Billy Strings in Milwaukee (Review + Gallery)

Stephen Bloch on November 4, 2021
Billy Strings in Milwaukee (Review + Gallery)

Bluegrass has been around since the 1940’s and has always had its denizens. It has countless forms ranging from trad, to progressive, and now even within the progressive movement there are the unique forms; jamgrass, hippy grass, “old timey”, new grass, and rockin-bluegrass to name a few.

One thing is for sure, Wisconsin loves its bluegrass. Milwaukee has even taken on the moniker Milwookie for its love affair of bluegrass and jambands. On Wednesday, Nov. 3, Billy Strings made a stop at the Riverside Theater for a night of whatever grass you want to call it. This show sold out in a blink as has every show on Billy’s robust tour that started in Spring.

Fans were lined up very early to catch every moment and swarm on merch. The two-plus hour show drew heavily on his 2021 release Renewal, traditional covers and a special encore.

Strings opened with the Jerry Lee Lewis cover “What Made Milwaukee Famous” that everyone seemed to know well and then they were off to the races, quickly transitioning into one of his staples, “Dust in a Baggie.”

“Red Daisy,” “Show Me the Door,” and “Running The Route,” as well as other cuts from Renewal, were distributed in both sets. Covers, which Strings is known for, included Gordon Lightfoot’s “10 Degrees & Getting Colder,” Bill Emerson’s “Home of the Red Fox,” and Flatt & Scruggs’ “Bringin’ in the Georgia Mail.”

Jeff Austin’s “Run Down” was included and in a nod to Bob Dylan’s tour kicking off the previous night in Milwaukee, “Tangled Up in Blue” was played as the sole encore. 

Folks who had never seen Billy perform were surprised with the changes in direction that he and his band, consisting of Billy Failing on banjo, Royal Masat on bass, and Jarrod Walker on mandolin were able to make.

There really isn’t any genre that this band doesn’t dabble in, clearly drawing from jam, rock and psych influences. Billy’s guitar work really is the star of the show, but that doesn’t take one bit away from his bandmates’ prowess and their over-the-top lightshow.

Check out Bloch’s photos from the show below: