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Thursday, December 14

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Transmission
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Concert Fri Jan 24 2014

Review: Greensky Bluegrass @ Concord Music Hall 1/18

There's nothing quite like a little bluegrass to warm you up on a wintry Midwestern night. Between the polar vortexes and snowstorms, the fifth annual Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival was just what the doctor ordered. It continued for its second week at Concord Music Hall last Saturday night.

Dog1 and Escondido opened up the show for Greensky Bluegrass, as people filtered in gradually. It seemed that they took their time to arrive at the venue since there were three bands on the lineup. The overwhelming chatter during Escondido's down-tempo, folk tunes made it clear that the majority of the crowd was there for the high-energy quintet from Michigan.

Greensky1.jpg

Greensky finally hit the stage at about 11pm. They jumped right in with rapid strumming, foot stomping tunes, while white swirly panels on the back of the stage illuminated with vibrant rainbow lighting.

Mandolinist Paul Hoffman expressed the band's excitement to be back in Chicago and said every time they play here each show is better than the last. The size of the crowd, which was significantly larger than the last time I saw them in town two years ago at the Park West, was a testament to that.

Greensky2.jpg

The band welcomed local musician Joe Hettinga, the keyboardist of Digital Tape Machine and Strange Arrangement, to the stage for a couple songs. They kept up a steady stream of casual rhythms that built gradually into more fast-paced sections until not a single person was standing still.

"File that under 'fuck yeah,' everybody," Anders Beck, the dobroist, said in between songs.

Greensky3.jpg

When Greensky came back out for another set, everyone in the crowd clapped vigorously with the beat, as if to tell the band they caught their second wind, too.

"That's that bluegrass music, people," Beck said. That's good stuff. It shouldn't be legal."

After the band debuted a special instrumental song for Beck's girlfriend, which he dubbed the "Happy Happy Happy Birthday Ashley Green Breakdown," they continued with a slew of impressive covers and some more originals.

They gave completely new meaning to Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark." I'm not personally a fan of The Boss, but they had me eating up their bluegrass version. It paired perfectly with Hoffman's gritty, expressive voice and they jammed out the sections in between the chorus. It was just all-around beautiful, really.

Greensky4.jpg

After completing one of their crowd favorites, "Jaywalking," they segued into the next song with maniacal laughter. The tropical melody was a little mysterious at first, until the lyrics began and everyone finally recognized it as Paul Simon's "I Know What I Know." As the night drew to a close, most of the people who stuck it out until the end were dancing up a storm.

"Thank you so much, you bring us great joy," Paul Hoffman said, as he blew kisses into the crowd. Then Greensky exited the stage and everyone immediately began stomping and whistling incessantly for an encore.

Greensky5.jpg

To top off an already amazing show, Greensky came back out for two more songs. They began with an original tune and stunned the audience by continuing with the very distinguishable first few chords of "Midnight Rider" by the Allman Brothers Band. There were smiles for miles radiating throughout the venue.

Between the song choices and the atmosphere, which was literally brightened by the best lighting I've ever seen at a bluegrass show, it was a glorious evening. And I can guarantee it was another one for the Greensky Bluegrass record books.

 
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David / January 27, 2014 11:52 AM

Good bands, TERRIBLE venue! It looks and feels just like the dance club that it was...AWFUL sound (what do you expect from a dance club sound system), ridiculous lighting leftover from the dance club, high-priced bad drinks and poor beer selection, attendents in the bathrooms? come on! but the real kicker is the bad sound.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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