Concert Review: Honeybucket

Written by on May 27, 2016

by Layne Gerbig, General Manager.
Photo courtesy of

It’s halfway through their first set when Honeybucket mandolinist Brendan O’Malley dedicates the next song “to all you whiskey drinkers out there.” The newgrass trio from Cleveland launches into an upbeat folk tune and the floor of GAR Hall in Peninsula shakes with the stomps of the audience. Immediately following that, however, was a slower ballad with satisfying three-part harmonies. Honeybucket followed this song pattern the whole night, keeping the audience on the edge of their seat.

The band is composed of the essentials for a well-rounded newgrass group – an upright bass, plucked by Abie Klein-Stefanchik; a mandolin, played by Brendan O’Malley; and guitar, picked by Adam Reifsnyder. The three would sound just as pleasant in a venue like GAR Hall as they would playing on a friend’s front porch. No amps are required to enjoy their sound. And if you saw the trio sans instruments, you could probably guess they were in a folky band—that night, they were clad in suspenders, vests, and flannel.

As the name suggests, newgrass is a departure from bluegrass. The fast-pace rhythm and solid harmonies remain, but the content is very different. Adam from Honeybucket describes the band as a rock group, but with a folk-bluegrass sound, which makes them more accessible to a younger audience. For example, the band’s cover of “Pursuit of Happiness” by Kid Cudi snuck onto their newest EP “Stompin’ Grounds,” disguising itself as a bright folk tune.

Crowd favorites that night included “Ohio” from their first self-titled EP, and a cover of “Fat Bottom Girls” by Queen, and perhaps it was because O’Malley was playing the mandolin, but his voice was reminiscent of Chris Thile’s. The band tore through two sets that night and were cheered back on stage after they took their final bows. “We have nothing left to play,” the band joked, but settled on performing one of their first songs.

Whether or not it’s one of their direct goals, Honeybucket is turning more people on to the newgrass genre. The group was recently was named Cleveland Scene’s Best Band of 2016, and guitarist Reifsnyder played a critical role in the organization of Hingetown Hoedown, Ohio City’s first bluegrass, folk, and newgrass festival. These genres are not extremely popular as there are in the southern more states, but Honeybucket is creating a regional pocket of newgrass and folk fans.

IMG_4934 Catch the band at the Larchmere Porchfest in Cleveland on June 18th, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @honeybucketohio, and like them on Facebook too while you’re at it.

There wasn’t a bad seat in the house on May 21st at GAR Hall in Peninsula, Ohio.

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