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Greensky Bluegrass at the Belly Up: Touring Band 'Tighter than Ever'

The boys of Greensky Bluegrass have expanded their fan base exponentially since their beginnings in 2000 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In their tenure, they have released four studio albums, including their 2011 release, Handguns, and are already working on the mastering for their fifth studio album. This success does not come without hard work and incessant touring across the continental U.S., however, and GSBG manages to keep their set lists fresh, as well as somehow find time in their crazy schedule to record a major studio album.

Greensky Bluegrass breakin' it down.
Jamie Van Buhler

San Diego Music Examiner recently caught up with GSBG banjoist Mike Bont while traversing through Oregon after a show at the Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, Montana. Bont seemed enthusiastic about the about the tour, and thoroughly stoked to return to San Diego for their upcoming show at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach on Saturday, March 8.

“This has been a great tour, and the band is playing tighter than ever,” said Bont. “We're coming up on the second leg of our winter tour, and have been hitting Colorado, Montana, and the Pacific Northwest pretty heavily. We just left Missoula, and, man, it was great to hit Sugar Bowl for a few hours.”

Though the aforementioned areas are historically prone to support bluegrass, GSBG maintains a large following in San Diego, which seems to multiplies tremendously following each stop in America's Finest City.

Following the release of Handguns, Greensky was frequently playing one to two shows a year at Winstons Beach Club in Ocean Beach. It would not be facetious to say that at their last Winstons show, not only did they sell the place out, but also tore the place down along with the help of a rowdy, ecstatic crowd.

“I love Ocean Beach,” said Bont.“It’s just one of the few bastions left in SoCal that refuses give way to condo development or chain stores, and you can really feel that. The third time we played at Winstons, we were loading our gear up and folks were lined up down to Newport Avenue! We have since returned to San Diego to play the Belly Up a few times. Really, you guys are lucky to have two great venues just steps away from the beach.”

Their shows at Belly Up saw Greensky link up with oft-collaborators Railroad Earth. These shows were received well, as the two groups are often on the same bill together. Bont elaborates that one of his proudest moments in the band was a dual billing of RRE, The Wood Brothers, and GSBG at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado.

“My mom was there, and it was one of those situations where you are like ‘this is it, we're really doing this - and, of course, the sound is phenomenal',” said Bont. “I am truly proud of where we have come as a band, and is fantastic that we are still turning new fans on.”

GSBG recorded their upcoming studio album last January during a break between touring, and though no official release date has been announced, the boys seem excited about the album’s progress thus far. Their set lists are always intriguing, ranging from the classic “Atlantic City,” to the random "Hungry Like the Wolf," or even some Billy Joel. Keeping in true fashion of touring bands, they mix up their sets seemingly on the go – always keeping the audience and themselves guessing.

It is highly encouraged that attendees purchase tickets early for the Belly Up show, as they may become few and far between come show time. Greensky Bluegrass seems to love their SoCal stops, and their frequent performances are surely greatly appreciated by their ever-burgeoning fan base.

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