Video: teenagers tear up some bluegrass

I've posted a few times over the years about Greg Fleischut, an insanely-talented teenage musician I know. For the last two years, Greg has been gigging around San Francisco with his indie rock band Audiophiles, but his mom just dug up this video from two years ago that reveals Greg's acoustic roots. At the time, Greg was visiting with a couple musician pals in Massachusetts -- Etienne Cremieux and Eric Oliver -- and, of course, they got to jamming, with Etienne on mandolin and Greg (left) and Eric (right) on geetar. It is absolutely incredible, like speed metal bluegrass. The boys were 15 at the time.


  1. Very tight, but I disagree with the speed metal comparison. A lot of bluegrass is uptempo and played in major keys. This song kind of reminds me of “Get Up John” by Ricky Skaggs.

  2. I was a sophomore in college, walking by the Union & these guys ask me & my friend, “Hey, wanna split a case of beer?” And we go, “Sure”. We go to the state store, buy a case, and head back to this dude’s room. Start drinkin’ some beer, a couple of friends drop by, and they say, “Wanna listen to some music?”, and we’re like, “Yeah.”

    So they whip out the mandolins & guitars & banjo and proceed to school these two burnout rockers in some bluegrass for a couple hours. It was the most intense string-plinkin’ I’d ever seen in my life. Seriously.

    Some hardcore banjo will change your life.

  3. Greg is one of my heroes. He’s incredibly modest and warm. Also, I really respect that he has a deep appreciation of *all* music, not just particular genres or trends.

  4. Etymology (like this video and all(?) the other music videos to grace boingboing in recent memory) proves that Mandolins are far cooler than guitars:

    (a) Mandolin: [French mandoline, from Italian mandolino, diminutive of mandola, lute, from French mandore, from Late Latin pandra, three-string lute, from Greek pandoura.]

    (b) Guitar: [French guitare, from Spanish guitarra, from Greek kithar, cithara.]


  5. #11 meant “…mandolins and ukuleles…”
    (c) [Hawaiian ‘ukulele : ‘uku, flea + lele, jumping.]

    /me wishes for a edit-post ability

  6. @8

    What utter rubbish. The capo is extremely useful and very important and not an indication of laziness at all.

    Whenever there are two acoustic guitars playing it is worth considering having one guitar using a capo and playing further up the neck to alter the voicing of the chords and the sound, otherwise you just get a muddy mess of the same notes. In that case with two acoustic guitars it was definitely needed.

  7. Pretty awesome, but speed metal bluegrass? Like others have noted, this sounded like plain old bluegrass to me…

    My 6-year old is starting to learn fiddle songs on his violin; let’s hope he inherited his Mom’s Acadian fiddle genes….

  8. God bless these kids. i wish i could go back in time and tell myself that all those video games were not an investment in my future.

    i’m definitely excited to see what the future holds for these speed-pickers.


  9. I’m no Bluegrass expert (I like it, but don’t too much about it) and “speed metal bluegrass” popped into my head when I was watching the video. Sorry if it isn’t the “correct” descriptor and you found it offensive.

  10. I had to watch this twice to believe what I was seeing (and hearing). That was so awesome, I’m getting chills! If this kid has albums out, I’m buying!

  11. Somebody call Del McCoury over at Sirius and see if he’ll play some of these kids’ music. Good grief, that was damn good picking. Almost makes me want to pick up the fiddle again.

  12. Bluegrass has a real “top gun” mentality; it was invented by Bill Monroe in the late 1940s, with a strong influence of swing jazz, in the form of going around the circle and every player taking turns trying to outdo each other with their solos. In contrast, what is known as old time or old timey music now was burned into the public consciousness in the late 1920s in the golden age of 78 rpm recording before the influence of jazz. Modern groups that play old time music usually all play through the tune every repetition in unison; the emphasis is on the groove and the rhythm of the tune, rather than the abilities of the individual players.

    That being said, those kids are really, really good. Bluegrass players tend to be a very traditional, conservative lot, and teaching their young to play bluegrass is very important to most of them.

    Look up “The Anderson family” on youtube for an example, real nice kids and a nice family.
    Andy Alexis
    Piney Creek Weasels (old time)

  13. It’s not exactly bluegrass, but it can be pretty amazing to watch the junior fiddler competitions at an Old Time Fiddling competition in the US. It’s pretty cool that a few younger kids are getting the chance to learn and play “the old ways”.

    Oh yes and @ #5 Doggo…

    I really thought that your post was going to turn into something like a “Dear Penthouse” letter, but no.

  14. pesco @20: not offensive; I think they were just noting that virtuoso speed-picking like this is a longstanding and mainstream part of the bluegrass tradition, so to insiders, no comparison to other genres is needed.

    I’m no expert either but have gradually started listening to some bluegrass and bluegrass-related stuff in recent years. There is a lot of jaw-droppingly-cool music out there from some really amazing musicians, including quite a few youngsters. Anyone moved by this video would be well advised to investigate (as if you needed a further excuse to lose hours playing at youtube!)

  15. Reminds me of Nickel Creek. The mandolin player reminds me of Chris Thile specifically. You can hear him covering Radiohead’s “Morning Bell” here (it has a WICKED mandolin solo in it too):

  16. @21 No matter how good you are at something, there’s a fetus on YouTube who’s better than you’ll ever be.

    This quote would have made my maximum rotation, but there was a better one made by a zygote on youtube.

    Damn the youth!

  17. @ Tony Moore:

    “i wish i could go back in time and tell myself that all those video games were not an investment in my future.”

    There are a few studies linking video game play to enhanced hand-eye coordination. I played video games throughout my youth, I still do, and I’m a competent (but by no means stellar) guitarist and pianist. Still, many of the best musicians I know play video games every day.

    But man – by the time that Etienne kid hits 30, he’s going to be the best mandolin player that ever walked the Earth.

  18. 1. Wow.

    2. That Etienne kid is fucking amazing.

    3. Wow.

    4. So is Greg. Wouldja look at the fingers on him? He’s gotta be part Asgard.

    5. Wow.

    6. There is no #6.

    7. Wow.

  19. Wow, the kid on the mando reminds me so much of Chris Thile. Nickel Creek’s live shows were absolutely sublime – Thile on the mando, their three-part harmonies, and the sly way they’d weave in covers of contemporary songs (seriously, their cover of “Toxic” is both awesome and hilarious).

  20. For anyone who’s interested in contemporary bluegrass, there’s two bands who haven’t been mentioned that I suggest you check out.

    First is the Yonder Mountain String Band. A lot of their stuff sounds similar to the style these kids are playing.

    The second is the Punch Brothers, led by Chris Thile who was already mentioned. I would almost describe them as “prog” bluegrass.

    Also, for anyone who wants to learn a little bit more about bluegrass and old time music, check out the Bluegrass and Old Time Music Radio Show. This guy put together a podcast using music from independent or unsigned bluegrass and old time music bands, playing a lot of tradition music, and talks a lot about both styles and their origins.

  21. Just had the pleasure of hearing the Snyder Family Band from North Carolina a few weeks ago — 9 year old fiddle and 13 year old guitar. Very serious when I say a young Alison Krauss and Tony Rice…

    Really was refreshing to see young and obscenely talented pickers without the exploitative “prodigy” shtick. The kids were humble, kind, and genuinely amazing.

    Recent YouTube of Django’s “Minor Swing”:

  22. Etienne Cremieux, the mando player here, is mainly a fiddle player, as he explains on his web site. So this amazing performance is on his second instrument.

  23. Potential fans new to bluegrass should check out John Hartford.

    I notice a boingboing search for his name yields no result, which is a shame.

  24. Since Nickel Creek has been mentioned: go to and search for Nickel Creek there; they’ve got a high-quality live recording of a full Nickel Creek concert that is definitely worth a listen.

    And in case anyone remains unconvinced of the musicianship, another trip to youtube will yield plenty of examples of bluegrass/country folks (Chris Thile, Bela Fleck, many others) rocking out with complicated Bach pieces. Seriously, go search for “Chris Thile Bach” or “Mandolin Bach” or other things.

  25. It doesn’t get any better than Roy Clark and Muppets:

    I’m not much of a country fan, but he always used to blow me away when Dad made us watch Hee-Haw.

  26. JTegnell @8: Richard Thompson. Uses a capo. End of argument.

    General Specific @10: Goosebumps here too. Etienne Cremieux has that old-time long melodic line nailed.

    Garp @16, that opening remark wasn’t strictly necessary. Otherwise, you’re right on all counts.

    Superdoop @31, when was good bluegrass ever not cool?

  27. I met a couple of really talented guitar players at my university. I have fond memories of our freshman year, listening to them jamming together on the lawn while we all sat and smoked our cigarettes.

    This past fall when I drove past my old freshman dorm, there were another batch of smokers on the same lawn. And they were all listening to two guys sitting on the grass playing music. None of them knew what was coming. School, for them, was still a concert. I had forgotten, until then, that it ever was.

  28. I am big fan of Bluegrass and especially Old Time music, and I am glad that this great tradition of Appalachian music is thriving and appreciated. These guys are on fire, and I give them all respect for that. I want to complement the theme of this thread (picking wonderkids) with a suggestion that you all take a look at this old television footage of a certain 7 year old Kentucky mandolin player playing with Skruggs back in the 1950’s. You won’t be dissapointed.


  29. It’s not that incredible. Go to any great bluegrass festival. You’ll see it there. But these guys are playing just a little too fast as they’re struggling to keep it together. Slowed down would be better. Speed is no substitute for tone and dynamics.

  30. SPEED METAL BLUEGRASS???? Have you ever been to a bluegrass show… Alot of people do this song and do it better. Let me give you an example…SIERRA HULL. She even writes her own instrumentals! BTW she started playing when she was like 4 and put out her first CD when she was 1O. Check her out on You tube. Sick Nasty Amazing!
    In this video shes pretty young check it out.

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