The Infamous Stringdusters have had quite the substantial last week or so, starting off with their Halloween escapades at the beginning of last weekend in which they were able to jam with none other than G. Love of Special Sauce. This past Monday night, the band was featured as part of the incredible celebration What The Night Brings, the musical tribute to the late mandolin master Jeff Austin, with whom of course The Stringdusters had befriended and performed beside many times. At that huge evening at 1st Back Center in Denver, the band performed a version of their still pretty brand-new hit, “Rise Sun,” and also collaborated on Jeff Austin numbers like “Cuckoo’s Nest” and more.
Grateful Web caught the dynamic, jamgrass six-piece the night before that, at their Sunday night stop in Norwalk, CT. Here, The Infamous Stringdusters were performing at the regionally legendary Wall St Theater. Veterans of the scene may know this place better as The Globe Theater, and when it had that name it was a historic venue for nationally touring to perform at, including everybody from moe. to Strangefolk, to members of The Allman Brothers, and more.
One might think that a rendezvous in Connecticut would be the time for a band to breathe for a bit, in the middle of such a huge weekend. But that’s not how The Dusters roll! Sunday night's show did take off tentatively, with “Night On The River” easing into the start of things. But with the song’s graceful transition into the newer Dusters song “Carry Me Away,” the elated liftoff of a prime 'Dusting' were already at hand. An extensive, three song swing dominated the first, kicking off with the band’s pop-ish but pretty tune, “Planets,” then smashing bravado style through “Nine Pound Hammer,” and finally landing on the lyrically melodically emotive “The Place That I Call Home.”
What makes The Infamous Stringdusters one of the premier progressive bluegrass bands to see live is their subtle but unwavering balance between uniform jamming and showcasing individual members’ abilities. Stringdusters shows are always halved between a magnificently cohesive approach to psychedelic-sounding improvisation and moments of lone members standing out. In many face-melting moments, these two sides of the coin become one when members pair off for string-picking battles in the heart of dramatic jam climaxes. Nobody brings bluegrass hose-style builds and tension and release like these guys (although up and comers like The Kitchen Dwellers and The Lil’ Smokies are catching on).
That being said, all five members’ professional mind for their instruments never wavers. Here in Norwalk, “Big River,” was all Jeremy Garrett’s, who ripped apart the cover mercilessly with some awesome soloing. Alternatively, getting into the second set, Andy Hall and Andy Falco were at times the ones to listen for within the Stringdusters magnificently cosmic stringband sound, when they both supped up the sounds of their dobro and guitar, respectively, with extra heady, funky sounding guitar pedals.
Consequently, The Stringdusters also construct setlists that navigate the worlds of old bluegrass and new grass with ease and without squashing energy. Their original tune “Changes” was taken very far out improvisationally, far enough to invite a neat jam on Steely Dan's “Reelin In The Years,” but wound its way back into the Old And In The Way staple “The Hobo Song.” Similarly, country-funk number “Get It While You Can,” wound the tension up to spine-tingling levels before jumping expertly into the bluegrass standard “Home Of The Red Fox.” This was an awesome flip-of-the-switch between The Stringdusters' racing, rock and roll style and a good, old fashioned bluegrass breakdown.
Norwalk’s show peaked in its finish, with the band dropping a big, bold version of their now classic original, “Blockies” to end the evening (before an encore). Possible alternatively known to some as “Peace of Mind,” this one has previously always been played a much slower tempo, but lately has been given the double time treatment from The Stringdusters. And that’s a welcome thing, because the alternative style kickoff speed granted it one of the most exciting jams of the whole night.