Bluegrass bands and bluegrass music in general, whether you like them or not, get lumped into the jam band world. Blame the New Grass Revival, blame Phish, blame the Yonder Mountain String Band or blame whomever, it's grown into one of those things.There's a great difference between traditional bluegrass bands who keep their songs less than three minutes and bluegrass-jam bands, but the ignorant don't see it that way. They see it all as jam music.
Well, they are wrong. Most bluegrass bands of the jam variety keep it both ways, capable of doing the three-minute murder ballad as well as improvising on a song well past the 10-minute mark. Both ways are commendable and downright tough.
Tonight, the Abbey Theatre will welcome a band that is sometimes bluegrass, sometimes jam and all time Americana, when Michigan's Greensky Bluegrass will return to Durango. These guys play as many as 200 shows a year, and they're coming through town after stops in Texas, New Mexico and parts of Colorado.
Greensky features Paul Hoffman on mandolin, Dave Bruzza on guitar, Michael Arlen Bont on banjo, Mike Devol on bass and Anders Beck on dobro. Beck did time in Durango bands including Broke Mountain and the Wayword Sons when he lived here.
"I like to get to play music with my band in Colorado, because the state seems to like what we do," said Beck from his band's base in Michigan. "We get really good crowds, and that translates to us having some really big shows. We're big on that energy transfer from the crowd.
"Colorado feels like home to me more than any place I've ever been."
Beck joined Greensky last year, after playing with the band a few years back at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. It won the Telluride Band Competition in 2006, and returned in '07.
Since then, Greensky has found fans in both bluegrass and jam, pushing it to do jam band-like things, such as work with a loose and changeable set list, and rely a lot on improvisation.
"Those fans are into having us mix up the set list and do lots of unique stuff," said Beck.
For him, keeping his feet in both worlds is not bipolar, but welcome.
"The whole juxtaposition of the bluegrass crowd and the jam crowd is interesting to me, and we're lucky to be right in the middle of it all," Beck said. "We like to just play music, so it can go in lots of different places."
Liggettb@fortlewis.eduBryant Liggett is a freelance writer and general manager of KDUR.