Banjoist Michael Arlen Bont, guitarist Dave Bruzza, and mandolin player Paul Hoffman were newcomers to the bluegrass scene in 2000 when they formed Greensky Bluegrass in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The band began by playing living rooms and open mic nights across America’s Midwest. By 2005, the band was touring nationally. In 2006, Greensky Bluegrass won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition, earning the band a spot on the main stage of the 2007 festival, which in turn led to a series of annual appearances. Bassist Mike Devol joined the band in 2004 and dobro player Anders Beck in 2007, completing the present quintet. Greensky Bluegrass will release its seventh studio album, All for Money, on Jan. 18, 2019.
The light show and the high volume was designed for a rock concert. For the most part, however, the Greensky Bluegrass concert at the Beacon Theatre was indeed a bluegrass performance, but with a musical vision so broad that the set included hoedown adaptations of Pink Floyd, Paul Simon and Allman Brothers Band songs. Throughout the two sets, the five musicians brought the acoustic stomp of a string band, foregoing a drummer and yet aggressively rocking a full-throttle energetic performance. The mellower songs, fewer in number, became acoustic think pieces. No one member dominated the spotlight; all songs pivoted on a free-soaring array of solos, extending songs like “Leap Year” beyond 15 minutes. Songs from the new album kept this spirit alive, assuring the audience that the band remained committed to its thickly padded bluegrass core but continued exploring beyond the traditional framework that previously defined bluegrass. The musicians’ combined ingenuity and creativity will make Greensky Bluegrass the hybrid band for bluegrass fans to experience live for years to come.
Jocelyn & Chris Arndt/The Penthouse at the Standard/Jan. 15, 2019
Jocelyn and Chris Arndt are siblings from Fort Plain, a small rural town near Albany, New York. Jocelyn started playing piano in fourth grade after receiving her first electric keyboard, and Chris began guitar lessons a few months later. Their first public performance was at a local benefit talent show when Jocelyn was 12 and Chris was 11, where they performed Led Zeppelin‘s “Stairway to Heaven.” In middle school, they formed a band, the Dependents, and performed original songs at local talent shows, festivals, and fairs. While in high school, Jocelyn worked as a ski instructor and Chris as a snowboard instructor, and music remained a side project. Post college, they remained committed to making their own music; as a result, Jocelyn declined casting offers from NBC’s “The Voice” and FOX’s “The Four.” Jocelyn & Chris Arndt‘s third full-length studio album, The Fun in the Fight, will be released on Feb. 22, 2019.
Jocelyn & Chris Arndt pre-tour concert at the Penthouse at the Standard Hotel was intentionally low-key. Working without their full band set-up, Jocelyn sang and played a small keyboard and Chris played acoustic and electric guitar, accompanied by a bassist and percussionist. Jocelyn crooned soulful pop melodies to retro grooves and a soft rock soundscape. Her powerful voice was bold, with an aching lilt ideal for inhabiting broken-heart songs. A bit on the husky side, this voice demonstrated exceptional depth, tone, and range, and Jocelyn controlled and balanced all these dynamics well. The band closed with the Captain and Tennille‘s 1975 hit, “Love Will Keep Us Together,” perhaps not the coolest song to bring into the repertoire, but a song that showed that the duo also performs bouncy pop songs capably well.
Jocelyn & Chris Arndt will perform at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2, on Feb. 20, 2019.
Puss n Boots/Coney Island Baby/Jan. 15, 2019
Norah Jones is from Texas, Sasha Dobson is from California, and Catherine Popper is from North Carolina, but their paths crossed in Brooklyn, New York, and together they became Puss n Boots in 2008. The trio formed when multi-Grammy winning Jones began playing Brooklyn venues to practice guitar with the help of Dobson, who similarly was primarily a singer seeking to improve her guitar and drum skills. They were then joined by Popper, who played bass in several New York bands but wanted to learn to play the pedal steel. The trio began performing before audiences comprised of friends. When the three musicians felt they sounded like a band, they recorded Puss n Boots’ debut album, No Fools, No Fun, which was released in 2014.
Puss n Boots was fairly dormant since 2016, but came together for a surprise pop up show at Coney Island Baby. The two sets of music were an eclectic lot, featuring several songs with the alternative country sound of the debut album, but also a helping of indie rock songs that were far removed from the band’s original sound. There was less country harmonizing than in previous years, as the set touched lightly on soul, funk, rock and other sounds. The trajectory seemed to be that this time around, the trio was growing a bit more experimental in order to see how much they could stretch and twist their revisited collaboration. Puss n Boots is still a band in the making, but is rapidly coalescing into a solid alternative pop unit.
Puss n Boots will perform at the Loft at City Winery on Feb. 18 and 25, 2019.
The Revivalists/The Beacon Theatre/Jan. 17, 2019
Transplanted from Hamilton, Ohio, David Shaw sought a music career by moving to New Orleans, Louisiana. One day in 2007, guitarist Zack Feinberg rode his bicycle past Shaw’s porch and heard him singing a song called “Purple Heart.” The two conversed and started playing rock and roll songs together. They became the nucleus of the Revivalists and soon started attracting local musicians to weekly jam sessions at a local club. The band’s popularity grew in 2017 with the song “Wish I Knew You.” The band presently consists of Shaw, Feinberg, pedal steel player Ed Williams, keyboardist Michael Girardot, saxophonist Rob Ingraham, bassist George Gekas, drummer Andrew Campanelli, and percussionist Paulet “PJ” Howard. The Revivalist’s fourth studio album, Take Good Care, was released on Nov. 9, 2018.
The Revivalists’ first of two nights headlining the Beacon Theatre consisted heavily of songs from the band’s two most recent albums, and concluded with a cover of the Allman Brothers Band‘s “Whipping Post.” Breezy melodies drove many of the songs, with Shaw singing soulfully as he paced the stage and reached out many times to the fans in the front rows. Shaw was the Revivalists’ charismatic focal point, but behind him, the band drove the lively songs with bluesy lead guitar riffs, swaggering keyboards, thumping percussion and boisterous horns. These musicians released the chemical combustion within the songs with smooth and vibrant instrumental breaks. The Revivalists proved that a band’s live performances amount to more than a hit single or two.