Black Friday with Billy Strings

Black Friday was lit up with the luminous music of Billy Strings at the Intersection in Grand Rapids to the delight of a packed house.

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Black Friday with Billy Strings at the Intersection

Given how much we enjoyed Billy Strings last album ‘Turmoil & Tinfoil’ and the jamtastic show last year with our friend Mark Lavengood, we jumped at tickets for this year’s show on the Friday after Thanksgiving at the Intersection in Grand Rapids. Witnessing that mind-melting bluegrass-armageddon, turned us into instant fans of William Apostol (aka Billy Strings) and his marvelous band of friends; Billy Failing (banjo), Royal Masat (bass), and Jarrod Walker (mandolin). Spicing up the evening, John Mailander joined the band playing the fiddle.

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Jon Stickley Trio

Our evening started off high as a kite with the Jon Stickley Trio. Jon Stickley (guitar), Lyndsay Pruett (fiddle), and Hunter Deacon (drums) gave us a mesmerizing performance. It was hard to take photos as I couldn’t help but stare in dumbfounded amazement with a big smile on my face. The words virtuoso, spellbinding, and exquisite came to mind as the Jon Stickley Trio splashed us with their resplendent music.

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While the performance on stage was captivating, when you closed your eyes the music wrapped itself around your mind. Flavors of Americana, bluegrass, psychedelic rock, and jazz swirled into a sumptuous liquor of intoxicating compositions. Jon, Lyndsay, and Hunter crafted their music with care and the audience responded in kind. Glancing around the stage, you could see they were enjoying this moment almost as much as we were. Check out the gallery for more photos of the Jon Stickley Trio.

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Billy Strings

After witnessing a performance like the one that Billy Strings gave at the Intersection on Friday night, I struggle for the right words. I type a few words, delete it and try again. The feeling of joy surrounded us and filled everyone at the show. When you see real magic being performed on stage, it is glorious and life-affirming. The magic flowed from the fingers of Billy Failing as he matched paces with Billy Strings and Jarrod Walker on some of the band’s originals as well as classic bluegrass covers. The thrumming heart of Royal’s bass quickened our pulse and had many fans dancing.

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The Friday night show by Billy Strings was imbued with authenticity. The heartfelt nature of the music they played was written all over their faces. They love to play the music for us and we love to hear it. That energy of the performance was especially powerful for me during the song “While I’m Waiting Here”. This tragic song reminds me to never take anything for granted, especially the ones you love. Hearing it live and singing along fills me with trembling emotion. Drop by the gallery for more pictures of Billy Strings.

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Jon and Billy

An added bonus for this show was witnessing the brilliant Jon Stickley jam with the dazzling Billy Strings on stage during one of my favorite songs “Dust In A Baggie”. A hallmark of bluegrass music is seeing musicians trade-off licks and riffs with a wry smile and glint in the eye. At the Intersection, we had this in spades. Just when you thought the show couldn’t get any better, it did.

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If and when you hear about Billy Strings or the Jon Stickley Trio playing in your neck of the woods, be sure to get your ticket and prepare for one hell of a good time. In the meantime, get over to their websites and pick up some music to enjoy right now.

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