A few minutes into an hourlong set on the BMI Stage at the Austin City Limits Music Festival near sunset on Sunday, Nashville-via-Michigan guitarist Billy Strings began what seemed like a relatively easygoing bluegrass number with his three bandmates. A versatile ensemble, this foursome can play the sort of kinder, gentler fare that might be warranted at an old-time festival.
But they knew where they were. In the midst of a fest that draws upon everything from hip-hop and EDM to classic rock and teen pop, Strings and company gradually, sneakily revved up the energy and volume until finally, as the song neared its end, Strings pushed everything into overdrive. Suddenly his acoustic guitar sounded more like a buzzsaw. In retrospect, it felt like a setup, and a brilliant one. The crowd reveled in the energy Strings dished out, and he drew on that energy in return.
Strings, who turned 27 last week, has been hitting the road hard for the better part of a decade, with past Austin-area appearances including South by Southwest and the Old Settler's Music Festival. He'll be back in less than two weeks to serve up more highlights from his recent Rounder Records release "Home" at Scoot Inn on Oct. 18.
Shortly after finishing his ACL Fest set, Strings visited with us on Austin360 Radio to talk about how he came to be a bluegrass fan growing up in Michigan, the different influences he draws upon to push his music beyond the bluegrass realm, and more. Hear the interview here: