Photos and words by Jesse Filippelli
The sounds of chopping mandolins and twanging banjos filled Jacksonville’s Freebird Live on this past Wednesday night. With an oddly spacious dance floor the evening was set to be an intimate one, and neither band disappointed.
First to the stage was Fruition; the Oregon based quintet brings together folk rock and soul with the toe tapping melodies of traditional bluegrass. Heads were swaying and feet were stomping as the group broke into “Mountain Annie.” Standing out on the stage was Ms. Mimi Naja adding her flat-picking mandolin skills and high pitch vocal harmonization. All together, Fruition provided a smooth sound that makes you feel like you’re out on the countryside; a perfect opener for the progressive bluegrass that followed.
Through the dimmed lights of the venue a bearded figure immerged through the fog…it was mandolin player Paul Hoffman and Greensky Bluegrass was on! Behind Hoffman was guitarist Dave Bruzza, banjo player Michael Arlen Bont, bassist Mike Devol, and doboist Andres Beck. (Dobo is a guitar with a resonator that sits on its side and uses a slide on the players’ hand, common among bluegrass bands) Starting the night off with “No Idea” and then a rendition of Flatt and Scruggs “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” it was clear Greensky Bluegrass was ready to party. First set was closed with “33443” and “All Four.”
Attendees were treated to near perfect sound and a spectacular light show. Light Designer Andrew Lincoln used Freebird’s wooden ceilings and rafters to keep concertgoers in a constant trance with the music. As the lights became clearer, the band began improvising more and more.
Second set started off with a bang as the band opened with “I’d Probably Kill You” and “Reverend.” As the hour grew later, the songs got longer, including 10+ minute instrumental jams. Using effect pedals, doboist Beck, was able practically to turn his guitar into a synth; looping palm muted strokes and ambient connotations leaving fans with their jaws on the floor. As second set came towards its end Greensky Bluegrass invited Fruition keyboardist/guitarist Kellen Asebroek to join them on stage for a couple songs, including a very special cover of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” to close second set.
By the end of the night there was a smile on the face of all who just saw Fruition’s slow folk rock and Greensky Bluegrass’s shredding southern picking. Freebird Live provided an excellent atmosphere for what turned into a bluegrass get down.