“It started in dumpy little clubs and evolved into this huge thing,” says Greensky Bluegrass dobro player Anders Beck, joking about the band’s rise to fame. The quartet have been churning out a sound that blends their namesake with roots-rock, delivered as a jam band, since 2004’s Less Than Supper, with Beck joining the band in 2007. The Kalamazoo band have played a plethora of shows in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection (which I find out during a recent phone chat is not far from where Beck grew up), including headlining gigs at The Met in 2019, 2020, and 2022, but during our chat Beck remembers long before the band were enjoying that kind of fame and fandom: “We have played there a lot, so there are a lot of memories. I remember playing that little bar, The Blockley, and then playing one of those early shows at The Met.”
This Saturday, January 21st, Greensky Bluegrass will be returning to The [only-slightly-smaller, and arguably more jam-friendly] Fillmore, which Anders tells me he’s very excited about. However, he also admits that Philly shows tend to be extra fun for him in general: “It always feels like a homecoming of sorts. I get to see family, and also people I used to go see shows with when we were kids, going to see Grateful Dead and shit in high school!”
Beck also tells me that the crowd on Saturday night should maybe expect something a little extra special: “In Philly, I always try to pull out something special because it’s a hometown show… not that we like save things up for Philly [laughs].” He also tells me that those plans will hopefully include Americana harpist extraordinaire (not something you hear every day…) Mikaela Davis, who will be opening the show: “We’ve not cross-pollinated yet, but I think we’re planning on Philly to be the time to do that. We’re planning on getting her up onstage and jamming.” Anders goes on to draw parallels between the way Davis approaches her music and instrumentation to the way his crew does the same thing: “What she does with a harp is just amazing… I mean, Bluegrass is in the name, but we’re pretty much a Rock N’ Roll band.”
Whether or not this particular jam session with Mikaela Davis comes to fruition this Saturday, according to Beck, fans can expect to see a unique show: “We just did the first four shows, and we don’t repeat songs in that week… It’s a pain in the ass to mix it up that much, but it’s fun!” He also credits the band’s ability to do this in-no-small-part to their fans: “What I love about our fans is they’re willing to take a risk with us. We’re improvisational by nature, and we’re willing to take risks, so it’s nice that they’re willing to take that risk with us.”
On top of the seemingly nonstop touring of Greensky Bluegrass, earlier this month Beard Guitars released the new Anders Beck Signature guitar, although he admits that that wasn’t necessarily a goal: “It was never about, like, putting out ‘the Anders Beck model.’ It’s been more about, ‘Let’s make the perfect thing for me,’ and we feel like we’ve achieved that, with all the different bells and whistles. And then it was like, ‘Let’s see if anyone else might want to use this!’”
In addition to their current run of nightclub and theatre dates (which wrap 2/24 and 2/25 in Kansas City, MO with two nights at Uptown Theater), the band recently announced their annual Colorado amphitheater run with two “Evening With” performances at the Dillon Amphitheater 9/13 and 9/14, followed by 9/15 and 9/16 shows at the legendary Red Rocks. When I ask Anders what else he and Greensky Bluegrass are excited about in 2023, he lets me know that they have a number of other extra-large, outdoor gigs on their calendar, as well. June 3rd-5th they’ll be playing and hosting Camp Greensky Iceland for the first time, a destination festival that will include Holly Bowling, Fruition, Neighbor, and The Lil Smokies.
And later this June Greensky Bluegrass will be returning to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, a regular stop of theirs that will be celebrating a 50th anniversary this year: “It’s gonna be the 50th anniversary of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and we do that every year, so to play the 50th anniversary is really exciting.” And while he admits to loving these huge shows, he tells me that he enjoys these indoor shows just as much, and that the two types of venue often provide a sort of relief from each other.
“I like it all! The mix is what makes it exciting. A big festival with 20,000 people is fuckin’ cool, but by the end of festival season, I’m ready to get inside and see what we can do in there in some really cool rooms… I love this tour that we do every year in the Northeast. Like, we just did two nights at the Capitol Theatre in New York, which we love; I’m so excited to return to The Fillmore; and we’ve got two nights at The Anthem in DC, which I love… We’re lucky to be five best friends that are doing this together. We’re having a blast. We all have families back home, so when we’re out on the road, it’s like a bachelor party, in that we all get to hang out again. It’s a blast!”
*Get your tickets here.