Black Friday holds a special place in Philadelphia lore. The day after Thanksgiving was so named in the 1930s by Philadelphia police officers, whose job it was to manage the gridlock traffic in Center City that preceded the annual Army-Navy football game. Now, of course, Black Friday has come to stand for D-E-A-L-S.
We in Philadelphia love a deal as much as the next town, and we in the Philly Bluegrass community also love live music. Thankfully, these two loves come together this Black Friday, when we can score deals on Greensky Bluegrass, Barnes-Gordy-Walsh, the Sellersville Theater, and more. Read on for the top 10 must-see shows in our area this winter, several of which are discounted today. And don’t forget there’s always a comprehensive list of bluegrass and acoustic roots music shows and jams at phillybluegrass.com/calendar.
December 3: Béla Fleck & the Flecktones at the Kimmel Center
The Flecktones’ 30th Anniversary Tour arrives in Philadelphia at last, when the Cosmic Hippo descends upon the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall in the first week of December. The show is a must-see in no small part because it will feature the band’s original lineup of: Béla Fleck (banjo), Howard Levy (piano and harmonica), Future Man aka Roy Wooten (percussionist, SynthAxe drumitar), and Victor Wooten (bass). Tickets start at $35 and are still available as of this writing. On Cyber Monday, use promo code FEEFREE19 to have convenience fees waived.
December 5: Molsky’s Mountain Drifters at the Philadelphia Folksong Society
Molksy’s Mountain Drifters is: Bruce Molsky (fiddle), Allison de Groot (banjo), and Stash Wyslouch (guitar). The trio just released a new album, Closing the Gap (Tree Frog Music), which they describe as “a snapshot of the Mountain Drifters after a period of intense touring.” Even better than a snapshot is the full picture, which will be on display in the Philadelphia Folksong Society’s listening room. And speaking of Black Friday deals, this show is the first in a three-show weekend series co-presented by The Philadelphia Folksong Society and The Bluegrass Situation. You can score a “Cyber Monday” pair of tickets to all three shows for just $30 now through December 3.
December 7: Twisted Pine at the Locks at Sona
It doesn’t get much more “Philly bluegrass” than Twisted Pine’s cover of Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” (video below). The band’s most recent studio album, the Dreams EP (Signature Sounds) includes a bunch of unexpected covers from the likes of Joni Mitchell, the Beatles, and Fleetwood Mac. You can expect a similar catalog of pop-grass when Twisted Pine hits Philly’s newest listening room, The Locks, on December 7. With special guest Cassidy and the Music. Tickets $20-25.
December 8: Barnes, Gordy, Walsh at the Philadelphia Folksong Society
Joe K. Walsh, Grant Gordy, and Danny Barnes say that they first bonded as a group not over music, but rather over a game of disc golf. That they share common interests is not surprising, given the musical chemistry on display among these three friends when they perform. The trio first visited Philadelphia back in April 2017 for a performance at Milkboy, and those who caught the first act will likely want to see more in a listening room like the Philadelphia Folksong Society. The “Cyber Monday 2-for-1 Not-Yet-Member Ticket” gets you a pair of tickets to three shows at PFS for just $30.
December 11: Tyler Childers at the Fillmore Philly
Is it bluegrass in the traditional sense? Not really. Is Tyler Childers’ Fillmore Philly show a must-see for fans of country roots music? You bet it is. Just don’t call it “Americana.” Childers is wrapping up 2019 with his first GRAMMY nomination for a cut off his new album, Country Squire, which in August knocked Luke Combs off for the top spot on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. He’ll be back in March in support of Sturgill Simpson, but even so, don’t miss the chance to see his headlining act. Tickets $41-46.
December 15: The High & Wides at Heritage
Dubbed “apostles of hillbilly boogie” by the Washington Post, the High & Wides hail from the Eastern Shore of Maryland and have been putting their unique stamp on stringband music since 2015. The band will self-release their sophomore album, Seven True Stories, on December 13, and are holding their Philadelphia album release at the weekly Philly Bluegrass brunch at the Heritage jazz club in Northern Liberties (12-3pm every Sunday, free admission). Philly’s own Dave Shepherd (solo) opens. Bar seating is first-come, first-served, or you can call (215) 627-7500 to reserve a table for the show. RSVP on Facebook so your friends know where to meet you for brunch.
December 19: Jerry Douglas at Sellersville Theater
Jerry Douglas has been keeping quite busy lately with his Flatt & Scruggs tribute band, The Earls of Leicester, which last year released their third record, LIVE at the CMA Theater in the Country Music Hall of Fame, on Rounder Records. This time around, Flux will appear solo at Sellersville Theater.
Black Friday only, you can buy five gift cards of equal value and Sellersville Theater will mail you a sixth card of the same value for free. Gift cards are good at the theater and the neighboring Washington House Hotel & Restaurant.
January 18: Greensky Bluegrass at The Met Philadelphia
Greensky Bluegrass was among the first bands to perform at The Met Philadelphia when the new venue opened last winter. They’re back in January 2020, having since officially released their latest studio effort, the cheekily-titled All for Money, on the band’s own Big Blue Zoo label. The band’s even got its own Philly bluegrasser. Dobroist Anders Beck, hails from Villanova and attended Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square. Beck summed up simply for the Inquirer‘s Chuck Darrow the ethos of the band. “We’re a rock-and-roll band that plays bluegrass instruments,” said Beck. GSB will rock The Met for the second time on January 18. Black Friday/Cyber Monday tickets available for $25.
January 24: The Seldom Scene at Sellersville Theater
The Seldom Scene is on the road playing songs from their latest album, Changes, released in June on Rounder Records. With a crop of new covers from Bob Dylan, John Prine, Gordon Lightfoot, and others, the Seldom Scene’s live show mixes these new interpretations with old favorites—like “Pan American” in the video below. Even if you caught the Scene at Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival—or another stop on their summer tour—don’t let that stop you. You won’t want to miss the opening act, Slocan Ramblers, who turned heads with a Band Momentum Award nomination at IBMA this year, and a 15-date U.K. tour this fall. Tickets $30-45. (Don’t forget that Black Friday gift card!)
February 15: Dan Tyminski at Sellersville Theater
Perhaps best known as the guitarist and vocalist in Union Station, a position he has held since 1994, Dan Tyminski is also an accomplished solo performer in his own right. Tyminski is back to creating acoustic roots music on his new The Planetarium Sessions EP (MRC Records) after taking a detour in 2017 into what NPR called “Country-EDM” on his Southern Gothic project. Your free Black Friday gift card from Sellersville Theater will probably have arrived in the mail by this point, so you can use it to purchase tickets, which range in price from $30-40.