Billy Strings Wraps Philly Run With Fresh Takes & Cheesesteaks At The Fillmore

Billy Strings returned to The Fillmore Philadelphia on Thursday night to close out a two-night run of sold-out shows at the Fishtown concert hall.

The prodigious picker and his eponymous band seem to ingratiate themselves with the local crowd wherever they go, and they were clearly feeling the warm embrace of the City of Brotherly Love on night two. As Billy asked the crowd following a second-set jaunt through Renewal firecracker “Red Daisy”, “Wanna know what I had for, uh, lunch? God damn Philly cheesesteak. Wanna know what I had for dinner? God damn Philly cheesesteak. Hell yeah.”

Fans, too, found an inviting Philly scene throughout the two-night engagement. Outside, the newly opened Brooklyn Bowl location just steps away the venue offered a built-in pre-show hang, cementing this once-unassuming block as the core of a vibrant new entertainment district. Inside, the Fillmore’s four prominent chandeliers added an air of elegance to the band’s stunning lighting rig, which laces bright, colored spots with twisted ribbons of LED panels.

Billy Strings, Billy Failing (banjo), Royal Masat (bass), and Jarrod Walker (mandolin) leaned more toward the traditional end of their stylistic spectrum on Thursday, replacing many of the psychedelic leanings from the night prior with “straight-bluegrass” selections and putting a spotlight on the band’s collective technical prowess and finely tuned, four-part harmonies.

That’s not to say the quartet shied away from improvisation, of course. Fans of searing, distorted, “are-you-sure-that’s-an-acoustic-guitar?” Billy Strings should check out this version of eerie prog-grass gem “Hide and Seek”, or the second half of the second set’s closing “Meet Me At The Creek”. Those who like their Billy Strings spacey and ethereal can look to the swirling “Highway Hypnosis” that capped set one. For maximum melodic creativity, listen to the way the guitarist teeters back and forth around the root with modal arpeggios on “Sitting In Limbo”, casting a mellow, decades-old Jimmy Cliff song in a uniquely tense and wistful shadow.

That diversity in style, in approach—even from one night to the next—continues to earn Billy Strings new fans in droves. A little of this, a little of that. Whatever’s on the menu, it’s being served “wit” masterful musicianship and intrepid creativity. We’re already hungry for more. Get out there and get you some.

Billy Strings tour continues this weekend with shows in Richmond, VA (11/12) and Washington, D.C. (11/13). For a full list of upcoming tour dates, head here. Scroll down for setlist, photos, videos, and a full audio recording from Thursday night in Philadelphia.

Set One: Slow Train, While I’m Waiting Here, Hellbender, Tipper (Tony Rice), Hollow Heart, Hide and Seek (1), Know It All, Ernest T. Grass (The Dillards) > Must Be Seven, Love Like Me > Highway Hypnosis

Set Two: Doin’ My Time (Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs), Watch It Fall, Secrets, Ole Slewfoot (Johnny Horton), Sitting In Limbo (Jimmy Cliff), I Only Exist (The Stanley Brothers), Red Daisy, I’m Still Here (John Hartford) > Taking Water > Running the Route, Meet Me at the Creek