Newgrass bandleader and acoustic guitar wizard Billy Strings launches what may be the most ambitious venue-based streaming tour of Nashville in the Covid era Thursday night. The Streaming Strings 2020 Tour will cover a lot of ground but not go very far, as his band plays two nights apiece at four top Nashville venues - the new Brooklyn Bowl, The Station Inn, The City Winery and the Exit/In - followed by a finale single night from 3rd & Lindsley.
Each venue will stream over a different platform (though you can coordinate your viewing from the tour page), and each requires paid access of $9.99. Besides making a living, the band is donating a portion of the proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Backline, a non-profit devoted to mental health care for people in the music industry.
Strings is joined by his road-tested touring band of the last few years, mandolinist Jarrod Walker, banjo player Billy Failing, and bassist Royal Masat. And of course viewers can expect guest pickers. On Wednesday Strings announced that his guitar star colleague Marcus King will join the band on opening night.
Strings called into WMOT Thursday morning and explained that this hometown tour concept has been in the works since March and represents a huge team effort. As the name and band poster suggests, he said, “We’re kind of treating it like a regular tour.” That means, for one thing, different set lists every night, to be dreamed up just before going on stage. The big difference of course is that he’s been without his band or his audience for the last 16 weeks or so. “Yesterday when we stepped out on stage and did our sound check and we really played as a band for the first time in months, I was kind of overwhelmed with emotions,” Strings said.
The shows will test what it feels like when a band as attuned to the moment as the Strings quartet tries to conjure its usual heightened awareness and musical telepathy without fans in the room. “Yesterday when that happened, it was sort of startling to go there by myself without all of those other companions out front,” he said. “I wonder if I do close my eyes and get out there and try to get into those uncharted musical territories that we usually try to wade through – if I can realize that there are people there with me in the ether.”
Strings, born William Apostol, emerged out Michigan where he learned bluegrass music from his father to become one of the first flatpicker bandleaders to achieve stardom in indie music in decades. He’s released two albums so far, the most recent being Home on Rounder Records. He’s the current IBMA Guitarist of the Year, and this Fall he’s among the nominees for Entertainer of the Year for the first time.
STREAMING STRINGS 2020 TOUR DATES
Thu – 7/16/20 Brooklyn Bowl (Streamed live via FANS)
Fri – 7/17/20 Brooklyn Bowl (Streamed live via FANS)
Sat – 7/18/20 Station Inn (Streamed live via Station Inn TV)
Sun – 7/19/20 Station Inn (Streamed live via Station Inn TV)
Wed – 7/22/20 City Winery (Streamed live via Nugs TV)
Thu – 7/23/20 City Winery (Streamed live via Nugs TV)
Fri – 7/24/20 Exit/In (Streamed live via TourGigs)
Sat – 7/25/20 Exit/In (Streamed live via TourGigs)
Sun -7/26/20 3rd & Lindsley (Streamed live via Nugs TV)