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Fish and bluegrass

Laura A. Ball
Special to the DailyThe 2 High String Band plays at Red Sky Ranch Thursday for Bluegrass on the Green.
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WOLCOTT ” What do bluegrass and gefilte fish have in common?

Nothing. But if you see three bearded guys climbing toward Vail in a 15-passenger van with a gefilte fish sticker on their bumper, it’s most likely the 2 High String Band or some smelly impostors.

“We get a lot of attention for that one,” Billy Bright said of the fish cakes from a hotel room (he thinks is) in Idaho Falls, Idaho, Tuesday.



The friendliest guys in bluegrass return to the valley Thursday to liven up Red Sky Ranch for the free concert series Bluegrass on the Green, except, they’re not just bluegrass.

“To call us bluegrass is a bit of a stretch,” Bright said. “But we definitely fit somewhere into that category. When most people hear bluegrass, they would think a fiddle, a banjo and an upright bass. Well, those are the three instruments we don’t have in the band. We have two guitars and a mandolin.”



Bright sweetly seduces the mandolin, while Brian Smith fingers the guitar and Geoff Union picks it; all three take turns crooning and weave their voices into beautiful harmonies. Bright said the band’s unique texture makes it difficult for their sound to be pigeonholed. Collectively their influences meet somewhere between Bill Monroe to John Hartford to the Grateful Dead. “It’s constantly evolving,” he said. “We’re always drawing in new stuff.”

A 12-song testament to their bluegrass-infused, jazz, funk jangle is their new album, “Moonshine Boogie.” Banjo great Tony Trischka (Psychograss, etc.), fiddler Chojo Jacques (Waybacks), and upright bassist Eric Thorin (Open Road) show up on various tracks, too.

The acoustic trio got its start in Boston more than a decade ago, before the jam band scene forged into any kind of stream. When the 2 High guys meandered west and arrived in Dillon in 1997, Bright said, their freewheelin’ jam style was just starting to take off. Finding success this side of the Mississippi, they decided to settle in Austin, Texas, where the music scene was even more fertile.



Touring on their first release in years, the band wound up at the High Sierra Music Festival this weekend where they played two unforgettable nights for a crowd of more than 10,000.

“It’s a big old California jam band festival,” Bright said. “Musically, it was great because we got to play more of an electrical show. And we were there watching some great bands like Hot Buttered Rum and Railroad Earth and we got to do a bluegrass pick jam with them.”

The band played a Fourth of July show in Victor, Idaho, with Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon) and American Taxi before hitting the road to Vail, where Bright said, fans always keep their ears open. Last year’s summer tour led them to 8150 to play with Shanti Groove.

“People are really receptive to music in Vail,” Bright said. “We get the feeling up there that if it’s good, it’s good, and there’s not too much judgment.”

Every show is different for the 2 High Stringers, which the audience partly accounts for and partly the band member’s feeling on a particular night.

“Sometimes we play for people who want to dance all night, and sometimes we play for people who want to sit and chill,” he said. “Different audiences have different ways of showing their appreciation. If we wrote out a whole set list and it doesn’t seem to be working, we’ll play something else. The crowd is at least half the show, so we definitely respond to a crowd’s energy and transfer that into what we’re playing.”

Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 748-2939 or laball@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado


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