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Published: 2013/03/26
by Todd Powers

The Infamous Stringdusters, Track 29, Chattanooga, TN – 3/8

The closing line of the Infamous Stringdusters’ press packet suggests: “Stand and wear comfortable shows because nobody sits at a Stingdusters’ show”. It is quite possible that truer words have never been spoken. The Infamous Stringdusters’ live show is torrid romp through expressive originals and astute covers. All excellent musicians in their individual rights, as a quintet, The Stingdusters push the bounds of traditional bluegrass with every live appearance. Characterized by high energy and dynamic interplay, The Stringdusters traverse an expanse of musical influences, all while looking through the lens of a modern five piece string band.

The Stringdusters kicked off a run through the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic in Chattanooga at Track 29 on Friday, March 8th. One of the most impossible venues to find (the GPS doesn’t have a clue), Track 29 is aptly named, nestled behind the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo. An expansive yet inviting music hall, Track 29 is quickly gathering a reputation for hosting high quality music acts in a town that is actively embracing an atmosphere friendly to the jamband community. With plenty of space for a night of ferocious head bobbing, feral gyrating, and touches of hula hooping; Track 29 proves an excellent sounding room with plenty of outstanding amenities.

With warm overtones creeping into the mountain air and “spring spranging”, Chattanooga was the perfect setting for a spring tour opener. The crowd, a smattering of blue, new, and hippie-grass lovers, trickled in as the doors opened around 8:00pm. Bathed in the low light of the pre-show stage, the Stringdusters’ devotees mingled, sipped Lazy Magnolias, and discussed the upcoming festivities under the metallic beams of the cavernous music hall. As anticipation swelled, Sam Bush’s “Friday Night in America” reverberated over the loyal spectators setting the scene for a remarkable night of progressive bluegrass.

Already in high spirits, the jovial crowd erupted as the Stringdusters seized the stage shortly after 9:00 pm. Out of the gate, the show proved to be a scorcher, highlighted with a string of skillfully executed originals. Hall and Falco ripped through the opening licks of “Traveling Teardrop Blues” as Book added smooth vocals, setting a sizzling pace for the night’s revelry. Garrett’s blistering fiddle and bucolic vocals led the charge into “Hitchhiker,” complete with a surreal jam accented by Falco’s vibrant guitar. Changing pace, the ethereal “Hitcherhiker” jam slid into the more traditional bluegrass anthem, “Road to Boulder” with Hall’s vocals steering the action. This transitory passage proved to be an early high point as the intricate interplay demonstrated accord within the group. Continuing with a heavy dose of guitar and dobro, “Fork in the Road” rambled to animated finale. Book’s thumping bass and Pandolfi’s flickering banjo rolls guided the calypso-esque “How Far I’d Fall for You.” Closing out the first set, “Hillbillies” complete with Pandolfi’s reeling banjo drew an electrified response from the audience, a response that mirrored the Stringdusters’ passionate performance

The second set bolted from the onset, with Garrett taking charge on “Heavy Metal.” Meandering from “Metal,” Hall, on the shred table, led his compatriots through an extended “No More to Leave you Behind” accentuated with a raging and emotional jam. Falco’s flat picking darted into Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” providing a quick moment to breathe before Pandolfi’s banjo decimated Hartford’s “Steam Powered Aeroplane.” Taking a funky turn at the midway point, the Stringdusters digressed into an extended funk groove before resolving “Aeroplane.” The second of the night’s exceptional transitions, the “Aeroplane” sandwich showcased the Stringdusters improvisational prowess, traversing a broad spectrum of genres while making each song an extension of the Stringdusters’ philosophy.

Paying respect to both convention and diverse influence, The Stringdusters frolicked through a set of tunes described simply as “some old bluegrass and some really new bluegrass”. Flatt and Scruggs’ “100 Years” filled the role of the former while The Police’s “Walking on the Moon” proved to be the latter. Drawing the heaviest round of applause, the “100 Years” > “Walking on the Moon” progression demonstrated The Stringdusters’ reverence of tradition and focus toward musical evolution. As the evening progressed, The Stringdusters scampered through an “I Know You Rider” with round robin solo effort by each member. A tender and heartfelt “Lovelight” provided a sweet touch before kicking things back up a notch with a sweltering “Fire.” The Band’s “Cripple Creek” made an appearance, accompanied by enthusiastic audience interaction. To finish out the night, Pandolfi’s banjo eased into a transcendental “Moon Man,” a fitting conclusion which saw the each member’s skill on full display.

With efforts like this, it is easy to understand the growing popularity of The Infamous Stringdusters. High quality live performances coupled with affable accessibility are clearly a recipe for success. While tangible awards from the bluegrass industry are amiable, The Stringdusters commitment to the live performance is paying dividends. As the Stringdusters continue their improvisational journey, the future is bright.

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