Sunday, March 30, 2014


Back in my wild years, when  I was living on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and working for the U.S. Forest Service in the deep, dark woods, I used to head over to Telluride, Colorado every summer for the Bluegrass Festival.

Telluride was fertile ground for hot music.  In addition to the Grateful Dead, there were the youngsters who attended the Telluride Music Camp, cutting their chops at the feet of the masters and jamming each night in the streets like Gypsy Kings.

By the early 80's, a jam band extraordinaire took over the festival and they called themselves the New Grass Revival.  The band featured some of the finest bluegrass musicians to ever jam on.
There was Sam Bush on mandolin, acoustic guitar wizard Pat Flynn, the stellar soprano voice of bass player John Cowan, and banjo legend Béla Fleck.  Their anthem, "Can't Stop Now" was always the match that lit the festival and sent the tribes dancing into orbit.

As The Dead gave birth to the New Grass, the New Grass boys fathered the next generation of jam bands – String Cheese Incident and the Yonder Mountain String Band being two of my favorites.


A few weeks back, I got an e-mail alert from Ramshead Live! in Baltimore highlighting some upcoming shows.  I saw a band listed there that I had never heard of before called The Infamous Stringdusters.
My first reaction was, "Well now, that takes some balls.  With a name like that, they must be good."
So, I googled them and downloaded a youtube video called "Black Rock".

And that was all I need to see and hear.   I was like, "Holy crap!"

So, I immediately bought three tickets and invited my best friend Jimmy and my lawyer, Ronton, to tag along for the ride.  Ron is much younger than me, but he shares my passion for music of all stripes.  He has an unrivaled digital music library that encompasses virtually every musical genre.  We're talking terabytes of good tunes, and he is always happy to share his hard drive.
When String Cheese came to B'mo last year, Ron and I were front and center at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.  And whenever a truly special musical act comes to the Washington/Baltimore area, I always think of Brother Ron first.
So, off we went on a rainy Friday night, having absolutely no idea what to expect, but with great expectations

Ramshead was only about half full – they didn't even open the upper deck.  Finding a good place to stand near the stage was a breeze and the crowd was comprised of young and old alike.  A real interesting mix.

A bluegrass band called Fruition was tearing it up as we ordered some beers, but we had gotten a late start from Annapolis, so we only caught their last two songs.  They featured a lady mandolin player with a mountain of hair, wearing a baseball cap down low, and they definitely rocked the house.  They reminded me how much I like bluegrass, even though I rarely hear it played any more.  A good bluegrass band always brings a smile to my face.

The Infamous Stringdusters took the stage at 9:15 and played until 10:30.

Ron had to be back in Annapolis by 11:30 to take his babysitter home, and when the Dusters finished we figured they would do an encore and that would be it.
Oh no. 

Turned out they were going to do another set.

Ron said, "Train's leaving."

Jimmy and I were like, "I don't think so."

Ron chuckled, "It is what it is, my friends.  Gotta go."

Jimmy and I looked at each other and nodded.

"See ya," we said in unison.  "We'll catch a cab." (Annapolis is thirty miles away.)

Brother Ron split and at 11, the Dusters took the stage for round two.
Halfway through the first song it was clear that the first set had just been a warm-up act, like setting the stage for all of the power and the glory.

The Infamous Stringdusters are as good as any bluegrass band that has ever made the strings sing.

But here's the thing.  They're just kids.   And that makes me feel really good.  I'm a big believer that pretty much everything gets better as we evolve.  Geezers always think their fun times were the best – their music, their favorite athletes – and that what follows is essentially crap.  That's nonsense.  Our kids are smarter, faster, and more clever than we ever were.  And that's the way it should be.  It shows that we were good gardeners and our seeds grew most excellent fruit.  We should all be proud, not pissed or bitter. The Dead were the founding fathers of jam music, so they kind of get a pass when it comes down to the who's better than who game.  But New Grass were better jammers than Jerry and the Boys.  And String Cheese were better than New Grass.  And you know what?  The Infamous Stringdusters are better than them ALL.
So, do yourself a big favor and check the kids out.  They will totally blow you away.

No comments :

Post a Comment