Billy Strings has been one of the hottest names on the newgrass scene with his unique ability to combine the sounds of traditional bluegrass and mix it with a fusion of heavy metal, rock and roll, and blues. At this point, we are not sure if there is anything he CAN’T do.
This past Halloween was a treat for Billy String’s fans as he played 3 nights at the ExploreAsheville.com Arena and each set was played following the Wizard of Oz movie from beginning to end.
The whole atmosphere entering the arena was right on point as one of the first things we spotted was the sound booth that was turned into the witch’s castle with red flames shooting out from all four corners.
Each band member was dressed as a character from the Wizard of Oz. Billy Failing on the banjo was Dorothy – sporting a blue and white plaid dress that might have flashed too many people riding the raid. Bassist Royal Masat was the Cowardly Lion, and you could tell he was loving it as he was flinging his hair around every time he would move his head to the beat. Mandolinist Jarrod Walker was looking spiffy as the tin man without a heart (and then got his heart on night 3). Finally, guitarist Billy Strings was dressed as the scarecrow.
We recommend checking out Nugs.net to view each setlist for yourself and compare it to scenes from the movie but we will go ahead and go over our favorite segments.
The first night kicked it off strong with the bluegrass song Red Wing right into one of their new originals “Fire on my Tongue” which finished off with some groovy psychedelic improvisation to start the weekend.
Billy Failing as Dorothy sang “Over the Rainbow” which then moved into a 14 minute “End of the Rainbow”. As if the first set could not get any better, it then fell in line with the theme with a Thirst Mutilator > Running > Highway Hypnosis.
The second set gets dark with a favorite of Black Clouds > Thunder to kick it off and ending with Pink Floyd’s Brain Damage.
Night two’s highlights included a longtime fan-favorite “Ruby” which has not been played in ages and a killer “Pyramid County” to finish the first set. The visuals on the screen to accompany each song were out of this world.
Quite the surprise for us as the boys sang the popular “If I Only Had a Heart” from the Wizard of Oz and the theme continued as they snuck in “Let the Cocaine Be” to represent the scene with snow. Nice catch team. “Away from the Mire” finished off the second night and was one of the best performances of the song we have seen all year.
The third night started off with yet another surprise of a song we have not heard yet from Billy – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones and then gave us our Grateful Dead song “Samson And Delilah”. Ending the first set with “Wargasm” we were all curious about what surprises the band would bring on the final set.
Sure enough, we were happy to get a nice long “Don’ Things Right” and ended the night with the encore “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John.
Overall, this was one weekend for the books for Billy Strings and goes to show that they are capable of pushing the boundaries of music and innovating what we know as jamgrass.