Sunset Concerts 2015: Horseshoes and Hand Grenades: Grounded in Roots, Soaring With Wings

Sunset Concerts 2015: Horseshoes and Hand Grenades: Grounded in Roots, Soaring With Wings
Venues & Businesses
Sunset Concerts

Who: Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
What: Sunset Concerts (bluegrass)
When: 2015-06-18
Acoustic music is the equivalent of tree roots. It gets back to basics, close to the earth, and help
Jeff Hale
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Acoustic music is the equivalent of tree roots. It gets back to basics, close to the earth, and helps listeners rediscover the forces that gave life to other forms of music that bring us such joy. Music lovers will have a chance to dig deep into the musical earth when Horseshoes and Hand Grenades kick off the thirty-seventh season of the free, wildly popular Sunset Concert series Thursday, June 18 on the Steps of Shryock Auditorium.

Guitarist and vocalist Adam Greuel tells Nightlife that the band’s roots go back six years to the central Wisconsin riverside college town of Stevens Point.

“We all met back in 2009 while we were attending school,” Greuel says. “We just slowly bumped into each other and became really good friends. We started playing shows together at house parties and bonfires and stuff like that. We just had a really good, natural kind of feeling together. Eventually, the word spread about our music, even before we were officially a band,” he says with a laugh.

“We eventually got booked for a show, but still didn’t have a name,” Greuel adds. “We needed to get back to the promoter. He got on us about turning in a name, and it was a pressing issue. It just so happened that night we were having a house party at our college house. Word spread at the party that we were trying to select a name for the band. Lots of ideas went milling around, even from some folks that we didn’t even know. Finally, in the morning, when everything settled down and the smoke cleared, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades was the name that we could all recall. We liked it, and it rolled off our tongue. We thought it was funny, and the name seemed like it encompassed the vibe of what we were trying to do. We like to keep it light and fun and close to the ground.”

And so it was that guitarist Greuel, fiddler and mandolinist Collin Mettelka, harmonica player and accordianist Davey Lynch, upright bassist Samuel Odin, and fiddler and banjo player Russell Pedersen became Horseshoes and Hand Grenades.

Beginning their official career in early 2010, the band, all of whose members hail from the rural regions of the Badger State, has come a long way in just a handful of years. They’ve played on bills with the Traveling McCourys, Railroad Earth, the Infamous Stringdusters, and the Yonder Mountain String Band and have already released three original studio collections and two live albums. Their latest, a collection of originals called Middle Western, is the focus of their summer tour and reflects what the group is all about— the roots of acoustic music and bluegrass. Greuel says that their roots include genres across the musical spectrum, giving Horseshoes and Hand Grenades a unique sound.

“We all certainly have a wide range of musical influences,” Greuel says. “We all began to play acoustic instruments before we met each other, and all of us had a big interest in bluegrass and the old-timey folk music. When we came together, we focused, and still do, on roots music, but there are many influences that have gone into what we do as a band. Dave [Lynch] had had a lot of Cajun and blues influences from spending time in New Orleans. Sam [Odin] has always been really interested in jazz stylings, like John Coltrane, and rock like the Grateful Dead. Collin [Mettelka] had started to play Irish music on his fiddle. One of the things we love about the music is that it can dissolve boundaries, and we really like to be open and allow all of those musical interests to mold what we do on stage.”

In addition to expert musicianship and a dedication to allowing their music to grow, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades have developed a devotion to preserving the heritage of what Greuel calls Americana music.

At the same time, “We are very strongly rooted in the old-timey music, but being open conceptually about the music keeps it new,” Greuel says. “Allowing that old music to go into what we’re creating today helps keep that new edge to bluegrass. I think the appeal is tied to several things. There’s an earthiness to it. We call it roots music for a reason, and it makes sense. You can play music off acoustic instruments, and you don’t need electricity to do it. You can do it on your front porch, in your living room, in your office, almost anywhere. And there’s an authenticity to bluegrass and roots music that becomes more and more appealing as our world becomes more and more technologically advanced. There’s something very comforting about something that’s simple in a world that constantly seems to get more complex.... But people are always smiling at our shows. They’re always happy. Part of that has to do with the beat of stuff that’s rooted in bluegrass. It has a happy-go-lucky vibe that’s always contagious, even if the content of the song is sad. A bluegrass song can always have an uplifting feel, even if it’s about heartbreak. Roots music just makes people feel really good, and has a really true and honest sense to it that is really appealing in the times we’re living in.”

According to Greuel, the reactions of fans on the road bring the most joy to him.

“From a musician’s standpoint, one of the biggest things that drives me and makes me continue to play music is looking out into the crowd and seeing someone who’s completely moved by what we do,” he says. “That might be someone who’s grinning from ear to ear, or someone who is elated to be alive, or even someone who is just cheering up and releasing a feeling that has been cooped up inside of them for a little bit too long. The thing that makes me the most happy is performing songs for people, where people can let go of things that are weighing them down and feel good.”

Although still touring on the success of Middle Western, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades are not resting on their laurels.

“We just got off our album-release tour for Middle Western,” Greuel says, “and we’re really proud of it. We let a lot of our sides as a band to come out. But we’re going back into the studio and going to start recording another album soon. We’re always writing. I love being a musician. We’re so thankful that people come out to be a part of all this, and that they bring energy to all this. Performing music is such a circle of energy. What we put out from the studio and stage all comes back to us. There’s such a beautiful transfer of energy between people performing music and the people listening or hanging out in the audience. That’s the most satisfying part for me.”

When asked to give an official invitation to those who have never had the live Horseshoes and Hand Grenades experience, Greuel laughs and tells Nightlife that audiences should expect something new that’s very old, all in the same package.

“People should expect a really good time, with a high-energy experience,” Greuel says. “We really pride ourselves on being part of the environment and the scene that’s there. We truly enjoy playing music with one another. We play it the old-time way, all of us standing around one microphone, sometimes hitting each other with our instruments. We’re always very close together, from a physical and a spiritual standpoint. That might be a different experience for folks who have never seen us before. Most of all, people can expect a good, old-fashioned, high-energy good time.”

For more about Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, visit <>.

Those who wish to volunteer at the Sunset Concerts may sign up through the Student Programming Council’s Facebook page.

who: Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

what: Sunset Concerts (bluegrass)

where: Steps of Shryock Auditorium


when: Thursday, June 18