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Cultivating WinterWonderGrass: Greensky Bluegrass

02/23/2018 10:08 ● Published by Alesha Damerville

Images from Dylan Langille via Greensky Bluegrass

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – “We joke about WinterWonderGrass,” Anders Beck from Greensky Bluegrass says. “It’s a terrible idea, having a festival in the middle of winter, in Colorado, in the mountains, where people are playing acoustic instruments, outside.”


“This is an inherently a bad idea,” Beck says. “However, somehow, it’s absolutely amazing every time we do it. This first time someone told me about this festival I thought, ‘This is ridiculous.’ Then you do it and you see how awesome it is. Everyone comes off the mountain and has warm clothes because they’ve been skiing all day. If you’re mountain people from Colorado it makes perfect sense. It works, and it’s amazing that it works. It’s this hilarious thing that is so classically Colorado.”

“We haven’t played WWG Steamboat, so I’m really excited,” Beck says. “I love Steamboat, so it’s a winning combination. The people who put on WWG, their hearts are in the right place. They’re awesome, amazing people. It’s always a joy to be a part of something like that. We’re psyched – can’t wait to be there.”

Greensky Bluegrass is made up of Anders Beck on dobro, Michael Arlen Bont on banjo, Dave Bruzza on guitar, Mike Devol on upright bass and Paul Hoffman on mandolin.

Beck was living in Durango when he first picked up a dobro. “It’s kind of the electric guitar of acoustic instruments, a way to sustain some soul,” Beck says. “I was more influenced by the rock and roll side of things and by people who don’t play the dobro. I would try to play their sounds on the dobro. Our ongoing joke is, ‘In order to be one of the best dobro players in the world, all you have to do is buy a dobro.’”

The creative process with Greensky Bluegrass is unique.

“Someone will bring a song to the band that they’ve written with most of the words and melody,” Beck says. “We will tweak it to make it more of Greensky song and less of a singer/songwriter thing. The goal is to turn it into a bigger Greensky beast; we mess with and see where it ends up. Whoever created the song has the end-all-be-all creative say, regardless of other people’s ideas. Sometimes, it stays at a three-minute bluegrass song. Sometimes, it turns into a fifteen-minute opus of jam. Creatively, a lot of our music is based on improvisation – that process happens on stage. We don’t talk a lot about it; we’re just following each other around. My favorite part of our band is that we don’t have to talk about it. We are willing to jump off the cliff together.”

Greensky Bluegrass has played in Steamboat Springs twice. “It’s a cool ski town, far enough away from the Front Range. It’s its own place and you have to try a little harder to get there. Because of that, it maintains its originality, maybe a little more than some of the other ski towns. It’s like ski town but still kind of cowboy – it’s pretty authentic. Which, in this day and age, is pretty hard to find in the state of Colorado.”

Beck and his bandmates found inspiration in the Yampa Valley. “Paul and I put together one of our songs, ‘Don’t Lie’ in Steamboat,” he says. “He had some words and chords. I had this lick and screw kind of thing, which is like the hook of that song. We were sitting on this picnic table by the river and we put those together and that’s how the song came to be.”

Greensky Bluegrass has reached great success, playing as many as 175 shows a year. “We didn’t know if this was going to be real or not. We wanted to headline Red Rocks. Doesn’t everyone? It was all part of my plan,” Beck says. “Everything has gone incredibly well to get to the point where we are. Becoming successful by playing music is amazing. I think it is not lost on us how lucky we are. We are sort of flabbergasted by the success that we have. At the same time, we always believed in it. I’m not saying it’s blind, dumb luck. We’ve worked really hard and believed in what we were doing. To see everyone else come around and start believing in it too is amazing – justification of almost your entire life.”

“Our show has evolved,” Beck says. “We’ve become more of a rock band: rock and roll with bluegrass instruments. To me, we’ve always been that, but it turns out we haven’t. Musically we evolve together. The idea is to keep creating and writing new music and to keep exploring improvisation. Rather than try to make a master plan, we focus on being righteous, positive and awesome.”

For more information on WinterWonderGrass, lodging and ski passes, visit www.winterwondergrass.com

For more information on Greensky Bluegrass visit http://greenskybluegrass.com


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Culture, Community WinterWonderGrass Alesha Damerville Greensky Bluegrass

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