LIVE: The Sam Bush Band @ The Egg, 3/12/10

Sam Bush
Sam Bush

During the second of two hour-plus sets at The Egg in Albany on Friday night, Sam Bush and his band had two or three dozen young dancers bobbing and bopping in the back corners of the theater. A friend turned to me and said, “He’s the Jerry Garcia of bluegrass.”

The music of mandolinist-fiddler Bush is still rooted deep in mountain bluegrass – he opened with a pair of classic Bill Monroe tunes – but he ventures far beyond those musical boundaries, as he’s been doing consistently since his days leading the pioneering New Grass Revival.

On Friday night, he continued to break new ground – most notably with a wild, instrumental fiddle medley, wrapping up the first set with an echo-laden take on David Essex’s “Rock On” that slid into a traditional Irish fiddle tune and then crashed into a climactic, high-wattage blitz through Jean Luc Ponty’s “New Country.”

His second-set takes on Buddy & Julie Miller’s “The River’s Gonna Run” (dark and ominous) and Jeff Black’s “Wanna Do Right” (Band-like laid-back funk) were equally inventive, as Bush fired up edgy bottleneck playing on his resonator mandolin, while Scott Vestal traded in his more traditional five-string for an electric synth banjo to create rumbling, Hammond B3-like organ swells.

Prog-rock-like instrumentals – including “The Mahavishnu Mountain Boys” and “Laps in Seven” (in a 7/4 time signature) – showcased the jaw-dropping instrumental virtuosity of Vestal, guitarist Stephen Mougin, bassist Byron House and drummer Chris Brown, in addition to Bush himself. But the band also knew when to pull back the reins and play it straight and simple, as they did with magnificent results on the aching “Gold Heart Locket.”

Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Read my review in The Times Union

In The Daily Gazette, David Singer wrote, “The best received songs, like ‘Where There’s a Road,’ came when they laid off the lyrics and passed the solos around, moving from Bush on the mandolin to Stephen Mougin on acoustic guitar and Scott Vestal on a wicked banjo. While Bush was the man to watch, these guys all produced every time they got the light, which was often, sometimes two or three times on a hot tune.”


Uncle Pen
Big Mon
Where There’s a Road
Ridin’ That Bluegrass Train
Circles Around Me
Out on the Ocean
Blue Mountain
River Take Me
New Country

On the Road
The Mahavishnu Mountain Boys
Gold Heart Locket
The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle
Wanna Do Right
The River’s Gonna Run
Bringin’ in the Georgia Mail
Laps in Seven
Up on Cripple Creek/Cripple Creek

(left) Stephen Mougin, Sam Bush, Byron House and (right) Scott Vestal and Stephen Mougin
(left) Stephen Mougin, Sam Bush, Byron House and (right) Scott Vestal and Stephen Mougin

Chris Brown
Chris Brown

  1. Chris Shaw says

    Can we talk for just a minute about Andrzej’s photos? This guy is playing on a whole different level!!!!!

  2. Greg says

    We couldn’t agree more. And consider this – the Sam Bush show was only one of SIX shows he shot last week. And the week before that the tireless Mr. Pilarczyk shot FOUR shows in one night: Scrapomatic and the Holmes Brothers @ The Egg, Chip Taylor @ The Linda, the Blasters @ Valentine’s and David Calarco’s Jazz Conclave at Justin’s. Yikes!

  3. LiLi says

    I’d love to know what kind of camera he has and how he takes such amazing shots. Wrote to him to ask, but I’m sure he’s too busy to reply.

  4. LiLi says

    You could do a article on Andrzej…

  5. Andrzej (Andre) Pilarczyk says

    Lili and Chris- thank you for your kind words!

    Chris, I’m a fan of your work as one of the region’s preeminent singer-songwriters and performers. If you applied the same dedication, heart, finesse, talent and creativity to photography as you do to your song-writing and performing, I would be out of a job in no time at all. 🙂

    Lili, to answer your question(s) there is no “magic” about the camera I use- it’s a now old Nikon D300. The lens I used at The Egg that night is a pedestrian Nikon 70-300, 4.5-5.6 Zoom. The filter an even more pedestrian Tiffin UV. The lighting- through experience- I became familiar with and knew what my boundaries were there in that venue.

    Up until about four years ago I shot film for over 18 years. My credo was always 1 roll for 1 concert because of the costs involved in processing and if I decided, printing.

    I look upon photography as a craft. Like any craftsperson- you have to know your tools inside and out and what they can do. You have to keep up on your “trade” and know what’s going on in your field. You have to learn to judge what you can and can not do at a given concert taking into account lighting, movement and any other limitations that dictate what you and you camera rig are capable of. Do what you can to get the best shot any way you can by knowing your camera and lens. Ask yourself what can they do and what are their limitations. The old saying is that if you’re given a lemon make lemonade- keep that in mind. 🙂

    The keys to success at anything are knowledge, practice and patience. (I learned that fact from the US Military by eventually attaining the rank of Sergeant in four years- a point of pride back then.)

    So Lili- Learn your craft. That means know your camera and lens (and how they work together and what they are capable of). Decide what is and comprises a good or great shot. Seriously study what your predecessors have done in the field of music photography. Start with Annie Lebowitz, Baron Wolman, Jim Marshall, Herman Leonard, Bill Claxton, Val Wilmer and my spiritual mentor Lee Tanner, who are among many others who have defined the field of “music” photography for half a century. Find out what makes them “tick” and then learn.

    Once you think you know everything: start all over again and continue that over and over again. Like a musician who practices their “rudiments” way into their professional career you have to do the same and not be afraid to “woodshed” after a bad shoot. The second you decide that you know everything that there is to know is the second you really know nothing.

    So go out and do it. Go to free concerts, shoot local bands and find out what you can do elsewhere. Learn about the local, regional and national music scene. Remember that music photography is also an “art” form- if you respected it as such.

    As a reminder- if you’re looking to make a living at this, well- good luck. The odds are really against you. Only perseverance will pay off here- if you have a plan and attainable goals!

    -Andrzej (Andre)

  6. LiLi says

    Thank you, Andrzej!

    I have a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi – and have yet to get a good concert action shot out of it – so that’s what led me to ask. I wondered if it’s me or the camera, but no matter what settings I’ve tried (auto and manual) I always get motion blur or just plain blurry or dark or grainy shots. Luckily, I’m not looking to do it as a career, just to have good momentos of the shows.

    Thanks again for the advice!

  7. Romulus Smyth says

    The “first name” legends of bluegrass:

    also includes

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