Photo | MarchOne Music
Outdoor music experiences in the Azalea City can sometimes be a gamble for local concertgoers. If the heat and humidity do not play a factor in an outdoor music event, then the area’s overabundance of rain is sure to make an appearance. These uncertain weather conditions can lead to either an uncomfortable concert/festival or — worse — a cancellation altogether.
However, local concertgoers do get the occasional break, especially at this time of year, when a taste of beautiful spring weather embraces the area. When the weekend started, no one knew what Mother Nature had in store for Grammy-winner Billy Strings’ three-day conclusion to his spring tour at the Ladd-Peebles Sports & Entertainment Complex. Those who attended the first two nights dodged rounds of severe thunderstorms. However, the final night of Strings’ run in the Azalea City left all in attendance with an empowering sense of love for their fair city.
With pale blue skies and perfect temperatures adding to the vibe, Strings flat-picked and strummed through a two-set performance that left everyone wanting more. Strings and his crew blazed into Sunday evening with “Fire on my Tongue,” which set the crowd in motion. As he rolled through cuts such as “Sharecropper’s Son,” “Pretty Daughter” and “Wargasm,” Strings’ performance served as justification for his growing versatile fan base and his Grammy. The stage resonated with rounds of traditional bluegrass arrangements mixed with random eclectic drops into jazz and jam rock. All the while, Strings’ old-school, bluegrass vocal style remained a constant.
The second set provided what was probably the most impressive and memorable parts of the evening. Strings performed his translation of the Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star,” which broke into the Black Sabbath classic “Planet Caravan.” The medley reached an apex with a dose of Strings’ trademark “space grass” in the form of “Ice Bridges.” The previous weekend, Strings concluded his show in Columbia, S.C., with an encore performance of “Alabama Bound” in anticipation of this past weekend’s events. Before he returned to Nashville, Strings left Mobile with an encore consisting of “Tennessee.”
While the music was the highlight of Strings’ Sunday performance, other factors played a role in making this an impressive show. First, the socially distanced “pod” structure was not a hindrance to the experience. In fact, this setup prevented concertgoers traversing the crowd from cutting through groups and stepping on personal items. The pod structure also maintained the crowd camaraderie of attending an outdoor concert. Concession lines moved in an organized and timely fashion. The staging and sound production was also flawless. As crowds filed back into the parking lot, the overheard consensus of the crowd was hope more musical events would be scheduled at Ladd-Peebles. With the popular local mentality that all major music events must be held in downtown Mobile, Billy Strings’ three-day run was proof that major concerts can happen beyond Broad Street.
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