Ever since the Infamous Stringdusters emerged from Nashville’s fast, finger-pickin’ music scene in 2006, members of the Grammy-nominated bluegrass group have felt the pull of the Rockies. “We made many trips here in our early days,” says the band’s 35-year-old banjo player, Chris Pandolfi. “We played some of our first shows at the Bluebird and thought, ‘Yes, this is the environment that will bring our music to life.’?”
Year after year, the quintet returned to the Centennial State for regular summer shows in front of passionate fans, making Colorado a kind of unofficial home. Last year the band even teamed up with Oskar Blues to perform a concert to raise money for those affected by the devastating floods along the Front Range. Now, they’ve formalized the marriage: Pandolfi’s recent move to Denver means three of the five band members have ties to Colorado (upright bass player Travis Book hails from Durango and dobro player Andy Hall lives in Boulder), and the band’s critically acclaimed fifth album, Let It Go, released in April,
pays tribute to the state with a country jam fittingly titled “Colorado.”
“I moved here to play and produce music because there is a great scene of up-and-coming musicians in so many genres,” says Pandolfi, who traded Charlottesville, Virginia, for the Mile High City last summer. “But I also moved here to enjoy life and all of the amazing natural wonders of the West. That’s inspiration for me.”
Upon his arrival, the former fly-fishing guide outfitted his Victorian apartment in Congress Park with an eclectic array of instruments, mixing boards, and amplifiers, which he used to put the finishing touches on a few new tracks for a solo project called Trad+. (Pandolfi debuted the new tunes during a February gig at the Armoury, a bar on Larimer Street.) In a departure from the Stringdusters’ bluegrass sensibilities, Pandolfi uses his laptop to shape a textured electronic sound to accompany his banjo.
But the side project is just that: a side project. Like the other members of the band, Pandolfi still spends most of his time focused on the Stringdusters—no easy task when the members are spread all over the country. (Guitarist Andy Falco lives in New York, and fiddle player Jeremy Garrett is based in Nashville.) And yet, year after year, rigorous tour after rigorous tour, the Stringdusters make it work. See the results for yourself in August at Howelsen Hill Amphitheater in Steamboat Springs or at Loveland’s Arise Music Festival.
The Stringdusters’ banjo player shares the five tunes he can’t turn off right now.
1. “All I know” Washed Out
2. “Lightning bolt” Jake Bugg
3. “Lonesome Dreams” Lord Huron
4. “Long Black Road” Electric Light Orchestra
5. “Awake” Tycho
5280.com Exclusive: Listen to Pandolfi’s playlist below.