The Lil’ Smokies Light The Way In Portland

first_imgDuring what can only be described as dark times for our country right now we could all use a break from the unrest and negativity that has shaped the past week. Those with the gumption to get out of the house and see some friends and music in Portland, OR on Thursday night were treated to a much needed reminder of the good in the world and love in our community last night by The Lil’ Smokies, Head for the Hills, and Brad Parsons.While protests raged in the streets of downtown Portland for the 3rd consecutive day and swat teams rolled by the front of the Star Theater, two tours featuring some of the hottest bluegrass/Americana acts in the country combined for a cathartic and uplifting night of music that was sorely needed by the intimate crowd. Portland singer/songwriter Brad Parsons kicked the night off and set the tone with tender yet powerful resolve, eventually ceding the stage to Fort Collins, CO-based, Head for the Hills. Their 90-minute set was a testament to four individuals playing as one as they sounded tighter than ever, keeping a foot in the traditional bluegrass sound while exploring diverse territory such as indie rock, and even hip-hop.By the time Missoula’s The Lil’ Smokies hit the stage the crowd had settled in and was ready for the 2015 Telluride Band Competition winner to show why they are one of the hottest acts in progressive bluegrass today. They certainly did just that. Only a couple of songs into their set, one could look out into the crowd and see the joy and relief on their faces as they let the music take over and escaped the emotional nadir of the past week’s events.With dobro player Andy Dunnigan’s voice leading the way through many unique originals, this band has such a natural and polished sound it’s hard to believe they’ve only been on the road for 2 ½ years. Guitarist Matt “Rev” Rieger also stepped up to lead a few tunes including a fun cover of Naked Eyes’ “Always Something There to Remind Me.” The newest member of the band, Jake Simpson, provided perhaps the highest peaks of the night, showing impressive chops and sense of the moment on the fiddle.The incredible chemistry of the band was on display throughout the night, but never more evident than during Simpson’s give-and-take lead trade-offs with Dunnigan. They finished off the night by inviting Brad Parsons back on stage for a rocking version of “Montana,” the first single off of his upcoming album Hold True.We should all be thankful that these fellas have found each other. They have undergone some personnel changes over the past couple of years and the latest lineup feels like it is built to soar. It doesn’t take much imagination to see them gracing some of the most coveted stages in the country with their genuine and inspiring sound.The Lil’ Smokies and Brad Parsons continue their NW run tonight 11/11 in Bellingham, WA and Saturday 11/12 in Seattle. Head for the Hills is in Seattle 11/11, and Bend 11/12.– words by Heath KearnsThe Lil Smokies – Andy Dunnigan (dobro), Jake Simpson (fiddle), Matt Rieger (guitar), Scott Parker (bass), Matt Cornette (banjo)Head for the Hills – Joe Lessard (violin), Adam Kinghorn (guitar), Matt Loewen (bass), Sam Parks (mandolin)The Lil Smokies Setlist – Star Theater – Portland, OR 11/10/2016SequenceCaliforniaMiss MarieTooth FairyMending the FenceGoodbye StrangerWindedGalleryLearning to Fly (Tom Petty)That Home Far AwayLife of Sin (Sturgill Simpson)HitchcockThe CityEncore:FeathersAlways Something There to Remind Me (Naked Eyes)Montana (Brad Parsons)“San Fran” at Music City Roots Live From The Factory on 6/22/16 :last_img read more