Live at Crystal Ballroom
Feb.27, 2014- Portland, OR
Show Review by: Walter McCorkle
Thursday evening in Portland, Oregon, the now frequently visiting band Greensky Bluegrass made their way through town on a West Coast tour run. As usual, my ears perked up when I caught wind of the grassroots musicians coming through my town, and there are very few things that will hold me back from getting a chance to let my feet get a’stompin’. As I strolled into the venue – the beautiful, iconic, and historic Crystal Ballroom – I immediately tuned in to the opening band, The Tumbleweed Wanderers, who were getting ready to play. I cannot say I am familiar with the Oakland, CA native band, but they certainly offered an enthusiastic, Americana feeling rock set that had the early birds shuffling their feet and bobbing their heads. It was a pleasant introduction to the following main act and an excellent transitioning point for the night.
As the suspended dance floor filled, the energy began filling the room as well. After a couple local Portland brews (the McMenamins’ Hammerhead and Ruby to be exact), I came to find the crowd packing towards the stage and the lights dimming, a sure sign of the excitement to come. The show started with a pulse pumping rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Masterpiece,” very contrasting to the Dead’s usual ambient mood. Needless to say, any band who opens with a noteworthy Grateful Dead cover is okay in my book. The band played a few great songs to follow and the instrumental duels slowly made their way into songs like “Lose My Way” and in the house rocking final segue of “Tied Down > Lochs of Dread > Kerosene > The Other One > Kerosene.” If that closer to the first send doesn’t make your hair stand then you must be bald. Though the first set felt like it had a milder tone than I was expecting, but never-the-less it held its own as cohesive unit and set the stage for an uptempo second set.
Now that the band had a moment to rest and refocus during set break, the mood shifted and the music broke into an improvisational dream with some more incredible covers. Perhaps the most notable cover was a scorching rendition of Fruition’s “Mountain Annie”. Having been on tour together the two rising jam-grass stars are clearly forming a bond, and what better place than to play it than in Frution’s home-town of Portland. Shortly thereafter, my cheeks ached because I couldn’t wipe the ecstatic grin off my face after Greensky crushed a Traffic classic “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” that was accompanied by yet another fiery instrumental duel. Interspersed in the mix were some original songs that it could bring the hill country folks like the Hatfields and McCoys feud to an end. This band’s unique mix of rock n’ roll and even pop (Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” sandwiched in the second set) covers and deep country bluegrass makes the whole length of the show an exciting roller coaster that keeps the crowd on their toes. I think it can go unsaid, but I’ll say it anyways, that if you haven’t gone out to see Greensky Bluegrass’s act, you’re missing out on a scene that will open your eyes to whole new side of jam music.