These Subtle Sounds: Celebrating Jerry Garcia with Greensky Bluegrass and Cris Jacobs

What better way to spend the first night in August AND Jerry Garcia’s birthday, than with Baltimore’s own Cris Jacobs and Greensky Bluegrass at MECU Pavilion? I have had the pleasure of watching Cris Jacobs and his band perform for several years here in Baltimore, including here at MECU Pavilion opening for The Avett Brothers 3 years ago, and this was definitely a highlight performance!

It was a perfect night on August 1st in Baltimore. Cris Jacobs along with his band, Todd Herrignton (bass), Dusty Ray Simmons (drums), and Jonathan Sloane (guitar) took the stage shortly after 6pm. They performed a 10-song set list, with 6 of these songs coming from Jacobs’ latest album, Color Where You Are. A little more than half way through the set, Cris Jacobs paid tribute to Jerry Garcia’s birthday (which was the same day as this show). They performed the beloved Grateful Dead song, “Althea”. For the last song of the set, Paul Hoffman of Greensky Bluegrass came on stage to accompany the band on Mandolin.

A friend and devoted fan of both bands, Roland Ray, said it perfectly: “Thursday’s show brought much of the respect that The Cris Jacobs Band has earned on the road since the release of “Color Where You Are” home to Baltimore. The ever present chemistry this band always brings to the stage was felt by everyone. I have never seen a show that did not leave me wanting to hear more. The friendship created through love of music has built a strong bond between Greensky bluegrass and The Cris Jacobs band.”

Greensky Bluegrass played through sunset and into the evening. They performed two sets and an encore! They came on strong with a nearly 20 minute jam consisting of “Dustbowl Overtures” then leading into “Run or Die”. After about an hour, they took a short break to prepare for their second set.

One of the highlights of a Greensky Bluegrass performance is their lighting. All band members line the stage and are backlit with rays of light that expand out into the audience. The combination of lighting and music is what makes their performance so special.

Their second set was a bit longer and ended with a twelve minute version of everyone’s favorite, “Kerosene”. While both sets were amazingly delivered, the true magic happened during the encore. When Greensky Bluegrass walked back on stage after their second set, they brought along with them all members of Cris Jacobs’ band. For a bit more than 20 minutes, both full bands lined the stage and performed a three-songs encore. To pay tribute to Jerry Garcia and to celebrate his birthday, together they performed “Wharf Rat” (appropriate in light of recent comments about Baltimore), “Scarlet Begonias”, and “Fire on the Mountain” (all original Grateful Dead songs).

Howard Stoler, fan and friend, shared his thoughts with me about the ending of the show: “The encore was the perfect ending to an amazing evening of music. Both full bands for 3 songs on Jerry Garcia’s birthday. Left me wanting even more.”