Photo Credit: Jesse Faatz
Over the weekend, Billy Strings hosted Renewal Festival, a two-day outdoor musical event at Cotton Meadows in Buena Vista, Colo. The musician and his band delivered two separate sets on both Friday and Saturday evenings, spaced with a brief midpoint break so that the ensemble could catch their breaths after all the high-energy Rocky Mountain action.
Spread amongst a selection of covers and original material were finely chosen accompaniment, as Strings invited fellow artists on stage for a selection of collaborative jams. After a big day of activities and musical sets by Cris Jacobs Band, The Seldom Scene and more, Strings and company took the stage around 7 p.m. local time to deliver their first music set.
Saturday’s initial set featured a collection of well-played originals sprinkled into a rather heavy-covers frame, which included takes on Frank Wakefields’s “End of the Rainbow,” The Stanley Brothers’ “Bound to Ride,” Doc Watson’s “The Train That Carried My Girl From Town” and many more. After ending the first set on Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs’ “Doin’ My Time,” Strings returned for the second set and began to dig into originals.
Self-written tunes led to a particularly special moment, as Strings delivered a live debut of his new song “My Alice” before following up with “Highway Hypnosis.” After that, Greensky Bluegrass’ Paul Hoffman joined Strings on stage, and the ensemble worked into “Must Be Seven,” followed by “Pyramid Country,” ‘Spinning,” and a set ending cover of Robert Hunter’s “Thunder.” Finally, Strings returned for an encore of Keith Allison’s “Freeborn Man” to cap the first day of Renewal.
On Saturday, music began in the late afternoon, with sets by a solo Cris Jacobs, Sarah Jarosz and more. Then, as the evening began to unfold, Strings once more resumed his place on stage for his final stand of Renewal. Once there, he started the set with a handful of numbers off Home, Turmoil & Tinfoil and Renewal before the band worked into the first covers of the night, New Grass Revival’s “Whisper My Name,” followed by a pair of tunes written by the late-Jeff Austin, “Run Down” and “Fiddling Around.” The latter saw contributions from Robinson, who had performed as a member of the Jeff Austin Band.
Strings followed up with another classic cover with his take on The Dillards’ “Ernest T. Grass,” where Robinson once more joined in. Next, Stings returned to his original material on “Secrets” and “Nothing’s Working.” Then, he followed up with a take on Gordon Lightfoot’s “Cold on the Shoulder” before capping the first set with “On The Line.”
Set two got underway with a pairing of “The Fire on My Tongue,” which flowed effortlessly into a cover of Johnny Horton’s “Ole Slew-Foot.” After a run-through of “Watch It Fall,” Strings jumped into additional covers beginning with the traditional “The Old Mountaineer,” before Jarosz stepped out to assist on a selection of Bill Monroe numbers: “Tall Pines,” “My Rose of Old Kentucky,” “Lonesome Moonlight Walk” and “Uncle Pen.”
Next, Jarosz left the stage, allowing Strings and the boys to conclude the single set performance with a few originals sandwiched amongst covers of Emmitt-Nershi Band, Lightfoot, and a set ending rendition of the traditional “Come Down the Mountain Katie Daly.” Both the night’s guests performed their own sets during the earlier hours of Saturday evening, making Strings’ final performance at his Renewal Festival all the more special for spectators who craved another high-energy, collaborative experience.
After this weekend’s memorable affair, Strings and company will make their way to the West Coast for five tour stops in The Golden State before a retreat to Texas and, ultimately, more southern stops leading up to the musician’s three-night sold-out Halloween weekend stand in Asheville, N.C., from Oct. 29 through 31.
For those interested, nugs.net offers streams from this weekend’s concerts, learn more here.
See Friday and Saturday’s setlist below.
Cottonwood Meadows – Buena Vista, Colo.
Sept. 23, 2022
Set I: Know It All > Sally Goodin’, Fire Line > End of the Rainbow!, I’ll Be Gone a Long Time, Show Me the Door, Bronzeback, Bound to [email protected], Red Daisy, Miss the Mississippi and You#, The Train That Carried My Girl From Town$, Black Mountain Rag%, Love and Regret, Tipper^, Dust in a Baggie, Doin’ My Time&
Set II: Meet Me at the Creek, Enough to Leave, Thirst Mutilator > Running, Hellbender, Everything’s the Same, My Alice*, Highway Hypnosis, Must Be Seven+, Pyramid Country+, Spinning+, Thunder+-
Enc.: Freeborn Man?
! Frank Wakefield cover
@ The Stanley Brothers cover
# Jimmie Rodgers cover
$ Doc Watson cover
^ Tony Rice cover
& Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs cover
* Live debut
+ With Paul Hoffman
– Robert Hunter cover
? Keith Allison cover
Cottonwood Meadows – Buena Vista, Colo.
Sept. 24, 2022
Set I: Long Forgotten Dream, While I’m Waiting Here > Hide and Seek, Hollow Heart, Heartbeat of America, In the Morning Light, Whisper My Name!, Run [email protected]^, Fiddling [email protected]^, Ernest T. Grass$^ > Secrets^, Northings Working, Cold On The Shoulder%, On The Line
Set II: The Fire on My Tongue > Ole Slew Foot&, Watch It Fall, The Old Mountaineer-, Home, Tall Pines+*, My Rose of Old Kentucky+*, Lonesome Moonlight Waltz+*, Uncle Pen+*, The Old World, Away from the Mire, New Country Blues=, 10 Degrees Or Colder% > Turmoil & Tinfoil, Come Down the Mountain Katie Daly-
^ With Mike Robinson
* With Sarah Jarosz
! New Grass Revival cover
@ Jeff Austin cover
$ The Dillards cover
% Gordon Lightfoot cover
& Johnny Horton cover
+ Bill Monroe cover
= Emmit-Nershi Band cover
Setlist via Billy Strings’ Instagram.