There’s lots for Philly bluegrass fans to celebrate and be thankful for this holiday season, including the opening of a brand new music venue (The Met), new albums from some of our favorite artists, and local tour dates from the best bluegrass and acoustic roots acts.
Read on for this season’s roundup of the Top 10 must-see shows for Winter 2019. And don’t forget that you can subscribe to the Philly Bluegrass calendar on your iOS or Android device to stay on top of all the happenings on the Philly acoustic music scene.
And while we’re being thankful: thank you for reading the site, attending a Philly Bluegrass-produced event, sharing your suggestions, or otherwise supporting Philly Bluegrass’ mission in 2018. Extra special thanks to Philly Bluegrass Members, who made a financial contribution to make it all possible. You can read more about membership and how to join (or renew your membership) for 2019.
And now, on to the top 10…
December 1: Kaia Kater at Philadelphia Folksong Society
Kaia Kater was the perfect person to explore in an NPR article earlier this month the contributions of Rhiannon Giddens to American culture, as Kater shares a musical and cultural experience with Giddens. In the piece, Kater references Giddens’ feeling of “the awkwardness of being the raisin in the oatmeal.” But Kater, like Giddens, has her feet firmly planted in the history and tradition of American folk music. Her clawhammer banjo matches her singing with a soft intensity that belies the power of her lyrics, especially on her latest album, Grenades, which explores her personal family roots in Grenada. She will be capping her latest tour at the PFS, which has a history of supporting Canadian folk music and cross-cultural collaboration. — Dan Whitener
RSVP via Facebook. Tickets $15-25.
December 7: Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass at Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music
You might know the Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music as the nonprofit organization behind the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival that takes place in New Jersey every Labor Day weekend. The organization doesn’t take winter off, hosting a concert series that brings in top-tier traditional bluegrass acts to the area—acts like Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass. This is the album release show for Danny Paisley’s new record, That’s Why I’m Lonesome (Patuxent Music). Tickets are available for $10-20.
December 8: Horseshoes & Hand Grenades w/ Jon Stickley Trio at Milkboy
It’s a two-for-the-price-of-one Saturday night throw down at Milkboy Philly on December 8. Both Horseshoes and Hand Grenades and Jon Stickley Trio have been making waves on the festival circuit this year, and this show will likely have the feel of a mini bluegrass festival on a winter’s night at Milkboy Philly. (Just make sure you keep a little gas in the tank to get to Heritage Sunday Bluegrass Brunch with Nick & Luke the next day.) Tickets for Horseshoes & Hand Grenades with Jon Stickley Trio are on sale now for $12-15.
December 13: The Gibson Brothers at Sellersville Theater
The Gibson Brothers’ new album, Mockingbird, is their first release on the Easy Eye Sound label run by Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys). Auerbach also produced the record, which dropped on November 9, so it’s no surprise that it has a distinct crossover vibe, with several tracks that sound like they could appear on mainstream country radio or Americana charts. Tickets are on sale now for $30-45.
December 15: Billy Strings at World Cafe Live (Downstairs)
Billy Strings is quickly becoming the undisputed champion of the flatpick guitar, and fittingly now wields Bryan Sutton’s double-pickguard D-28 like a heavyweight champ’s belt. Last seen in Philadelphia opening for Greensky Bluegrass at the Fillmore, Billy Strings (née William Apostol) is headlining and selling out rooms all over the country this fall. Tickets ($15-17) are still available for the Philadelphia stop for Strings’ tour, but Philly bluegrass fans should act fast before they are gone.
January 11: Greensky Bluegrass at The Met
The Met Philly is an historic opera house on North Broad Street that will find new life as Philly’s newest music venue following a $65 million renovation; with an opening night performance by no other than Bob Dylan. Bluegrass fans looking to check out the Met should circle January 11 on their calendar, when Greensky Bluegrass comes to town. Greensky is sure to play songs from their forthcoming album, All For Money, which drops on January 18. With Circles Around The Sun. Tickets on sale now at Ticketmaster for $30-100.
January 13: Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder at Sellersville Theater
If you haven’t watched the video of Ricky Skaggs performing at this year’s Country Music Association Awards, stop what you’re doing and click on the thumbnail below. Skaggs visits the Sellersville Theater fresh off his inductions into both the bluegrass and country music halls of fame in 2018. Kentucky Thunder will perform two sets (3pm and 8pm), with locals Sparkle Pony opening. Tickets are sold separately each performance and are on sale now for $45-60.
January 30: The Lil Smokies at The Foundry (Fillmore Philadelphia)
It was written on this site not long ago that one should catch The Lil Smokies at the intimate, 150-capacity Boot & Saddle before the band graduated to a larger room. Well, here they are, back even sooner than expected, and performing at the 450-cap Foundry at the Fillmore Philadelphia in Fishtown. General admission tickets run $15 each plus fees.
February 6: Mandolin Orange at Union Transfer
Mandolin Orange announced this fall that the band will release its fourth studio effort for Yep Roc Records on February 1. The band visits Philadelphia less than a week later, on February 6. Several tracks from the new record, Tides Of A Teardrop, have already been released, and the band previewed tunes from the new album in the full set recorded by Boston’s WGBH music embedded below. (Meanwhile, Andrew Marlin has released an excellent album of old-timey instrumentals, Buried in a Cape.) Advance tickets for the band’s performance at Union Transfer are on sale now for $20.
February 16: I’m With Her at McCarter Theatre (Princeton, NJ)
I’m With Her performed to a rapt audience at Union Transfer on November 17. City dwellers who missed out (or those craving a second helping) will have to travel a bit further to be with them when they return to the area in February. But it will be worth the trip. The seated Matthews Theatre will make a great backdrop to hear what might well be the best vocal band on the acoustic music scene today. Tickets on sale now at mccarter.org for $25-40.