KALAMAZOO, MI – When Greensky Bluegrass takes the stage for a pair of sold-out shows on Friday and Saturday nights at the Kalamazoo State Theater, it will mark the end of the longest stay away from home for a group that has started playing at open mics. and basements in Kalamazoo in 2000.
“It’s a big deal for me,” said singer and mandolin player Paul Hoffman, who grew up in Muskegon and attended Western Michigan University. âI haven’t even been to Kalamazoo for two years.
âKalamazoo is the heart of the band and it was my home for 15 years, and moving away (in 2015) I was still resolved to come back at least once or twice a year for Greensky and now to go for two. years. ; I’m just excited to come home.
Related: Greensky Bluegrass returns to the Kalamazoo State Theater for a traditional two-night Thanksgiving run
Hoffman, like the band’s other vocalist, guitarist Dave Bruzza, lives in Colorado these days, while Anders Beck (dobro) resides in Tennessee and Michael Devol (bass) in northern California. Only the group’s banjo player, Michael Arlen Bont, is still a resident of Kalamazoo.
The physical distance between each of the members made the pandemic a strange event because, when it struck, none of them had ever spent so much time away from each other since the group’s formation.
After four months apart, they finally met in Saint-Louis in July 2020 and gave nine shows in an empty hall over the course of a week. One show was broadcast live for free, and the group packed the other eight for release on consecutive Fridays in August and September, under the name Leap Year Sessions.
The name came from the band’s song “Leap Year” as well as the concept that 2020 was not only a leap year, but with the pandemic a year that was sort of being ignored.
The band wouldn’t have to wait that long to reunite again, meeting up for a week in Colorado the following month to rehearse, then in a Vermont studio for two weeks to begin recording their eighth studio album, “Stress Dreams”, which is due out in January 2022.
Since resuming regular touring, starting with social distancing shows last spring, Greensky has slowly unveiled songs from the album, the majority of which were written by Hoffman and Devol.
Songs such as “Stress Dreams” by Devol, “Monument” by Beck and “Worry for You” by Hoffman, “Until I Sing” and “Cut a Tooth” all draw emotions of isolation, empathy or protest. , feelings that were felt by many during the quarantines and social unrest that dominated 2020.
With lyrics such as âSo please open a window / and let some air for me / I feel restless now / and I want to go outâ in âUntil I Sing,â Hoffman addresses a sensation that many felt during the quarantine period of the pandemic. He then personalizes it further with the follow-up lines: “But I feel worthless, aimless / until I can sing for you.”
There are also phrases like: “Outrage and justice, different shades of gray / the hand of power feeds the fist of rage / to defeat the odds and overthrow the powerful / the meek must fortify a ruthless message” which opens the yet- to play, “Cut a tooth”.
The song is the one that found Hoffman channeling feelings of helplessness as he addressed the protests that swept the nation in 2020.
“I don’t want to go through the pain they say I need / I just want to break the system we’ve been chained to / I believe in the burden and the struggle to cut a tooth / but how many will lie to hide the truth” , continues the song, in its chorus.
All of the songs, Hoffman said, came together organically over two weeks in Vermont and two weeklong stays at Echo Mountain Studio in Asheville, NC.
Without the ability to spend time together on the road, there was more contributions from different writers and just a more sense of oneness in recording the album and making the decision throughout the process. It was something that made the album “the greenest album to date,” Bont said.
âWe didn’t know when we would be able to replay shows and be able to make new music during that uncertainty was a nice out of hope,â Hoffman said.
Since the band resumed giving concerts in the spring, things have slowly started to normalize and they have moved from socially distant performances to festival gatherings and regular concerts. That ultimately led to three nights at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado and two nights at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville this fall, followed by eight nights on the West Coast with esteemed Holly Bowling on the sidelines, which Hoffman called ” greatest musician I have ever had. never played with and never will, âwhile hinting at other dates with her in the future.
âIt’s great to play music for our fans again,â Bont said. âIt’s like we’re really doing something for people and their general mindset. People come to see shows and love it and feel really good, and that’s what we’re looking for right now.
Prior to last year’s pandemic-induced hiatus, Greensky had performed six consecutive years during Thanksgiving weekend at the State Theater, after several years at Bell Priory.
âFor us, these are the traditional Thanksgiving shows,â said Harry Phillips, marketing director of the Kalamazoo Theater. âWhat a good thing to be thankful for this year, that we recovered from Greensky weekend. We’re very happy to be able to bring them back and do these shows again this year after missing them last year.
Tickets for both shows are sold out, but fans looking for tickets still at face value may get lucky by visiting cashortrade.org/greensky-bluegrass-tickets. Both shows start at 8:30 pm The doors are at 7 pm each evening.
âAs a resident of Kalamazoo, I am absolutely delighted,â Bont said. âKalamazoo is our home. This is where we started it all and I’m usually pretty excited for Kalamazoo shows mainly because I have a short drive home. But I’m just excited to just be back and I think the fans are going to be excited just to be back in the old State Theater. We have a lot of history there and we are very happy to be back.
All participants must be able to show proof of vaccination that is at least 14 days old or a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours. Visit www.kazoostate.com for more information on the venue and upcoming shows.
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