Bluegrass sensation Billy Strings played three sold-out nights at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre

Billy Strings 4/21, St. Augustine Ampitheatre

By Sara Orr

This weekend, the vibrant melodies of bluegrass filled the air of St. Augustine as Billy Strings, the virtuoso guitarist and rising star in the jam band realm, graced the stage at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. As Strings returns to the St. Augustine Amphitheatre for his fourth year, his success is noted by his largest crowds yet. He rises to fame within the hallowed ranks of jam bands, traditionally dominated by legends like the Grateful Dead and Phish. As he kicked off his second weekend of his Spring Tour, Strings not only showcases his unparalleled musical prowess but also solidifies his place as a trailblazer in a genre steeped in tradition. 

After kicking off his tour in Tampa and traveling to Savannah, Georgia for one night, Strings found himself back in St. Augustine for his fourth consecutive year. All three nights of this tour sold out within hours of tickets going on sale, which is a testament not only to his local fanbase, but to his dedicated followers who travel for his shows. 

Strings kicked off his St. Augustine run on Friday, April 19 with an electrifying set, and played a few Allman Brothers Band songs to honor Dickey Betts (Allman Brothers Band guitarist) who passed away the day before. His “4/20” set was thrilling, and he went out with a (literal) bang during his Sunday set, as a string of thunderstorms wailed over the Amphitheater during the concert, electrifying Strings and the crowd even more.

April 21, Strings plays amidst gushing wind and rain spraying

Strings’ tenure in St. Augustine was special in many ways, but perhaps the most of which being the dates in which he was here. This is not only Strings’ fourth year in St. Augustine, but his second year here for the weekend of April 20. April 20 (casually referred to as “4/20”) is a day recognized by marijuanna culture as cannabis’ “high holiday.” Not only is this notable for fans who enjoy marijuanna, but it is notable for Billy Strings himself.

Strings is very outspoken about his history of hard-drug usage, and the impacts it had on his family and himself. Commonly referred to as being “California Sober” (which is also the name of his chart-topping duet with bluegrass legend Willie Nelson), he is sober from alcohol and hard drugs. Strings is an avid cannabis consumer, and advocates for the mellow lifestyle it has provided him in light of his sobriety from other substances.

“This is my second year seeing Billy in St. Augustine for 4/20 weekend,” said Cameron, a restaurant owner from the Outer Banks, North Carolina. Cameron has been to over 15 Billy Strings shows, but speaks highly of his experience seeing him at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. “I don’t know what his reason is for choosing St. Augustine, but I love it here. The people and the city are both so welcoming and cool.”

At the end of his Sunday, April 21st show, Strings bellowed out to the crowd “we hope to be back at the same time next year.” Locals and visitors alike make plans to return to see him at the St. Augustine Ampitheatre next year if he returns. 

Not only did local bluegrass fans welcome Strings back with open arms, but local businesses also were thrilled by his presence. Many places used this as an opportunity to capitalize off the “bluegrass spirit” that Billy has brought to town. Spinster Abbott’s, a taproom and bodega located in the Uptown Historic District had a sign displaying “Billy Strings Week!” to advertise an event called “Bluegrass and (Poke) Bowls” where Underbrush, a local bluegrass band played live music. Sarbez, a grilled cheese bar and arcade also held a “Billy Strings After Party” where bluegrass band Remedy Tree played a set. 

“Being able to live in a city with rad music venues — like The Amp bringing in big names like Billy Strings and smaller locally owned businesses (who we’re stoked to join) highlighting incredible local talent — is a dream come true,” says Liz Snyder, owner of Spinster Abbott’s bodega and taproom. “We get to serve the visitors coming to see a show, talk with regulars about how awesome a show was the night before, and also help satiate the growing appetite for more live music by also booking our own shows and holding overlapping events. Music is a key part of our success so far.”

Billy Strings’ tour through the St. Augustine Ampitheatre not only left a positive impact on the local infrastructure, but it also infused the town with the vibrant spirit of jam bands and bluegrass. Whether concertgoers attended because they were prior fans, or they found themselves there for other reasons, it was evident that the power of live music transcended mere entertainment. It strengthened the community of St. Augustine, and left an indelible mark on the hearts of all who experienced it. Through this tour, St. Augustine became not just a destination, but a testament to the growing and enduring legacy of Billy Strings. 

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