Greensky Back Where They Belong

Greensky Bluegrass makes a post-vaccine return to Red Rocks

Greensky Bluegrass at Belly Up Aspen in March 2017. Aspen Times Archive

What: Greensky Bluegrass livestream from Red Rocks

Where: HYFI

When: Friday, Sept. 17 through Sunday, Sept. 19

How much: $25/one night; $60/three nights

Tickets and more info:

Greensky Bluegrass has bookended its summer 2021 return to live performance with two iconic Colorado gigs, beginning the pandemic return tour with a sunset slot at Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June and capping it this weekend with a three-show run at Red Rocks Ampitheatre.

For this beloved jam band, which has regularly topped 150 concerts a year since their founding in 2000, the long year-plus without live music during the pandemic shutdown of the live music industry was an unthinkable experience. Returning to the stage in Telluride in June was a spiritual homecoming.

“It was magical,” guitarist Dave Bruzza said from home in Denver days after the show. “It was great to be back. Telluride is such a core part of Greensky’s identity and it’s a special place for me personally – so the shows were great and it was great to see so many friends again.”

The band was founded in Michigan but Telluride is where Greensky broke out, winning the 2006 Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition, returning for a headlining slot the following year and quickly solidifying a legion of Colorado fans who’ve filled their shows ever since.

For this year, the band played the main stage in the park as well as their first indoor unmasked show in more than a year for a grateful vaccinated crowd.

“That was really special,” Bruzza said. “It felt a little strange, like ‘Woah, we’re inside and no one is wearing a mask. … But just to be in a room full of people and just feeling that again was really incredible And just to see all the faces of the people you’re playing for.”

Greensky’s connection to fans is intense and based in those live experiences, which made the pandemic shutdown period a struggle. Their Red Rocks shows have become a tentpole on the Colorado concert calendar since 2013, as have annual multi-day runs at Belly Up Aspen (fans will likely have to wait until winter or next year for those to return).

Greensky Bluegrass at Belly Up Aspen in March 2017. Aspen Times Archive

To fill the void during the long concert-less stretch, Greensky, like many bands, took to livestreaming. They played full sets in empty venues for their faithful fans. And this spring, as vaccines were rolling out and live music’s return was on the horizon, they began releasing their “Leap Year Sessions,” a series of live albums from the pandemic sessions.

“I think it is an important snapshot for history and to see what we all have had to do to adapt and to still have to have some connection with each other throughout the world by performing those shows,” said Bruzza.

The performances soundracked the turbulent season of the pandemic, the bitter 2020 election and the nationwide uprising following the murder of George Floyd. These recordings, at times mournful and touched by the tumult of the times, have a purpose beyond entertainment.

“I think it’s important that we don’t forget about that whole situation,” said Bruzza. “Because just like anything else in history, it’s important to keep in perspective and remember what we’re all going through.”

Greensky Bluegrass at Belly Up Aspen in March 2017. Aspen Times Archive

The livestreams also created a new virtual community for Greensky concerts. They’ll steram all three Red Rocks concerts live via the Hyfi platform.

For these much-anticipated Red Rocks shows, Greensky is paired each night with a different co-headliner: Friday with Lukas Nelson, Saturday with Circles Around the Sun and Sunday with Railroad Earth. After the weekend, they’re taking about a month off before Greensky’s fall and winter tour dates ramp up and run to the New Year.

All of Greensky’s members contribute to songwriting and Bruzza said they worked on a lot of new material during the shutdown, though they haven’t released any yet. Being forced to stay home – or stay in Telluride, which Bruzza and other bandmembers did for a stretch in fall 2020 – did have its upsides for the band, he noted, giving the Greensky family a chance to focus on personal growth and new songs.

“Now that we’ve gotten this far along, I’m actually kind of grateful for a little bit of a break,” he said. “It gave me a lot of opportunity to be extremely creative and write a lot of music.”

Greensky Bluegrass at Belly Up Aspen in March 2017. Aspen Times Archive