Greensky Bluegrass continues to evolve, gel, and dominate string music

I’m comfortable admitting that in 2018, Greensky Bluegrass is the best bluegrass band on the planet, and it’s probably because they aren’t playing all that much traditional bluegrass. The genre has evolved a lot in the last 70 years, and at the forefront of modern innovation is this quintet from Michigan, who use improvisation, effects pedals and soul to play intriguing shows that – in the spirit of the Grateful Dead & Phish – are never the same thing twice.

Last night Greensky started a two night run at Playstation Theatre in Times Square. The setting is about as far as the rolling hills of Kentucky, but when they dive into “Wheel Hoss”, their roots show and each patron is gifted a field trip to somewhere much simpler and less-densely populated than the advertising mecca of the world. It’s lovely to hear world-class musicians riff on classic material, but Greensky has always differentiated themselves by wedging cuts like their “200 Miles From Montana” with an absolutely thrashing cover of “Little Maggie” featuring opener Billy Strings.

The band’s ability to fluctuate between covers and originals, the bluegrass and the beyond has earned them a passionate and rapidly growing fanbase, and it’s proven by them playing not one, but two nights at Playstation Theatre this time around, a January play that has become regular in their touring schedule.

They teased the Dead’s “The Other One” at the beginning of a loose “Train Junkie,” and ended the second set with a far out “Leap Year” that moved the NYC crowd. The band continues their New York City run with a show at Playstation Theatre tonight, Saturday January 27.