The five-piece bluegrass band Infamous Stringdusters are stopping in Lawrence this weekend on their winter “Road to Boulder” tour, while raising money to help those affected by the devastating floods that took place in Colorado in September.
Dobro player Andy Hall lives in the mountains of Lyon, Colo., the area of Boulder County that was hit worst, leaving an estimated $1 billion in damage.
“When all of this flooding happened in Boulder, we were playing in Denver at the time,” says bass player and vocalist Travis Book. “[Hall] had to four-wheel out 10 miles on a back road just to get to the gig.”
Book grew up in Durango, Chris Pandolfi (banjo) lives in Denver, and the entire band thinks of Boulder as home because of the community support and encouragement they received when they formed seven years ago. Bluegrass festival called RockyGrass is held in Boulder annually; it was one of the first gigs they had booked.
“It’s one of the best music festivals in the country,” Book says. “They helped us get started as a band, and paid us way more than we were worth.”
Infamous Stringdusters released the “Road To Boulder” EP, featuring accordion-player Bruce Hornsby, and a single written by Andy Hall on his decision to move from Nashville to Boulder. The other three tracks were live recorded at Bluegrass Underground, a music series hosted in Cumberland Caverns Volcano Room, 333 feet underground in McMinnville, Tenn.
Proceeds from the EP are going to the Oskar Blues CAN’d Aid Foundation for flood relief, a Colorado-based brewing company’s nonprofit. One dollar of every tour ticket sold will go directly to the CAN’d Aid Foundation’s Flood Relief Fund. To date, Oskar Blues has raised nearly $250,000 and distributed over $200,000 to individuals, families and small businesses affected by the September flooding.
“We’ve sort of made it a policy of ours to try to do something more than just play shows and sell tickets and sell records,” Book says, referring to their summer’s American Rivers tour, raising $10,000 for an organization working hard to protect our nation’s river and streams. “It’s a good habit for us to do some kind of engagement with a nonprofit.”
The band plans on holding a pre-show Oskar Blues gathering at each location, where fans can socialize with each other and members of the band. Book says it’s a good way to extend the depths of the evening and get the ball rolling early. No venue has been confirmed yet in Lawrence yet.
“They are going to be pouring Oskar brews and it’s going to be a great big social scene,” Book says. “It’s always great when we can get people together in a bar that have more in common than just a desire to drink in a bar.”
The show will be at 8 p.m. Friday at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St., an appropriate venue for the different kinds of fans that follow the Stringdusters, Book says. The upstairs seating area will be for fans who come to their shows for the pure bluegrass music, who want to listen intently to the picking and singing. Downstairs will be for the fans who dance like mad, Book says.
“A lot of fans are in it for the experience and scene, and to be swept up by the music,” Book says. “Our music is best experienced in person.”
Long story short, Book says, the band formed in Nashville because of similar music interests and many things “jived personality-wise.”
“I stepped off an elevator at a bluegrass convention with a backpack full of beer and they decided that I’d be a perfect bass player for the band,” he says. “They convinced me to move from Colorado out to Nashville.”
After about four years of establishing themselves as the Stringdusters, they all moved to different locations: Book in Virginia, Andy Falco (guitar) in Long Island, Hall and Pandolfi in Colorado, and Jeremy Garrett (fiddle) still in Nashville. They get together for rehearsals before tours, and spend their time apart working on solo projects. Book just completed his first solo record and is starting a rock trio band with his wife, Sarah Siskind, a grammy-nominated songwriter.
“It actually helps because when we were all living in the same spot, it was like you had a job but you never got to go home,” Book says. “Our rehearsals are much more intensive, much more effective and we are more efficient. When we are done we go our separate ways and get some space from it.”