Billy Strings makes his much anticipated return to the The Southgate House Revival on Thursday night. Since their last show here in late April, all the band has done is play about a hundred shows across the country including slots in- quite literally- just about every summer bluegrass festival from Telluride to DelFest.
Billy (William Apostol) with bandmates Billy Failing (banjo), Jarrod Walker (Mandolin) and Royal Masat (bass) have concocted an infectious brand of bluegrass that is quickly building both a dedicated fanbase and mass appeal. And it’s no question why- if you like traditional bluegrass, Billy’s voice the band’s harmonies are often reminiscent of a bygone era. If you like jambands, they’re known to take the fan-favorite song “Meet Me at the Creek” past the 20-minute mark or perform a haunting rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “China Doll”. If you like covers, they’re liable to cover anything from Earl Scruggs to Eddie Vedder. And if you just enjoy high-level musicianship, Billy is already regarded as one of the best bluegrass pickers on the scene and the band somehow gets better every time I see them.
But perhaps the biggest reasons for their steep trajectory through the bluegrass/jamband ranks are less tangible. For someone in his mid-20s, Billy has a veteran stage presence when leading the band through both structured songs and improvisational jams. He is a hell of a lot of fun to watch, and balances humility with a “don’t give a damn” attitude that is apparent while bouncing around the stage head-banging or recording a spoken-word track about a psychedelic experience for the band’s first full album (“Spinning” on Tinfoil and Turmoil).
As Billy sings in their original song “On the Line”- You can’t stop us from dancing, you can’t stop us from feeling fine. I guarantee there will be plenty of both on Thursday.\