by Max Brown
It’s August 7th of this year, and I’m standing in a crowd with some of my closest friends, unconsciously swaying while the sounds of dobro, banjo, and mandolin wash over me. I close my eyes, but behind my eyelids I can still make out the soft blue lights from the stage. I’m at Salmonfest, a music festival in my home state of Alaska, and Greensky Bluegrass is rocking my world for the first time.
Cut to September 17th, just over a month after my first exposure to the group, and I’m on my way to see the band again, but this time for my very first concert at Red Rocks Ampitheatre and with four brand new friends. I’d never been to Red Rocks before that night. I’d seen photos, heard stories, even listened to and watched recordings of live shows there. But I knew none of that would come close to attending a concert there in person, and I was beyond excited for the opportunity.
Walking into the venue, what was immediately striking was the energy. Everyone was excited to be there, and the feeling was totally infectious. I spotted several folks wearing Grateful Dead apparel, and while I’ve never actually been to a Dead show, I imagine the vibe would be quite similar—smiling and laughing folks everywhere you looked.
Opening for the show that night was Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, and they were already playing as we made our way through the crowd, listening to Nelson crooning to the bustling masses that were settling into the stands. Nelson’s voice is both piercing and soothing—while playing “Just Outside of Austin,” his voice rolled over the crowds and seemed to emanate from around the sandstone lining the venue, singing affectionately of his family’s ranch in Luck, Texas. When the band played their most popular tune, “Find Yourself,” absolutely every member of the crowd was singing along, and my friends and I were no different.
When Greensky Bluegrass came on, the sun had completely set, and the only light around came from the stage and from the Denver city lights that were the backdrop of the event. The setting for the show was completely psychedelic. The stage flashed green, blue, and purple, and the band appeared as colorful silhouettes until a spotlight shone on whoever was blowing minds with a solo. I couldn’t help but feel as if this was the kind of show Red Rocks was made for—driving, lively bluegrass music and a strikingly beautiful venue amplified each other effortlessly.
Throughout the whole show, dancing was simply required. Slower song, faster song, absolutely blazing song, it didn’t matter. Whatever they were playing, all the music made you want to do was move. Even the event staff couldn’t help themselves from dancing with the crowd. With such a rocking, roll the windows down and feel the wind in your hair kind of feeling in so many of their songs, I had to keep reminding myself I was listening to a bluegrass band. Standout songs included “What You Need,” a loping tune with some fantastic solos from dobro player Anders Beck and mandolin player Paul Hoffman, and the group’s rendition of “Atlantic City,” a timeless classic made new with a bluegrass twist.
My favorite tune of the show came right at the end of the night—the band came out for an encore and played a brand-new song from Hoffman called “Grow Together.” Energetic and vibrant, it was a perfect song to end the night and send the crowd on their way home.
My first time at Red Rocks Ampitheatre (now my favorite venue I’ve been to), my first time seeing Lukas Nelson, and my second time seeing Greensky Bluegrass—a night I won’t forget any time soon.
Greensky Bluegrass’s new album, “Stress Dreams,” is available starting 1/21/2022.