As the band hosts its traditional Thanksgiving weekend concerts at State Theatre, we interview mandolinist Paul Hoffman for a radio show that also boasts new music by Myron Elkins, Chain of Lakes and more.
SCROLL DOWN FOR RADIO PODCAST, VIDEO OF GREENSKY BLUEGRASS W/ BILLY STRINGS
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Greensky Bluegrass mandolinist and singer Paul Hoffman recalls the band’s early Thanksgiving weekend shows with some amusement, calling them “sort of a consolation gig” because few people would attend the Kalamazoo concerts over the holidays.
“It was hard to get people to come for a show because I think college kids all traveled home for Thanksgiving and people were out busy shopping,” he says of the performances that began 18 years ago at Bell’s Brewery. “It sort of turned into this event.”
The Kalamazoo-bred progressive bluegrass band’s Thanksgiving shows have now become a festive tradition – a two-night spectacle at State Theatre, which fills to capacity with diehard fans, many of whom attend both evening shows.
Greensky Bluegrass performs at 8:30 p.m. tonight (Nov. 25) and Saturday (Nov. 26). A small number of tickets — $45-$57 – remain available for both shows online at kazoostate.com. Doors open at 7 p.m. A live-stream of the shows is also available online at nugs.netce.
“it’s always been a close-to-the-heart homecoming for us,” said Hoffman, who now makes his home in Denver, though the band remains Kalamazoo-based and banjoist Michael Arlen Bont still resides there. “I love the State Theatre.
“We’ve done some pretty wild things with those Kalamazoo State Theatre shows. It’s fun for us to do stuff that’s different and I hope that transfers to the fans as fun. … Occasionally, we’re going to get loose and take some risks.”
This year’s homecoming boasts an even more celebratory atmosphere than usual, not only due to the waning COVID pandemic but because the members of Greensky Bluegrass – Hoffman, Bont, Dave Bruzza, Anders Beck and Mike Devol – have enjoyed a milestone year with vigorous touring behind a new album, “Stress Dreams.”
“It’s been great to be back on a bus. We played a lot of venues we hadn’t played in a long time and a lot of cities we hadn’t been to in a long time,” Hoffman says. “The list still goes on. There are still a lot of places we need to get back to. It was a fun year.”
VIDEO: Greensky Bluegrass and Billy Strings, “In the Morning Light”
This week’s Local Spins on WYCE spotlighted two tracks from the new album, the title track featuring keyboardist Holly Bowling and “Cut a Tooth.” (Scroll down to listen to the full radio show podcast and check out the Local Spins interview with Bowling here.)
“Musically, I think we tried a lot of new stuff and I think we’re covering a lot of new ground,” Hoffman says. “The music feels fresh, expanding our creative catalog.”
The band plans to do more of that this winter and into 2023, with another tour soon to be announced, along with some solo gigs for Hoffman, who’s also been busy writing new songs for the next studio project.
As for another bluegrass-driven star from West Michigan, Hoffman remains “super proud” of Ionia County-bred Billy Strings, who’s ascended to the top of the bluegrass scene with his award-winning music and sold-out national tours.
Hoffman still affectionately refers to the bluegrass guitarist as “The Kid” – a reference to the young musician who cut his teeth, in part, by sitting in with Greensky Bluegrass back in the day.
“It makes me smile,” Hoffman says. “He’s worked really hard. He’s really talented. He deserves all the raving success that he gets.”
This week’s Local Spins on WYCE also featured new music from Myron Elkins, Chain of Lakes, Jack Pine, Entransient and Aaron Wright, along with a 2020 track from Darcy Wilkin. Listen to the full radio show here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (11/25/22)
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