he declared to cheers from ebullient fans. “Does anybody remember festivals?”
They remembered, and they celebrated that return to a festival vibe for several hours on Friday, starting with a dynamic, one-hour opening set from fast-emerging bluegrass star and mandolinist Sierra Hull of Tennessee, who later joined Greensky as a guest during their set.
AN ‘OVERWHELMING’ ROCK ‘N’ ROLL BLUEGRASS SPECTACLE
The boys in Greensky Bluegrass – Beck, banjoist Michael Bont, mandolinist Paul Hoffman, guitarist Dave Bruzza and bassist Mike Devol – wasted little time endearing themselves to Great Lakes State fans, opening the evening with “Tied Down,” a track sporting the lyrics: “I’m tied down to Michigan, there ain’t no home like this one.”
What followed was a succession of crowd-enticing gems, from “Kerosene” to “Old Home Place” to “Do It Alone” and new material such as “Grow Together.”
Essentially, it’s rock ’n’ roll bluegrass – a wondrous, chest-reverberating, light-festooned, jam-filled happy place for 2,000-plus devotees displaying their pent-up energy from pandemic quarantine in fervent fashion.
And with clouds clearing after afternoon rains, a sunset amid color-splashed skies even attempted to peeked through as evening closed in.
Friday’s musical volley from Hoxeyville Presents is just the beginning: New Jersey’s Railroad Earth opens Saturday night’s Greensky concert at Shagbark (with more than 3,000 fans expected) and Michigan faves Steppin’ In It gets things started for the early Sunday show. Get ticket information online here.
Not surprisingly, property owner John “Farmer John” Crissman was elated with Greensky’s inaugural performance (after coming to a two-year agreement to play Shagbark Farm), even tearing up emotionally as he made introductions on Friday.
“I’ve been bawling like a baby all day,” Crissman told Local Spins, commending the production company which assembled the Greensky Bluegrass weekend for doing a magnificent job in setting up and ramping up the festival site.
“I’m just thrilled to have this back here. The whole thing is just overwhelming.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Greensky Bluegrass, Sierra Hull at Shagbark Farm
Photos by Anna Sink
VIDEO: Greensky Bluegrass Day 1 Highlights
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