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The Infamous Stringdusters @BeachlandTavern Ballroom #Cleveland, Ohio 5/30/12

Image by Michael Stein

Read my review on Hidden Track

The Bluegrass Revolution laid siege to Cleveland on Wednesday when The Infamous Stringdustersheld their anti-formulaic, groove friendly pickin’ session at the Beachland Ballroom. “You know you’ve been here before when you see your own graffiti on the wall,” fiddle player Jeremy Garrett remarked to the enthusiastic crowd of Stringdusters fans and local grass-aholics who came out to see this… infamous band from Nashville who have been blowing up as of late.

The band played a fast-paced show that was laden with covers of great rock and bluegrass songs, each a pleasant complement to their repertoire of original arrangements that set them apart from other young bluegrass acts. Their humorous banter and interactions with the crowd yield a fun and engaging show, despite their failing to hold back the urge to yell the phrase “Hello, Cleveland” just to say they did, though they debated its cliche value openly.

There were many highlights during the show including two heart felt homages to the late great guitar player, Doc Watson who’d passed away just one day earlier. Guitarist Andy Falco remarked on the influence that Doc Watson had on his decision to buy an acoustic guitar and begin learning bluegrass shortly after attending a workshop where the legendary guitarist was featured.

The ‘dusters also paid their respects to a pair of musical legends we lost earlier this year by offering a rendition of The Band’s Up On Cripple Creek for Levon Helm and Earl Scruggs’ Paddy on the Turnpike. George Harrison’s classic Beatles song Here Comes the Sun was also featured late in the set. Fortunately, the band had many more masters to cover who are still living including Tony Rice.

The Beachland seems to be a truly inspiring venue for musicians traveling through as so often they extol how special the venue is to them. Bassist Travis Book was eager to share his appreciation for the free meal he received from the venue – voted best brunch in the city FYI – because it allowed him to take his food budget downstairs to the vintage clothing shop “This Way Out” and purchase a flashy new shirt for his performance, which he showed off proudly for its tight fitting form that accentuated his touring musician’s physique.

This amazing rock venue in Cleveland’s North Colinwood district is the beating heart of the city’s vibrant music culture. Independently owned and operated by local Clevelanders, Cindy Barber and Mark Leddy, for over 10 years it is one of the most important and iconic venues in the entire country. When a great live act such as The Infamous Stringdusters chooses to stop in Cleveland and play the Beachland, they are helping to support the important community of independent and locally operated music hubs that provide the common music fans opportunities to support great live music.

One considerable distinction that can be made of The Infamous Stringdusters’ live show is their keen emphasis on performance value and providing an entertaining experience. Banjo player Chris Pandolfi is a fierce musician with speed and grace. Dobro player Andy Hall plays with passion and fury as if he were a real life Curtis Loew and Jeremy Garret is a fiddle player with great leadership and poise who fronts the band musically with great talent.

The high intensity comes directly from bassist Travis Book who wistfully lifts his upright instrument forward and back on stage while Andy Falco crouches and stomps as if he were still ripping on an electric instrument like AC/DC guitarist Angus Young. In addition to the energy displayed by all the members as they bounced around the stage and the banter they share to keep the crowd engaged, the band travels with a great stage set and light rig managed by their lighting director, Brett. Though simple and minimalist, the use of light boxes coupled with floor lights shining onto curtains and a row of stand-alone rotating LED lamps adds tremendously to the visual experience of seeing a show at the Beachland Ballroom. Not only does it allow the audience to truly escape into the music but it also gives our photographer an opportunity to take truly stunning images.

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