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Posted on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 5:15 a.m.

Kalamazoo's Greensky Bluegrass bringing its dark-tinged tunes to brighten up Thursday's Sonic Lunch

By Roger LeLievre


Greensky Bluegrass

If you’re familiar with bluegrass music, then it should be apparent as soon as the band takes the Sonic Lunch stage downtown Thursday that Kalamazoo’s Greensky Bluegrass doesn’t quite fit the genre’s traditional model.

For one thing, the subjects of their songs seem a little darker than one might expect. Their last album, “Handguns,” included tracks like “I'd Probably Kill You,” “Bring Out Your Dead” and “Blood Sucking F(r)iends.”

“I think it’s our songwriting in general that makes us different from straight-ahead bluegrass,” said Paul Hoffman (mandolin, vocals). “It’s got a lot of the same elements of darkness (as “Handguns”),” he laughed.


Greensky Bluegrass

  • Who: Kalamazoo quintet presented by Bank of Ann Arbor’s Sonic Lunch series.
  • What: Progressive bluegrass.
  • Where: Liberty Plaza, corner of South Division and East Liberty streets, Ann Arbor.
  • When: Noon Thursday, Aug. 15.
  • How much: Free. Info:
The band is just finishing up a new album, scheduled to come out this fall.

“I think there are a couple of tunes on this one that are a little lighter, though, (plus) some new rock tunes and some new, good bluegrass tunes. I’m excited for people to hear it,” Hoffman said.

As its name suggests, the band does use traditional bluegrass instruments—banjo, guitar, upright bass and mandolin. But bluegrass doesn’t usually have distortion pedals, or horns either. Greensky does, at least on its albums.

Not only are folks in the Midwest taking notice of the band, they are finding fans nationally as well. According to Rolling Stone, “Greensky Bluegrass is representing the genre for a whole new generation.” A busy touring schedule this year includes 42 fall dates, and in July they played the prestigious Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado.

Hoffman said that even though the band’s songs are a little dark, they aren’t really a bunch of depressed guys who play musical instruments.

“I’ve always found it easier to write like that,” he explained. “It’s like the blues guys do, it’s a form of catharsis to write this sad or lonesome material. It’s sort of a way to get it out and make it better, that’s what the blues guys used to say.

“Sometimes when I try writing something really happy or cheery it seems so cliche. It’s just not my forte to spit those ones out.”

Greensky Bluegrass is no stranger to Ann Arbor, with past shows at The Ark and the Blind Pig.

“Both places have their own something to offer,” said Hoffman. “We really like the listening crowd at The Ark and the nice room, but we also really like the Pig. It’s more of a have fun, throw your hands in the air, hoot and holler kind of place.

For outdoor Sonic Lunch show, hooting and hollering encouraged, he added.


Jenn McKee

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 7:07 p.m.

They sound great - though, admittedly, I'm a total sucker for a group with a banjo and a mandolin. Looking forward to hearing more of their stuff live on Thursday!