October 6, 2013

Which of these is not like the others: Father of the Bride, Roxanne, Cheaper by the Dozen and the Steep Canyon Rangers? Up until recently, I had no idea that Steve Martin, one of my favorite actors and a hilarious stand up comedian, is also an incredibly accomplished musician. Turns out, he’s been playing the banjo since he was 17 years old - way back in 1962.

This past weekend, Steve made his second appearance at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, his first in 2009. Both times he has performed with the Steep Canyon Rangers, a bluegrass band from North Carolina. This second show was drastically bigger than his first go round, placing him on the Banjo Stage, with an enormous crowd in the tens of thousands braving the heat to see him on Sunday.

Currently Steve is touring with Edie Brickell (famous from the 80s band the New Bohemians) along with the Steep Canyon Rangers. Earlier this year Steve and Edie released a 13-track bluegrass album titled Love Has Come for You.

After leading the set for the first half, Steve and Edie stepped off stage to let the “Rangers,” as Steve called them, play a couple of songs. They returned back to an ever enthusiastic crowd, for a strong finish. Part of Steve’s charisma is his humorous story telling. Before finishing the set, he told the audience, “you can follow us on Twitter, or you can do something meaningful with your time.”

The set ended with an extended version of the song “Calico Train,” prominently featuring the incredibly talented Nicky Sanders on violin. There was nothing to do but dance along as the whole band came to the front of the stage jumping around and playing their instruments. 

While it was hard not to focus on Steve - let’s be honest half the crowd was there for him - the Steep Canyon Rangers proved to be quite the performers as well. Coming from someone who has seen only one previous bluegrass show, I was incredibly impressed. I’d go so far to say I’m now a bluegrass fan, all thanks to writer, director, actor, stand up comic, playwright, and musician Steve Martin. 

Photos by Sam Engel / Senior Staff