A couple of popular “jam” bands hit Rhode Island next week, with a stop at the newest venue in the state, Bold Point Park.
One of those bands is Michigan’s Greensky Bluegrass and WhatsUpRI spoke with banjo player and co-founder Michael Bont earlier this week. He was excited about joining fellow travelers Railroad Earth, and being a part of the third show ever at the new East Providence venue. “They’re old friends of ours, from a long time ago,” noted Bont.
Greensky Bluegrass is fundamentally a “jam” band, with an emphasis on “newgrass,” an updated form of the traditional bluegrass style.
They have a dedicated fan base; “we see a lot of Deadheads at show, which is pretty cool,” noted Bont. He acknowledged that he’s an “old Deadhead” as well – “I was lucky that I did get to see Jerry (Garcia) a few times when I was in high school.”
Their followers are known as “campers,” a nickname that evolved from an image on an old catalog from the Campmor outdoor company. “It was based on a logo with a tent and some trees. A fan had the idea of changing the name from Campmor to Camp Greensky. He designed a t-shirt and the idea came from that,” explained Bont.
The band features banjo and mandolin prominently, and has become a major part of the resurgence in Roots/Americana music which Bont traces back to the early 2000’s.
“I think its pretty awesome to see 14 year old kids liking banjos. A lot of it started with the O’ Brother, Where Art Thou film. That was kind of the start of the resurgence when people became re-informed about a lost American art form. It was kind of like in the 70s when Deliverance came out and there was an acoustic resurgence that followed. That, and people like (Producer) T Bone Burnett, who is hired to do movies with music from different eras.”
“It’s not modern, but it is modern now. We just played the Peach Festival in Pennsylvania last week and My Morning Jacket with Jim James was the headliner. He draws a lot from Americana roots rock and roll.”
If you go to the show, you’ll hear the upbeat “newgrass” style made famous by bands like the Avett Brother and Nickel Creek. Greensky Bluegrass typically plays a show that includes well-known covers and originals all featuring extended jams.
Check em out with Railroad Earth when they play Bold Point Park next Thursday August 25. Tickets and more information available here.