Setlist provided by Eric White
Sometimes a lineup comes along that is so enticing that you can’t help but drop everything and head out to a show. The Phoffman / Beck Quartet featuring Paul and Anders from Greensky Bluegrass alongside up and comers Billy Strings and Samson Grisman was something that I could not ignore. They plotted a four-day run through the Centennial State with stops in Boulder, Fort Collins, Frisco and Denver. I caught them at The Aggie Theater on night two and they came ready to pick. For this tour, they entrusted the opening slot in Fort Collins to fellow Michiganders Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys.
Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys are a big ol’ slice of Americana served up on one of those melamine plates your grandma used to keep in the cabinet. The group features the sounds you might hear around an Ann Arbor campfire circa 1958, but you know with heaps of modernity piled on for good measure. Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys embody an authenticity rarely witnessed in today’s music scene. Anchored by Lindsay’s powerfully melodic vocals this band passes around instruments like some of us pass around the bottle. It is rare to see a band talented enough that any picker could play any part of the song on guitar, mandolin, or bass. Her set was short clocking in at just under an hour. Highlights included a jammed-out rendition of No Doubt’s “I’m Just A Girl” and a new song entitled “The Voice.”
A little before 10PM our heroes entered stage left. It seems like the Greensky guys are trying to make friends with younger pickers… why is Dave Bruzza sick? There is no shortage of gigs when it comes to Greensky Bluegrass, but this project was something completely different. Billy Strings took the helm early with his original “Dust in a Baggie.”
Set 1: Dust in a Baggie, I’d Probably Kill You, A Letter to Seymour, Different Days, Burn Them, Broken Highways, Why Do You Do Me Like You Do, Roberta, For Sure Uh Huh (1), Meet Me at the Creek > Train, Train > Meet Me at the Creek (2)(3)
Set 2: Lumpy, Beanpole and Dirt, While I’m Waiting Here, All Four, Islands in the Stream (4), Fixin’ to Ruin (4), Broke Mountain Breakdown (5)(6)(7) > Makisupa Policeman > Broke Mountain Breakdown > Makisupa Policeman > Señor > Broke Mountain Breakdown, Demons, Turmoil & Tinfoil (7)
Encore: Will the Circle Be Unbroken (4), Born to Be Wild > Kerosene (8) > Born to Be Wild
(1) “Meet Me at the Creek” started and stopped before song
(2) “Eye of the Tiger” tease
(3) “Tweezer Reprise” jam
(4) With Lindsay Lou
(5) “Smoke on the Water” tease
(6) “Bathtub Gin” tease
(7) “Bustin’ Loose” teases
(8) Unfinished and altered
Overall the show as a blend of originals, unusual covers, and amazing picking. It was like we were witnessing the genesis of an entirely new group. Obviously, that setlist is chocked full of so much bluegrassy goodness that it’s almost too much to dissect. There was lots of classic Greensky sprinkled throughout the show starting with “I’d Probably Kill You” and “A Letter To Seymour.” They played several Bruzza sung tunes during which Billy Strings took the vocals. “Burn Them Broken Highways” was another such tune which was a stunning cool down. “Roberta” was a fast picked instrumental tune that saw some stellar collaboration between Billy and Beck. Anders and Paul had fun on the Greensky reggae vamp tune “For Sure Uh Huh.” They closed with a “Meet Me at the Creek” sandwich that featured a tight “Train, Train” in the middle.
The second set as full of fireworks starting with the Bad Livers cover of “Lumpy, Beanpole and Dirt.” We were treated to another Billy Strings original in the form of “While I’m Waiting Here.” They invited Lindsay Lou up to sing a couple of songs with the band. She gave us a mesmerizing version of the Dolly Parton / Kenny Rodgers classic “Islands in the Steam” as well as “Fixn’ To Ruin” off of GSBG’s latest album Shouted, Written Down and Spoken. The “Broke Mountain Breakdown” spotlighting Phish’s “Makisupa Policeman” was an obvious peak. They closed the show with “Turmoil & Tinfoil.” After that star studded performance the encore was almost too much to handle. The delicate “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” gave way to a raucous “Born To Be Wild” that detoured into Greensky’s “Kerosene” before returning to the Steppenwolf classic. This show was simply put, amazing. Watching incredibly talented pickers learning to play with one another in a live setting is something that never gets old. Let’s hope that we see this quartet again… soon.