With the holiday season upon us, it’s a sure bet that gifts will be given between loved ones which will undoubtedly put smiles on the recipients. In the world of music, the gift of live music is one that continues to give adoring fans a constant reminder to smile. This Christmas season, a young five-piece acoustic outfit has been ripping through the country gifting music lovers everywhere a healthy dose of traditional-meets-modern bluegrass. The outfit is the red-hot Billy Strings who brought some fire to the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. for a sold-out show on Friday, December 15.

The rise of the Grammy-winning Billy Strings is not only rapid, but also highly impressive. Even on the local front when it comes to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa. region, Strings (William Apostol) has grown over the last half-dozen years from playing legendary smaller venues in the region – like the River Street Jazz Café and the lobby of the area’s premier theater, the F.M. Kirby Center – to headlining one of the night’s at Scranton’s Peach Music Festival. Perhaps even more impressive is seeing the outfit sell out the 10,500 seat Mohegan Sun Arena on their own with no supporting acts. No doubt the area has helped Strings grow, and at one point at the Wilkes-Barre show, he mentioned how the area feels like home to him as several members of his business and management team are from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton region.

Certainly the fans felt the same way as it was near deafening when the outfit took to the stage a few minutes after 8pm. The admiration and excitement of his fan base is something to behold. From a media viewpoint one of the most impressive parts of the night was watching Strings take the stage – while taking photos to include in this review – and having to turn away from the stage to watch the crowd up against the rail jumping and yelling every word to the opening number, “Dust In a Baggie.” It’s something that was rarely, if at all, seen in bluegrass, but this is what Billy Strings does. He makes you want to discover or re-discover bluegrass. It’s a fairly safe to say that many (not all) of those same people that were screaming along to every word in Wilkes-Barre didn’t have a passion for bluegrass a decade ago, but Strings has helped one of the country’s oldest genres of music sustain itself and even become a genre that can headline arenas and major festivals.

The dancing and singing along from the crowd showed no signs of slowing down through cuts like “Heartbeat of America,” and “In the Morning Light.” Watching Strings flawlessly fly across the fret board of his guitar could be mind-blowing at times as you wonder if it’s possible for him to even play a wrong note. The talent is all on Strings, either. His band mates – Billy Falling on vocals/banjo, Jarrod Walker on vocals/mandolin, Royal Masat on vocals/bass, and Alex Hargreaves on fiddle – are all masters of their respective instruments and even garnered huge smiles from Strings when it was their time to solo. Their vocal additions to the music were also particularly tight, including Masat adding some dueting on the Strings-Willie Nelson cut “California Sober.”

A rousing cover of Hot Rize’s “Nellie Kane” was a first set highlight, as was the one-two shot of “Red Daisy,” and “Turmoil & Tinfoil” which ended the set. Unfortunately, prior commitments prohibited a review of Strings second set from Wilkes-Barre, but audience recordings are available online and those recordings showed there was no slowing down for the rest of the evening.

Check out the gallery of photos from that night by Ryan O’Malley here.


Dust in a Baggie
Hollow Heart
Heartbeat of America
In the Morning Light
Cattle in the Cane
(Tony Rice cover)
All of Tomorrow
California Sober
Watch It Fall
Nellie Kane
(Hot Rize cover)
Red Daisy
Turmoil & Tinfoil

Set 2:
Think of What You’ve Done
(The String Cheese Incident cover) (>)
This Old World
Black Mountain Rag
([traditional] cover) (>)
With a Vamp in the Middle
(John Hartford cover) (>)
(The David Grisman Quintet cover)
Hold the Woodpile Down
(The Doc Watson Family cover)
Running the Route
Show Me the Door
John Hardy
([traditional] cover)
Catch & Release
Dos Banjos
Pyramid Country
Little Maggie
([traditional] cover)

Van Scoy Jingle
Big Spike Hammer
(The Osborne Brothers cover)

Videos by Joel Shover Photography: https://www.youtube.com/@joelnaples https://www.facebook.com/joelshoverphotography

Check out the gallery of photos from that night by Ryan O’Malley here.

To submit an article an article or review, or to just say hello hit us at [email protected]

Also- check out the search feature in the upper right hand corner and search for your favorite artist, event, venue or genre. You’ll be surprised at what you find!

Check out the Live Music News and Review.com Facebook page for updates and announcements.