West Michigan ushered in 2020 with bluegrass brilliance, an outdoor Pop Evil party, 20 Monroe Live’s Resolution Ball, Kalamazoo’s New Year’s Fest and more captured in photos and videos at Local Spins.
Billy Strings welcomes 2020 with rousing, psychedelic bluegrass fire
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Billy Strings has become a bona fide, psychedelic bluegrass hero.
The Ionia-raised guitarist’s New Year’s Eve homecoming show – the exclamation point on the biggest year of his career – proved that beyond a doubt.
A jam-packed, sold-out audience of some 1,500 exuberant fans, friends and relatives cheered two sets and an encore of groove- and effects-laden bluegrass virtuosity on Wednesday night, performed against a backdrop of kaleidoscopic, trippy visuals.
“It’s so great to be back here in Grand Rapids and in this room,” William Apostol, aka Billy Strings, exclaimed after he and his band opened the night with “Dust in a Baggie.”
“I’m really looking forward to this celebration we’re gonna have tonight.”
It was certainly a celebration, not only of the unprecedented, chart-topping and award-winning success that Apostol enjoyed in 2019 but of his band’s remarkable ability to fuse traditional bluegrass jams with a New Millennium, psych-rock milieu.
A perfect example? The second song of the night, “While I’m Waiting Here,” from 2017’s “Turmoil & Tinfoil,” started with almost gentle, adroit picking and eventually morphed into a 15-minutes-plus, boisterous jam filled with effects and genre-bending romps.
And make no mistake, a Billy Strings show is far more than just the remarkable, finger-flying instrumental prowess of Billy Strings.
The entire band – banjoist Billy Failing, bassist Royal Mast and mandolinist Jarrod Walker, plus “unofficial fifth member” fiddler John Mailander – defies normal conventions, a top-drawer bunch that elevates each other’s solos with ever more dazzling displays.
It all shined on material such as “Home,” “Fiddlin’ Around,” “Turmoil & Tinfoil,” “Everything’s the Same,” “Meet Me at the Creek” and “Freedom” (which closed out the post-midnight encore). View the set list online here.
At times, the ever-gracious Billy Strings even played the role of rock star, with metal-inspired hair-tossing during jams, donning a boa and glittery top hat for a little New Year’s glitz.
It was the perfect way to welcome a new decade: a mind-blowing prescription of bluegrass to cure whatever ails you. – John Sinkevics
Read the Local Spins interview with Billy Strings here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Billy Strings at The Intersection
Photos by Anna Sink
Video by John Sinkevics and Anna Sink
POP EVIL AT THE GRAND RAPIDS BALL DROP ON MONROE AVENUE
A few thousands folks braved the cold for the first New Year’s Eve ball drop in downtown Grand Rapids in several years, with on-stage performances by several acts, including hard rock’s Puddle of Mudd and headliner Pop Evil from West Michigan, which revved up its home-state fans late into the evening.
VIDEO: Pop Evil in downtown Grand Rapids
Video by John Sinkevics
PHOTO GALLERY: Resolution Ball at 20 Monroe Live
Photos by Anthony Norkus
PHOTO GALLERY: Manic Focus at Elevation inside The Intersection
Photos by Eric Stoike