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Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass, alums of Chillicothe’s annual Summer Camp Music Festival, will be under the roof of Bloomington’s Castle Theater at 8 p.m. Saturday. (Courtesy photo)

They said “I do.”

Afterward, the band added, “We do, too.”

Hence, the third pass through Bloomington’s Castle Theatre for Greensky Bluegrass, the Michigan-based quintet known for nimbly straddling the worlds of acoustic bluegrass and jam rock.

Thanks to “a lot of friends” hereabouts, Greensky Bluegrass made their Bloomington-Normal debut last summer performing at a private June wedding reception in the Castle.

That, per Mike Devol, the former classical cellist who began grazing in the bluegrass around eight years ago and never looked back.

“Hey, this is a really great place to play!” was the band’s first, and lasting, impression.

 “We wanted to come back,” says Devol, who also traded in that classic-prone cello for an upright bass — harder to tote around, true, but easy to love all the same.

In the year since, Greensky has already logged two non-nuptials Castle dates, one last December and, now, a back-by-popular-demand encore at 8 p.m. Saturday (with openers Fruition).

Prior to their Castle visits, the band from Kalamazoo was probably best known for its gigs at Central Illinois’ closest thing to a Woodstock — the annual Summer Camp Music Festival, the massive multi-stage gathering held every Memorial Day weekend at Chillicothe’s Three Sisters Park.

“That’s a great festival, and we have a lot of fans there,” notes Devol (they won’t, however, be at this year’s fest; hang tight, though — they’ll be back in a year or two). “We find that we do fit well into these festival party scenes.”

They’ve also learned several lessons along the festival way, including that “somehow, we’ve ended up being the rockers who don’t fit when we do rock fests, and we end up being the token bluegrass band; and at traditional bluegrass festivals, we’re the hardcore rock band.”

 The group began life in 2000, but truly came into its own shortly after Devol stepped on board in 2004, which was followed by winning the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition in 2006.

“That gave us a foothold and a little bit of credibility,” he says. “We were already doing well.  Winning a prize like that doesn’t make you better or cooler, but all of a sudden you have that something to tell somebody about, so it was very good for us.”

Devol forsook his classical training at Western Michigan University “after I realized I didn’t want to be in the classical world anymore.” When the chance to play in a different world came along, there was just one hitch: “They needed a bass player, not a cello player.”

And they were an edgy, alt-leaning bluegrass outfit — dobro, mandolin, banjo, etc. — that loved the genre’s traditions, but were reaching out from there into the world of long-form jam rock.

“I started playing the (upright) bass in July 2004, and by August of that same year, I was playing shows,” he says. “It wasn’t so much that it was hard for me switch instruments; it was more like a changing of gears.”

Now firmly ensconced in their world, they can release a new album, like 2011’s “Handguns,” and not be surprised to see it debut at near the top of the Billboard’s Bluegrass Chart (No. 3, in fact) and coming at No. 33 as the year’s best-seller.

Their past Castle history notwithstanding, you can’t fairly expect them to play at your wedding reception. But come Saturday night, there’ll still be, promises Devol, “a really great party.”

At a Glance

What: Greensky Bluegrass and Fruition

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Castle Theatre, 209 E. Washington St., Bloomington

Tickets: $15 to $18

Box office: 309-820-0352


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