The Infamous Stringdusters are our favorite band and we were excited to see them three more times during Earth Day weekend in North Carolina. We combined the trip with a visit to Bristol to see my mother, which was fun! The first show was in Asheville, a cool mountain town that loves its music. The drive from Bristol to Asheville is pretty quick and could not be prettier. Lovely views of the Blue Ridge Mountains as you travel along I-26. Asheville’s Earth Day festival was filled with a full lineup of bands. The Stringdusters played around dusk and it was chilly!
The show was a fun one with Asheville folks dancing and singing along. The Dusters show ranged from a Police cover, Walking on the Moon, to John Hartford’s Steam Powered Aeroplane and a 10 minute version of the Jack-a-roe, a traditional song often played by Jerry Garcia and the Dead.
In addition to it being Earth Day, it also was Record Store Day and Asheville is one of the few towns left that still has record stores. Good for them. It’s great to go into a store and browse for music. Like a festival, it’s a great way to find new music and get recommendations from like-minded people.
That evening, after the show, we drove to Charlotte so we could catch the next day’s show. On the way there, we saw a bear along the side of the interstate. It was dark but you could see the bear in the lights of the car. Very cool.
Whitewater and Tuck Fest
The Charlotte show was at a new festival called Tuck Fest at the U.S. National Whitewater Center and it was one of the most unusual venues I’d seen. When you first walk in, you can only say, “Wow!” The stage was situated in between a white water river, zip lines and another man-made river and lake. And for a reasonable fee, you could participate in any of it. They do a lot of music events too so check them out. Definitely worth a return trip, even when they don’t have music. And watch for this Tuck Fest. They had a great lineup of bands all weekend. They also hosted the local rubber ducky race for charity so it’s very community-minded.
The Whitewater Center was unusual for a concert venue and surely presented some challenges for the band – mainly that there was a river between the sound board and the stage. I’m sure that doesn’t happen at every show but Drew Becker handled it with his usual professionalism. But it also made for beautiful views on a sunny day and entertaining visuals as people would fly behind the stage on the zip line during the show.
We hadn’t heard Won’t be Coming Back in a long time. To our delight, they broke it out in Charlotte. Greg also got his favorite song, a Jeremy and Glen Garrett original, I am a Stranger.
Several other fans who are “on the string” made it to the NC shows so Charlotte was a kind of “jamily reunion.” After the show, we got to take a big ol’ jamily picture with the band, Michael Allenby and Katrina Hennigar. The Stringdusters and the Artist Farm folks really treat the fans well.
“On a starry night, down in Virginia I fell in love with a blue eyed girl” – Starry Night
The next night, they played in Radford, which is close to us so it was nice to have an almost hometown show. Radford was a great show but the venue was more subdued. They celebrated their return to Virginia with Starry Night. Summer camp is a nice jam too. Everyone had a good time and even the newbies to Stringduster music were impressed by their range. With a strong bluegrass base, these guys rock but in a way that respects the beauty of bluegrass music. And they are all virtuosos who love what they do so it’s fun to watch their talent on display.
Some folks might wonder why we see a band several times. Besides the fact they are fun and talented, in just this one weekend (and we missed a Friday show), Greg counted 74 songs all together, 68 different songs (so just a very few repeats over four sets in three days.) So even though it’s the same band, there’s some diversity in the set list.