I don’t know what normal is anymore. So, I am still a little dumbfounded when people say we are getting back to normal. Or, their slightly more pessimistic counterparts, who assure me that this is the new normal. Tuesday night, seeing Billy Strings play at The Champlain Valley Expo outside of Burlington, VT felt like it landed right between those two paradigms; seizing on the optimistic return to what was, and infecting what is with that same sense of buoyancy.
Bluegrass guitar virtuoso Billy Strings has been one of the hottest artists in both the bluegrass and jam band communities since prior to the covid-19 pandemic. In addition to winning a Grammy in 2019, he has continued to build a dedicated following by releasing new songs as well as live streams to audiences that were stuck at home. On September 24th, 2021, his new album Renewal will be released.
As the week winds to a close, we are reflecting back with some thoughts about the undoubtedly historic run of musical performances that just occurred this past week at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY: Billy Strings’ “The Deja Vu Experiments,” which saw the bluegrass guitarist and his quartet play six consecutive shows at the rock palace, live-streamed to what was reported as over 30,000 viewers tuning in.
I last reviewed a streamed Billy Strings show in July. A lot has changed since then. Online concerts have grown more sophisticated, with platforms like Twitch taking the tech out of the artist’s hands. Billy’s hair? That too has changed from the oft braided locks of an up and comer to the mullet of someone who has arrived.
Twang meets psychedelic groove when Billy Strings comes to town. The 28-year-old bluegrass star performed for an empty Ryman Auditorium on October 25th while fans watched through a livestream platform. Strings powerful stage presence allowed his virtual audience to feel like they were front row at the famous Nashville venue and fully immersed in the sound of live music.
Do you dance when you stream a show? I can’t do it. But I’ll admit, as the stage lights came up, replacing Billy Strings’ concert poster, I could feel the gooseflesh on my arms perking up. What is a full concert experience right now? Interactive? Maybe. Original? Definitely. Happening now; unfolding with, or in spite, of me. The energy on stage must be manifested in a different way. So, what is the place of the viewer? We no longer are wrapped up in the vibe we are helping to create.
It is easy to understand that musicians whose lifeblood is not only playing for a crowd but feeding off their audience’s liveliness would feel an unfillable void during these unusual times. From a fan’s perspective, they couldn’t think of anywhere better to be than with their favorite band, with that crowd, in that sacred space of connectivity. It’s hard to imagine the artists wouldn’t have that similar longing as playing for a packed music hall isn’t safe for the foreseeable future.
“Oh my god, ok, it’s happening.” – Michael Scott
With a Billy Strings show upcoming (I almost thought I’d never say that again), is it weird that the only thing on my mind is what to wear for my first concert in four months?
Grateful Web recently had the opportunity to sit down with bluegrass guitar virtuoso Billy Strings. He began putting in his time as a boy, never putting that guitar down or giving up when it got tough. His father and community fostered the bluegrass and folk spirit that runs through his veins. But Billy Strings is not your grandpappy's bluegrass band.