King of newgrass crowned ‘King of Vilar’ in Beaver Creek
Beaver Creek CO, Colorado
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” Virtuoso: a person who excels in musical technique or execution. There are few musicians worthy of having such a designation and bluegrass rock star Sam Bush is one of them. Playing a bevy of instruments that include an extensive collection of mandolins and fiddles, Sam and his band brought the normally reserved Vilar Center audience to their feet Thursday night.
Bush, an originator of the newgrass style of music and founding member of New Grass Revival, has been playing with an unmatched enthusiasm for all types of music since he was a teenager in the 1960s. Influenced by musical styles from jazz to country, his concerts appease almost all fans of music. Playing songs spanning from older New Grass Revival tunes and his current band’s latest album, “Laps in 7,” Bush danced around the stage with a natural vigor and aforementioned enthusiasm for his band, the music and the audience. He showed why he is a virtuoso, playing astonishingly fast and melodic leads on his various instruments and he showed why he is an entertainer as he inserted funny one-liners between songs. Beatles fans laughed as he mentioned that his “Green Album” was named such only because the White Album was already taken.
Although Sam Bush could probably captivate an audience by himself, he is taken to a whole new level by his exceptionally talented band members. The rhythm is set by the two longstanding members of the band, drummer Chris Brown and bassist Byron House. To say that House is just a bassist would be selling him short as he has mastered his multitude of hand-held and stand-up basses. Newer member Scott Vestal plays banjo and banjo synthesizer, which is some sort of personal creation that I had never seen before and sounds like an organ. Rounding out the band is Stephen Mougin on guitar and vocals.
The band really got going during the first set closer, “Sapporo.” This is where I noticed how exceptional of a drummer Brown is. To keep time for musicians playing as quickly as Bush is no easy feat and Brown does so ” knowing exactly where to add emphasis to the foot-stomping madness. The audience was in awe as they watched Bush and Vestal trade leads that seemed to run around the rhythm section like a well-orchestrated game of playground tag.
The band built on the momentum from the first set throughout the second set and the crowd was sent into a frenzy. The incognito foot tapping turned to hand clapping and more and more people were out of their seats dancing. The band was loving every minute of it and Bush even commented that an impromptu dance section was gathering stage right. After the standing ovation for an exceptional night of music, the band came back to play “The Band’s Up on Cripple Creek” to which the entire Vilar Center audience was out of their seats dancing.
As the audience emptied into Beaver Creek Village, I heard dozens of people commenting that they had just seen one of the best shows they’d ever seen. And, although Bush does not like to be called “King of Newgrass,” it was evident that this audience would like to have crowned him “King of the Vilar.”
Todd Altschuler is an advertising consultant at the Vail Daily.