The Infamous Stringdusters
World Cafe Live Philadelphia – Friday, April 8, 2016
By Christopher Snyder • Photos by Brady Cooling Photography
Bluegrass music has a rich history that dates back hundreds of years. Countless number of legends have paved the way for a number of today’s bluegrass acts. For a decade, The Infamous Stringdusters, have been bending the mold of traditional bluegrass into their own unique sound. On Friday evening the five-piece brought the “Ladies & Gentlemen” tour to World Cafe Live in “The City Of Brotherly Love”, Philadelphia. Joining the guys on the tour is very special guest, vocalist, Nicki Bluhm.
The audience of the Walnut Street venue was buzzing with anticipation as the lights dimmed and the bluegrass pickers emerged, instruments in hand and grins ear to ear gracing their faces. “You Can’t Stop The Changes”, off the quintet’s 2010 release, Things That Fly, started off the evening, with dobro master, Andy Hall, taking the helm on lead vocals. The five members found their groove on the opening number, as all audience members eyes were fixated on the stage. With the opening chords of “Mr. Charlie”, all The Deadheads were in their glory. At this point, the band was firing on all cylinders and really enjoying the energy that the crowd were showing them. Andy Falco, demonstrated why he is considered one of best flatpicking guitar players in the bluegrass solo, during the early ‘70’s Grateful Dead classic. Slowing down the pace the group invited Ms. Bluhm to join them on vocals for a heartfelt rendition of, “I Believe”, off their February release, Ladies & Gentlemen. Kicking it into high gear, Bluhm lead the “gentlemen” on a fast paced version of the Emmylou Harris number, “Amarillo”.
The Infamous Stringdusters are known to take classic bluegrass tunes and give them a little twist. Jeremy Garrett, known for his masterful fiddle skills, stepped up to the microphone for a memorable rendition of The Stanley Brothers song, “Say Won’t Be Mine”, early in the second set. Hall, treated everyone to a perfect solo introduction to fan favorite, “No More To Leave You Behind”. The tune turned into to a jam session that featured Garrett on the fiddle and banjo virtuoso, Chris Pandolfi, facing each other, dueling back and forth as the other band members circled around them. Ms. Bluhm, wowed the crowd with her vocal range on an uplifting, “Big Road Blues”, penned by delta blues songwriter, Tommy Johnson. Mid-way through, “Light & Love”, an original song, the stage lights turned off, but to everyone’s surprise, didn’t miss a beat. This gave a whole new meaning to the lyrics, “the band kept playing on.”
The “gentlemen” invited, California native, Nicki Bluhm back to stage for a few numbers. The biggest surprise of the night came when the bluegrass quintet started into the timeless Jefferson Airplane tune, “Somebody To Love”, as Bluhm felt at home channeling Grace Slick perfectly. “Pioneers”, written by Larry Keel, featured upright bassist, Travis Book on the lead vocals, smiling from ear to ear as he came to forefront. Closing out the second set the five members pay homage to The Grateful Dead, with an extended version of “Jack Straw”, that got everyone up and dancing.
A perfect to end the magical evening was a top notch acoustic rendition of The Band’s, “The Weight”, that featured opening group Paper Bird along with Bluhm. During the last verse, Andy Falco shouted “Everyone now!”
The Infamous Stringdusters truly brought their “A” game on Friday evening, along with their friends, gave the fans more than just a concert, but an experience.