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‘Infamous’ innovators

Special to the Daily/Anna Schwaber
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They may not be infamous yet, but they are on their way to being famous. The Infamous Stringdusters, a hybrid country, rock, and bluegrass band, are coming to town as part of their “Ski Tour,” designed so the band can hit the slopes in each place they visit. The group will perform at the Vilar Center on Tuesday night.

A “string duster” is a musician who plays their instrument often to keep it from getting dusty. The name is apt for a strings-only band whose members rely on strumming. Andy Falco plays guitar, Chris Pandolfi keeps beat with the banjo, Travis Book tackles the bass, Jeremy Garrett gets fancy with the fiddle, and Andy Hall plays the dobro, a special guitar with an inverted resonator.

Too busy to let anything get dusty, the group tours constantly and have even started a festival in their current hometown of Charlottesville, VA. Called “The Festy Experience,” the festival is in its third year and continues to grow, showcasing a variety of country, bluegrass and folk artists.



The Stringdusters members are committed to making music their way, on their own terms. They recently formed their own record label called High Country Records and will release a new album in the spring. Titled “Silver Sky,” guitarist Andy Falco said he was both excited and nervous about the band’s first album on their own label.

“There comes to a point where you feel like you know about yourselves and want to have more control over what you’re doing with your music,” Falco said.



‘High Country’

Although the band’s music is rooted in bluegrass, one may detect hints of a psychedelic sound in many of their songs. An admitted “Deadhead,” Falco and fellow member Chris Pandolfi went to quite a few Greatful Dead shows when they were younger. This results in tunes that are a bit more tie-dyed and colorful than what is typically described as bluegrass. Falco describes the Strinduster’s sound as “High Country,” a genre that mixes more than one musical style.

“We all come from different musical backgrounds,” Falco said. “We like to bring those elements into our sound, (even) bringing in rock and electronic music.”



In a recent interview last month with Relix magazine, Drew Emmitt, formerly of Leftover Salmon and currently of the Emmitt-Nershi band, discussed his love of the Stringduster’s sound.

“The more innovative bluegrass bands like the [Infamous] Stringdusters – they’re doing some great things,” Emmitt said. “They’re combining the more traditional bluegrass with experimentation. They’re definitely taking a page out of the jamgrass book.”

‘Be part of the experience’

Speaking of experimentation, the Stringdusters are testing out a new format to sell tickets, merchandise and other concert experiences to fans. They have just launched a program in which fans can “pledge” money in exchange for things like a song dedication at a show, a phone call from the band, a signed CD, and even a private party with the band. The money raised will go toward bringing increased production value to the Stringdusters’ shows and performances.

“We want to bring the best possible show we can to our fans,” Falco said. “It gives the fans an opportunity to be part of the experience … it gives people a chance to invest in the band, invest in what we’re doing, and what they get in return will be a bigger show.”

The pledge program will begin in conjunction with the group’s next tour this spring. With the record industry changing faster than a fiddle, the band is constantly thinking of new ways to reach fans and expand themselves both musically and professionally. Maybe with a little of Jerry Garcia’s influence, the Stringdusters will one day find time to live up to the “infamous” part of their name. They just have to get the “famous” thing down first.

Rosanna Turner is a freelance writer based in Vail. Email comments about this story to cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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