Greensky Bluegrass

with Ghost Light

Thu, January 23, 2020

State Theatre

Doors: 7:00pm - Show: 8:00pm - all ages

$29.50 advance
$35.00 day of show

Buy in person without fees at the Port City Music Hall box office Wednesday-Friday 10am-5pm. The State Theatre box office will open 1 hour before doors night of show.

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Greensky Bluegrass

After 18 years together, up to 175 shows per year, nearly 1,000 different setlists, six studio albums, and a litany of live releases, Greensky Bluegrass embodies more than just music for members Anders Beck [dobro], Michael Arlen Bont [banjo], Dave Bruzza [guitar], Mike Devol [upright bass], and Paul Hoffman [Mandolin]. Truthfully, it embodies an ironclad creative bond, familial brotherhood, and a lifelong commitment to fans. At this point, it goes without saying the band means everything (and more) to the Kalamazoo, MI bluegrass mavericks.

So, with a wink and a smile, they offer up a cleverly titled seventh full-length, All For Money, in 2019.
Hoffman dispels the obvious first: “Clearly, we aren’t a band all for money. We did it for romantic reasons such as love, catharsis, and because it mattered to us and the listeners. We wanted to have fun with the paradox of the title though. We’re truly blessed and humbled to have our dreams come true and do what we do. However, it would be easy to make decisions based on our needs to eat or the desires of others, but that’s not doing it for love. We love what we do, and we’re grateful for the love we receive in return from the people listening.”

As time goes on, the guys continue to do things for the “right reasons,” and that mindset resonates louder and louder amongst a growing fan base. A live force of nature renowned for bringing rock ‘n’ roll showmanship to high-energy bluegrass, the group has sold out hallowed venues such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre and the legendary Ryman Auditorium in addition to igniting stages everywhere from Bonnaroo and New Orleans Jazz Festival to Austin City Limits and Outside Lands. Their unpredictable performances remain the stuff of legend attracting diehard devotees who typically travel far and wide to experience multiple gigs. In 2014, If Sorrows Swim bowed at #1 on the Billboard Top Bluegrass Albums Chart, while the 2016 follow-up Shouted, Written Down & Quoted cracked the Top 3. Along the way, they have also earned praise from Billboard, AXS, Westword, and more.

On All For Money, Greensky once again aimed to progress. This time around, the musicians kept the show top of mind as they composed the music.

“We have a motto where we want every show to be harder, better, longer, and faster,” admits Hoffman. “With All For Money, I felt like we were serving the performance more by writing and arranging material in a way we would intend to play it on stage. We tried to incorporate a lot of what we already do live, which is different for us in the studio.”

They recorded March-May at Echo Mountain Sound in Asheville, NC. In the studio, they worked with longtime friend Dominic John Davis as producer. According to Hoffman, Davis offered a fresh perspective on “how to balance the studio and concerts.” Amplifying the sonic palette, signatures such as dobro tone, bass grooves, and banjo took the spotlight.
The first single “Do It Alone” feels equally at home on a festival stage as it does blaring through your soundsystem. Backed by a robust groove, the song transforms traditional bluegrass instrumentation into a rich sonic backdrop highlighted by a mandolin awash in a trio of effects as well as rich echoed vocals and emotive lyrics.

I’d been trying to write a windows-down rock ‘n’ roll tune for a while,” explains Hoffman. “I got out an old guitar of mine, re-strung it, and immediately spit the song out. It’s meant to be an anthem. I ask myself, ‘Why do I do it alone?’ It’s because I’ve got a whole room of thousands singing at the top of their lungs with me. Whenever I write something emotional that might be difficult to sing, I’m reminded of the fact the crowd is there. Hopefully, it’s a reminder for other people as well and we all have something to chant together.”

Hot on its heels, the intriguing and irresistible “Murder of Crows” takes flight on kinetic performances as it delivers an emotionally charged message and provocative narrative. “This is a song that Aaron and I wrote about disconnection, drifting apart, loss, and remorse,” Dave Bruzza reveals. “It also touches on a cry for help and how it was not heard in time. A friend told me crows had funerals. He explained that farmers used to nail a crow to the fence or barn door to get rid of them eating the crops. Thee birds would gather, pay their respects, and fly off never to return. It was interesting. I began to think why people disappear in our lives. It came together with the mysterious letter someone received, and it all made sense to turn this into a story.”

Also originally penned by Bruzza, “It’s Not Mine Anymore”’ illustrates the group’s virtuosity with a “metal” spirit. Elsewhere, “Wish I Didn’t Know” hinges on a trance-y Mandolin passage that proves instantly hypnotic, and “Do Harm” taps into an upbeat bounce by way of an an off-kilter rhythm. Meanwhile, the title track spirals into psychedelic territory during a head-spinning two-minute midsection before culminating on an important statement.

“It feels liberating to be honest about it,” he remarks. “With the title track, we were asking more of the listeners than we ever have, but the line ‘If you need a voice, I’m yours friend’ is meant for them.”

In the end, all the right reasons continue to drive Greensky Bluegrass.

“As songwriters and musicians, we have a need for people to be on board, and we’re not just regurgitating the same shit,” he leaves off. “We’re pushing ourselves every time. I hope they want to listen to the record and hear the songs live. I hope they know we’re doing this for us and them.”

Ghost Light

“I think of this album like a bunch of abstract paintings,” says Ghost Light’s Tom Hamilton. “We present the songs as a series meant to be experienced in a certain order, but at the end of the day, whatever that series makes you feel is totally up to you.”

In that sense, Ghost Light’s brilliant debut album, ‘Best Kept Secrets,’ functions much like the band itself, drawing beauty and strength from both its complementary pairings and its unexpected juxtapositions. Formed in 2017, the group brings together five consummately talented artists from across the musical spectrum—guitarists/singers Tom Hamilton and Raina Mullen, pianist Holly Bowling, and drummer Scotty Zwang—and thrusts them into a wholly new context. The result is a record that transcends the sonic contributions and background of any single member, a collection that’s at once gritty and refined, sprawling and restrained, straightforward and psychedelic.

Though the performances on the album are laser focused, the group’s live shows are a far looser affair, with tracks frequently blossoming into extended improvisational journeys dictated by the emotional temperature of the room on any given night. Songs turn into wordless conversations between all five members, a tide-like give-and-take that makes each show wholly engrossing and utterly unique.

“An album is…a document and snapshot of a particular moment in time,” Hamilton told Live For Live Music in a recent interview, “but when it comes to taking that album and bringing it into the live arena, that’s when we turn ourselves back into the improvisers that we all are. We get to really see what these songs can do and where they can go.”

With a formidable live reputation already preceding them, the band sold out the opening night of their inaugural tour and they haven’t looked back since, playing a slew of headline dates around the country in addition to entrancing festival crowds from Lock’n to High Sierra, Peach Music Festival, Electric Forest, and beyond.