An Evening With The Lil Smokies at Union Stage

The Lil Smokies perform at Union Stage in Washington DC

DC Music Review had the pleasure of spending some time with The Lil Smokies when they came to Union Stage to perform on January 25, 2019. We had the opportunity to not only see them perform to a sold-out crowd, but also ​were able to go backstage and talk with them before their performance. ​In addition to The Lil Smokies being incredibly talented musicians,​ they are also wonderful individuals who are really ​fun to sit down ​and talk with. Join us as we spend an evening with The Lil Smokies.


The Appetizer - An Interview With The Lil Smokies

The Lil Smokies sit down with DC Music Review before their performance
​Before appearing again in DC at Union Stage, this time to a sold out audience, we sat down​ with Matt 'The Rev' Rieger, fiddle player Jake Simpson and frontman Andy Dunnigan, three-fifths of the Lil Smokies, to see how 2018 ended and how 2019 has begun.  The guys were happy to be back in our area where they are well known and very much enjoyed.  

Karin McLaughlin:  Good to see you back at this venue, last time you were here was with Fruition back in October.  After that, you guys had a real strong finish to the year supporting Greensky, amongst other things.  How was the wrap up of 201​8?

Rev: (exhales deeply) We had the time of our lives!

Andy Dunnigan:  Yeah went from Greensky ​to The Bluebird​ and did those three Colorado shows, which we sold out two out of three.   Then Strings and Sol, then ​the Montana ​run which were a bunch of sold out shows ​and we got to play The Wilma and had some great crowds out there.  It was very seismic end to the year.  A great way to close out 2018.

KM: Rev - are you and Phoff (Paul Hoffman) soulmates now that you guys have shared a fan onstage?

The Rev talks about his Soulmate - Paul Hoffman
The Rev talks about his Soulmate - Paul Hoffman

Rev: (laughs) Well, we've been soulmates for some time but ​it has come to fruition - I was trying to avoid using that word - but yeah, I've really enjoyed getting to know Paul and becoming friends with all them, but since the fan, it's solidified our bond forever.

KM: Saw that you guys just put out a version of "Going to California" but also read that you started out doing a lot of 80's and 90's covers.  Then you do "Paperback Writer" and the Led Zeppelin and transitioned going backwards a little bit to the 60's and 70's.  What determines what song you're gonna take ​and recreate and make your own ​a little bit?

​AD: ​​​​I mean, it's kind of just something that works, something that we're comfortable with, ​maybe it's something we've learned previously like ​Rev does a version of Macy Gray.  We're actually going to do a version of The Offspring "The Kids Are All Right"  ​which harkens back to my youth and the first band ​I ever listened to.  A lot of the songs, ​just ​if it works with the instrumentation and we ​like the tune, that's kind of the main thing.  We all ​have to be able to agree on one tune because we have a lot of eclectic tastes.

Jake Simpson of The Lil Smokies

​KM: Any rap songs?

Collectively: No.

KM: Is that your final answer?

Rev: In the best interest of the public, I choose not to rap.

Jake Simpson:  I can't imagine which one of us would sing it.

KM: I can!

AD: Scott?

Rev and Jake: Scott

AD: I think Matt maybe.

KM: We were talking about this outside a bit but you guys have quite a full schedule over the next few months.  You're doing Winter Wondergrass and even the late night at Winter Wondergrass.  What's the difference in planning and preparing for a late night show as opposed to just a regular show like tonight maybe?

JS:​  It just depends. I mean it depends on how much rest we've had, honestly​ how much sleep we got the night before.  I mean obviously the songs for late night, you want to try to pick the songs that are party songs or songs that people can dance to you.  Your main stage set you want to be more ​representative of ​the newer songs​.  A lot of times, we'll play the new songs on the main stage and then the hits, if you will, ​late night.

AD: If we were going to have a rap song, it would be ​late night.

Rev: You've got more leeway at late night sets. People are more forgiving of silliness.

The Lil Smokies Silliness

Andy Dunnigan of The Lil Smokies
The Rev of The Lil Smokies
Jake Simpson of The Lil Smokies
The Rev of The Lil Smokies
Andy Dunnigan of The Lil Smokies
Jake Simpson of The Lil Smokies

JS: I thought about learning "Bringing Sexy Back" as a late night song.

KM: You can have a guest rapper, you know.  Maybe Wondergrass is the place.

AD: Yeah, this one's gonna be a fun ​one, still no rap though.  We have a special guest that's going to kind of change the entire philosophy of ​the night really.

KM: Well now I'm jealous I won't be there!  I did read our last article and you guys said the bucket list item was to play at Red Rocks and​ I see that you'll be out there in September playing one of the nights with Greensky!  Congratulations on that! 

The Lil Smokies emphatically resist doing any rap songs!
The Lil Smokies emphatically resist doing any rap songs!

Rev: Yeah and we definitely didn't know that at the time because we last talked to you at Festy, right?

KM: Yeah.  ​You gotta be happy about that.  Crossing that off the list is pretty epic.

​Rev: ​Super stoked about that one - I don't think the full gravity of that has hit yet.​​​ I don't know that it will until we step on that stage.

AD: I've never even been to Red Rocks before.

KM: I've actually been to shows there during monsoons, full moons and snow and everything there is good.  I'm sure the view from onstage is going to be absolutely mind blowing.  The setting and the crowd.

JS: We played at River City Roots and that was 15.000 people.

Rev: Yeah you couldn't tell where the crowd even ended.

JS: Yeah at Red Rocks it's just straight up and you can see all the people, they're right there in front of you.

KM: There's a lot of times when, me being in the crowd, you're so concentrated on the stage, you forget to look around, so for you guys that's going to be amazing to be looking out at that the whole time.

The Lil Smokies sit down with DC Music Review before their performance
The Lil Smokies sit down with DC Music Review before their performance

AD: Yeah, it's gonna be overwhelming.

KM: You guys are also doing almost an entire two weeks out there coming up in March.  Do you have special ties to CO or you just find that you have a lot of fans out there?

AD: ​A lot of fans.  Our management is actually out of there too, although that doesn't really determine ​how much we play out there.  I think we just have a really incredible following and dedicated fans out there.  There's so many markets in Colorado, that's kind of the beauty of it - you can play all those little towns and you have just​ energetic crowds ​in each one so we love it.

KM: Rapid random question time - last time we talked, I said your tours must be bananas and Rev said, "Lions and tigers and bears and bananas", do you guys eat the brown parts of the banana?

​JS: ​When the actual banana meat part has turned brown? Yeah, that doesn't affect me.

Rev: I'd rather not but I will if necessary (laughs)

​KM: Do you guys check your horoscopes daily?

AD: Yes.

KM: What's your sign?

AD: Aquarius

JS: Virgo

Rev: I'm a Libra

JS: I believe in the grand scheme of astrology.

KM: Did you guys do anything for the eclispse?

Rev: Yeah, we were howling at the moon and burning incense.

JS: Watched the Chiefs get beat.

KM: Yeah, that was rough.  Ok - what was the last bet or discussion or argument within the band that had to be settled by Google?

​JS: This just happened to us.

Rev: It's actually a daily affair.

​JS: It was the definition of paranoia.

KM: (laughs) Ok as opposed to anxiety or schizo?

Rev: Well I don't think we disagreed, we were trying to determine if irrational was a necessary part of paranoia.

​AD: Most of our Google searches are just for net worth of certain musicians and actors (laughs).  So like Bruce Springsteen - what's his net worth?

*Last question was a choice of faces or words and you can see by the photos above that they chose faces.*

Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery


Enjoy photos by our photographer Jason Herman of Jason Herman Photography.


The Main Course - Hot Lil Smokies Captivate A Sold Out Audience At Union Stage

​Coming out of the gate after a feel-good set by opening band Upstate, the tone for the evening was set and it was going to stay strong throughout with the onstage antics that have crowds rushing to see the quintet known as the Lil Smokies as they make their way touring almost every part of the US.  

The Lil Smokies Performing at Union Stage
The Lil Smokies Performing at Union Stage
During their set, they showed their ability to turn any song into a bluegrass jam while also demonstrating the true talent of the members musicianship during versions of, as Andy mentioned above, The Offspring, but also throwing in some "Dancing in the Dark" by The Boss himself - Bruce Springsteen.  Some might not consider ZZ Top a far stretch from the bluegrass/Americana scene but the way that these guys can really take any song and make it truly their own the way it's played onstage, was something that no one could deny after hearing them also pay homage to the music of the past with "Sharp Dressed Man".  
The Lil Smokies jamming out like no other bluegrass band around!
The Lil Smokies jamming out like no other bluegrass band around!
One of their own songs, "Miss Marie" also allowed them to display the variety of their set list as it slowed things down a bit while still going strong in the string department.  This song in particular really has banjo player Matt Cornette's strength shine through the melody and make it impossible to not appreciate the true nature of bluegrass.  Playing more off their 2017 album, Changing Shades, songs like "Hitchcock" had folks singing every single word and reminding us what great songwriters this group truly is, while also making us eager for them to continue to release more music in the months to come.
Throughout the entire set, each of the five members was given their opportunity to shine with solos incorporated into the performance left and right.  Each in their respective instrument could go on for minutes hypnotizing the crowd and Jake slaying the fiddle is something that should not be missed if you ever have the opportunity! Noting that they recorded yet another cover at The Bluebird in Denver, it felt as though some were a little surprised to hear the band also play "These Days" by The Cure, a personal favorite of mine.  


Throughout the entire set, each of the five members was given their opportunity to shine with solos incorporated into the performance left and right.  Each in their respective instrument could go on for minutes hypnotizing the crowd and Jake slaying the fiddle is something that should not be missed if you ever have the opportunity! Noting that they recorded yet another cover at The Bluebird in Denver, it felt as though some were a little surprised to hear the band also play "These Days" by The Cure, a personal favorite of mine.
 If the sold out crowd wasn't making it obvious enough, the smiles on the faces of attendees Friday night show how much fun it is to see this group live.  They are a force to be reckoned with and main stage at a festival, sell out headlining show or late night party, they are a group we look forward to seeing a lot more of in 2019 both back in DC and on the summer festival circut where we continue to see their name added to many a bill!


Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery


Enjoy photos by our photographer Jason Herman of Jason Herman Photography.

Albums

Albums

Albums


Be sure to pick up The Lil Smokies latest album Changing Shades online or in person at one of their performances.

Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Additional

Resources


To learn more about The Lil Smokies you can find them here:

About the author
Karin McLaughlin

Karin McLaughlin

Karin has been a live music junkie all her life, however is a fairly new fan in the world of jam bands and bluegrass. She grew up on hip hop, classic soul, motown and classic rock but has found a new home in the festival world and that is what, in part, had brought her to DC Music Review. Karin produces and hosts a weekly radio show in the area called Karin's Calendar, where she talks all about 'Where to be in the DMV'. She is very excited to be starting down a semi-new road with us and hopes to use her interview skills and write ups of shows to contribute even more to DC Music Review.