Greensky Bluegrass return to the Jefferson

A&E previews the bluegrass band’s upcoming gig with member Michael Bont

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For the past 15 years, Greensky Bluegrass has been crafting unique, genre-bending songs. The band will be returning to the Jefferson Theater Sept. 23, almost exactly a year after its last Charlottesville performance. Arts & Entertainment chatted with founding member and banjo player Michael Bont to preview the upcoming show.

Arts & Entertainment: You guys have been touring pretty non-stop for a while now, right?

Michael Bont: Yeah, we just kind of came off of summer festival season, where we played lots of festivals during the weekend. But essentially, I think we’ve been on tour for the last few years!

A&E: What kind of sets have you been doing lately? Lots of songs off the newest album or mixed up from night to night?

MB: We generally mix it up from night to night. I mean, we’re more than likely going to play songs from the new album, but we’ll also play older stuff along with some covers, so I wouldn’t come to the show expecting to hear every song from the new album.

A&E: Are there any covers you’re particularly excited about?

MB: We’ve a couple times done “Big Shot” by Billy Joel — that’s a fun one we just started doing.

A&E: Can you talk about your approach to making a song like that, which is so outside of the bluegrass genre, work with your style?

MB: We kind of twist the song … for myself playing the banjo, like a song has a piano part or a cool melody … that could be a banjo part … Especially a song that has drums, we don’t have drums in the band, so a lot of times the mandolin and the bass will kind of emulate the drum kit. We kind of look at the songs as individuals and find a piece of that song that [we’d] like to make [our] own, and then we go from there and bring it to the band and say, “I have a good idea about something!” But generally, our goal is to recreate the song, the feel and the texture of the song, without the drums. [It] isn’t always easy, but it’s a fun process to figure out how to play it!

A&E: What’s the vibe like at your shows? What would you say a first-timer should expect?

MB: Great musicianship, and … these kinds of shows, they really feel like a place to meet people and make friends. I feel like our fans are just really, really nice people for the most part! The other night, there’s a lady who’s come to a bunch of our shows in the front row, talking to another girl whom I recognized from coming to a bunch of shows, and they introduced each other and then became friends throughout the show. It’d be nice to see that kind of thing happen every night. It’s great to see people establishing relationships and making friends — having some beers and a good time with good music. It’s a real family vibe!

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