REVIEW: The LA Bluegrass Situation at The Greek Theatre (10/4/15)

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Photo: Gregory Alan Isakov

The LA Bluegrass Situation, presented by Goldenvoice and Nederlander Concerts, brought Southern Californians back to their roots at The Greek Theatre during the daylong festival. The festival kicked off at two o’ clock in the afternoon, and attendees got to enjoy intimate performances by The Wild ReedsDustbowl RevivalSpirit Family Reunion, and Sam Outlaw. And what kind of bluegrass party would it be without good food? The festival featured six different food vendors featuring their own versions of American BBQ.

But what were amazing were the acts that came to grace the main stage that day. Jonny Fritz opened up the main stage with his alternative country sound. Following him was the incredible girl group Della Mae with their beautiful harmonies sung so effortlessly while still jamming out with their guitars, stand up bass, and mandolin.

Colorado native, Gregory Alan Isakov, slowed things down a bit, tugging at everyone’s heartstrings with his powerful lyrics. He started out with Amsterdam, from of his latest album, The Weatherman, to get everyone in the mood for his set. During their warm performance of Saint Valentine, Gregory and his band gathered at the center microphone and blended their instruments (which included the banjo, violin, acoustic guitar, and stand up bass) so perfectly. They ended the set with a track off of Gregory’s latest record that he announced he worked on with the Colorado Symphony.

The Lone Bellow brought their soulful, country and folk rock sounds to the stage. The trio, with the help of the rest of their band, gave a powerful and upbeat performance. Their harmonies had the crowd cheering, especially as they gathered together at the center microphone to do their song, Watch Over Us.

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The Lone Bellow’s Brian Elmquist on electric guitar, Zach Williams on acoustic guitar, and Kanene Pipkin on mandolin. 

The Punch Brothers had so many incredible moments during their set that it’s hard to narrow down what everyone loved the most during that hour. Whether it was Chris Thile’s effortless singing (and yodeling) while playing mandolin, Gabe Witcher’s heart-stopping fiddle solos, or Noam Pikelny on the banjo, everyone was blown away. And collectively as band, it’s hard to believe that each band member could be playing their instruments so intricately but so in sync with each other at the same time. They seemed to pull it off with so much ease, especially during their unplugged segment, as they all gathered to the front to share the microphone and give the audience a little bluegrass. The audience was in awe to their rendition of Debussy’s Passepied, and they ended the night with their hit, Julep, also from their latest record, The Phosphorescent Blues.

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Punch Brothers with Gabe Witcher on fiddle, Chris Eldridge on guitar, Chris Thile on the mandolin, Paul Kowert on bass, and Noam Pikelny on banjo.

 Powerful country rock band, Dawes, was the last band to perform. They had everyone soundly swaying to Things Happen and A Little Bit of Everything, and they made sure the crowd was jamming along with them to When My Time Comes. At the end, they brought out Lone Bellow to perform their song, All Your Favorite Bands, again.

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Taylor Goldsmith and Duane Betts who joined Dawes to perform for the night. 

 In the end, it wouldn’t have been a bluegrass celebration without one big finale. Dawes then called on everyone back stage to join them. Members from The Lone Bellow, Punch Brothers, and Della Mae all gathered together for one big rendition of Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. It was truly a celebration the evolution of bluegrass music over time.

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The final bow after the finale.

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