Chris Pandolfi’s timing was a year off. The banjo player for the Infamous Stringdusters intently watched last year’s Grammys hoping for some recognition of the band’s self-titled release. When the time came and went, so did Pandolfi’s attention span toward the Grammy topic.
With another stellar bluegrass release in 2010, the Grammys were kinder to the band, bestowing the award on the band’s third album, Things That Fly. Only this time, Pandolfi says he wasn’t paying an ounce of attention. Once a friend alerted him, Google took care of the rest as the six members of the Nashville collective found out they’d earned music’s highest honor.
“I was in Nashville with [Andy] Falco when I first heard,” Pandolfi says. “I wasn’t paying any attention to it at all, but I got a message from a friend saying, ‘Congratulations on the nomination.’ There was some quick Google-searching right after that, and we were able to figure out what was going on. We had an impromptu celebration that lasted a few days, and then we did it all again in L.A. It’s a universal accolade for a musician, so it’s certainly helped, publicity-wise. We’re psyched. It was a great thing all in all.”
The Stringdusters participated in the usually overlooked pre-televised portion, but Pandolfi says that didn’t take away from the sheer spectacle of having so many musical icons in the same event. With an incredible night of music followed by the traditional after-party, Pandolfi and the rest certainly enjoyed themselves. Yet it was some unexpected red carpet run-ins that brought the most memorable Grammy moments.
“I got a great picture of Jesse, our mandolin player, with The Situation from Jersey Shore,” Pandolfi says. “You can see that online. We also walked the red carpet right next to Dave Mustaine and the rest of Megadeth, so that was nice. We’ve got an eclectic group here with some old-school tastes that aren’t quite as obvious in our music, but we have logged some time listening to Megadeth, among others. The whole thing was so cool.”
The Grammy spotlight brought a memorable weekend, but it also brings some additional pressure to a touring regimen that was already rather stressful. The Stringdusters cross the country multiple times each year, and the band’s growing audience means the momentum won’t stop soon.
“We’re actually looking at our schedule now and stressing at how packed it is,” Pandolfi says. “Of course, that’s a good problem to have. We’ve done this for years, which might be why it looks so daunting. We try to keep things balanced, but we also have offers coming in that are hard to say no to. It’s hard to have a schedule that is taking advantage of the opportunities coming our way while simultaneously affording everyone the opportunity to stay sane and lead their lives.”
Some established road rules keep the Dusters sane away from home, and Pandolfi says each person has his own routine. Some general rules include no overnight driving and every person sleeping in his own bed every night. Those simple pleasures maintain order and allow the guys to enjoy the musical side of things.
Another challenge facing the band is playing to a larger crowd. While you might believe that it gets easier with a larger critical mass, Pandolfi says there is a whole new dynamic in play when performing for 1,000 people instead of 100. It’s a muscle the Dusters are still learning to flex, but recent sellouts even before the Grammy platform ensure they need to learn quickly.
“I was having a conversation with our manager the other day and I said, ‘We’ve been selling out some bigger shows for a while now, and that helps, but it’s not until after you’ve done it a few times that you get up in front of that crowd and know what you want to do,’” he says. “You gotta be ready to collaborate with a crowd of a thousand people. You have to be able to go with them where they want to go, and if you work it that way, it can become a truly great show.”
As they hone their craft, the Infamous Stringdusters will continue to draw and captivate larger crowds. That’s ultimately the exchange Pandolfi says is why they do what they do. “We know what we want to do and what we want to create on a consistent basis for people, while the audience knows that’s what they’re getting and they’re starting to just show up more and more.”
On the Bill
The Infamous Stringdusters play the Fox Theatre on March 18. Doors at 8:30. Greensky Bluegrass also appearing. Tickets are $18. 1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399.