Photo by Peter Wallace
The Phoffman/Beck Quartet — featuring Paul Hoffman and Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass, along with Billy Strings and Samson Grisman — opened their first show of a four-night run through Colorado in front of a near-capacity crowd April 5 at Boulder’s Fox Theater.
“We figured we’d finish up a four-week tour by playing more shows,” Beck joked with the crowd on a not so casual Wednesday.
It wasn’t Greensky, but it felt like it at times. And for Strings it was an opportunity to not only share the stage with his favorite songwriter and a band he has long looked up to, but get his songs out in front of a passionate Colorado bluegrass scene and multiple Greensky fans who traveled in from afar, many of whom were already familiar with the young virtuoso from Traverse City, Michigan.
After a rousing version of Greensky staple, “The Four” kicked off the run, the quartet launched into Strings’ “Dust in a Baggie,” one of three originals showcased by the budding bluegrass star in the opening set. In addition to “Dust,” the crowd was treated to Strings’ originals “Meet me at the Creek” and ”Turmoil & Tinfoil,” along with a rocking cover of “Johnnie B. Goode” with Strings on vocals.
Hoffman’s early numbers included recent tunes “Burn Them,” and “Fixin’ to Ruin” as well as Five Interstate’s “Nine Days,” a song that has become a rare treat in recent years at Greensky shows. A version of Leftover Salmon’s “Breaking Thru” was the first of a few covers with Hoffman on vocals, along with Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is” and Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes” which both appeared in the second set, the latter of which appeared in the middle of a smoldering “Don’t Lie.”
It wasn’t just the Phoffman/Strings show though, as Grisman’s bass was stepping out for solos on multiple numbers on the evening, including during an intimate second set sing-along performance of “Windshield.”
Beck, who himself clearly was having a good time, bounced up and down during “Broke Mountain Breakdown,” reminiscent of what one might see at a Phish show.
The second set also featured a pair of Greensky tunes normally performed by Dave Bruzza, including “I’d Probably Kill You,” with Hoffman and Strings sharing vocal duties, and “Letter to Seymour” with Strings on vocals and absolutely shredding the guitar parts. Strings, who has a knack to seamlessly transition teases throughout songs, later inserted notes of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” into the middle of a cover of Doc Watson’s “Red Rocking Chair.”
The encore was highlighted by the return to the stage by three-fourths of opening act “Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellies,” a Michigan Americana act that mostly now resides in Nashville.
Gathering around one mic in traditional bluegrass fashion, Lindsay Lou wowed the crowd with her vocal range and deep-reaching soul on The Towne’s “Two Hands” while others took their turns at spotlight solos. Strings then closed the show down with a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Sitting on Top of the World,” a number that saw the guitar player sitting on stage while not at the mic and Lindsay Lou’s multi-instrumentalist Mark Lavengood trading his cajon for Beck’s dobro mid-number.
All in all, the show was the perfect kick-off for a four-night run that took the quartet to Fort Collins, Frisco and Denver.
Set 1: The Four, Dust in a Baggie, Burn Them, Fixin’ to Ruin, Meet Me at the Creek (1), Nine Days, Johnnie B Goode, Breaking Thru, Turmoil & Tinfoil
Set 2: Slow Train, In Control, Broke Mountain Breakdown >That’s How Strong My Love Is, Letter to Seymour, I’d Probably Kill You, Red Rocking Chair (2), Windshield, Don’t Lie (3)(4) > Them Changes > Don’t Lie
E: Two Hands (5)(6)(7), Sittin” On Top of the World
(1) “Tweezer Reprise” jam, (2) “Purple Haze” tease, (3) “Turmoil & Tinfoil” tease, (4) “Foxy Lady” tease, (5) Single Mic, (6) With Lindsay Lou, Joshua Rilko and Mark Lavengood, (7) “Them Changes” tease