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Greensky Bluegrass to throw New Year's Eve party at The Intersection

Kalamazoo's Greensky Bluegrass set to bring their unique blend of bluegrass, roots rock, and jam to the Intersection New Years Eve at 8 p.m.
Poster for the New Year's Eve show

Poster for the New Year's Eve show /Courtesy of Greensky Bluegrass

/Courtesy of Greensky Bluegrass

Fresh off a fall tour, spanning three months and nearly 50 shows at some of the nation’s top venues, Greensky Bluegrass has chosen Grand Rapids for this year’s New Year’s Eve party. They will be performing at the Intersection, with special guests The Crane Wives.

Greensky’s career began in Kalamazoo as a trio of friends, playing traditional bluegrass music for anyone who cared to listen.

Fast forward 12 years, and the band has added two key members, grown their sound immensely and developed a loyal following by extensively touring around the country -playing up to 175 shows a year.

No strangers to Grand Rapids, Greensky Bluegrass have performed at Founders Fest, The Orbit Room, and the Intersection in the past. They return to what will likely be their biggest show here so far.

Since 2007, Greensky has consisted of the same musical lineup: mandolinist-songwriter Paul Hoffman, guitarist-songwriter Dave Bruzza, banjoist Michael Arlen Bont, bassist Mike Devol and the dobro-wielding Anders Beck.

From their roots in traditional bluegrass, Greensky’s sound has evolved into combination of bluegrass, roots rock and jam band.

“I like how we have a foot in all these camps,” says Hoffman in an interview.

When the band chooses to stray from their own songs, they have become champions of adapting non-bluegrass songs into their style, a trait common among many jam bands. Considering bluegrass is “a jumping off point for the band,” they boast an extensive catalog, never playing the same song on consecutive nights, another jam band tradition.

Notable bands they have adapted, just on their fall 2013 tour, include Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, The Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, Radiohead and bluegrass traditionals by Newgrass Revival and Roy Rogers.

“We’re all music heads, and love writing, but we also love other people’s music as well,” says Beck. “I think if there weren’t such strong songwriters in the band, playing covers would feel a little cheaper on some level. But I think it allows us to play unique covers in the set and not let it be the highlight per se. At some level we are just looking for the common denominator with the fans.”

Greensky’s adaptation of great bands usually gets the crowd swirling with excitement, but nothing compares to when the band busts out their own songs, largely written by Hoffman and Bruzza.

From songs about trains (Ruben’s Train, Train Junkie) and the cold of Michigan (Tied Down, Cold Feet) to brutally honest songs about fear (Leap Year, Lose My Way) and other personal struggles (Demons, In Control), Greensky shows depth and heart in all of their songs, all while keeping the crowd sweaty and dancing with lightning fast finger-picking and outstanding musicianship.

"If I come across a lyric when I'm writing that's so painfully honest that I don't know if I should sing it," says Hoffman, "I feel like I have the responsibility to sing it."

Hoffman also admits that the fear of failing is a driving force for the band. Greensky’s next studio album “If Sorrows Swim” is set for release in early 2014, and will likely include several similarly themed songs.

“If people don't come out to see us and stop liking us, our career is over," he says.

Considering Greensky has played a number of large festivals this year, sold out shows all over the country and just announced a winter 2014 tour which commences with a headlining slot at Winter Wondergrass Festival in Avon, Colorado, it seems one thing is for sure: Greensky Bluegrass’ career is far from over.

“Greensky Bluegrass isn't slowing down," claims their website. “They're coming to your town to help you party down. Yeah. Really. Like you never thought possible.”

The party begins at 8 p.m. with The Crane Wives, and will continue with Greensky well into 2014. To purchase tickets, visit Greensky’s website, the Intersection website, or visit the Intersection box office. 

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