By Garret K. Woodward\r\nClosing in on 20 years together, Greensky Bluegrass is much more than its name may showcase. The string quintet is more towards The Grateful Dead than Bill Monroe, more akin with Old & In the Way than the ways of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe were probably a little bit more bluegrass in the early days when we denied being bluegrass to where we are now. It\u2019s hard to really say \u2014 what we are, what bluegrass is, what rock-n-roll is,\u201d said Paul Hoffman, lead singer\/mandolinist of Greensky Bluegrass. \u201cAt the risk of really trying to classify the music, we definitely have a rock-n-roll attitude and spirit to our approach. Even if we\u2019re playing something that\u2019s really bluegrass, we do it in a pretty rock-n-roll style, which is fast and hard.\u201d\r\n\r\nInitially a rag tag bunch who formed in Michigan at the turn of the century, the group has been barnstorming the country ever since, playing upwards of 175 shows a year, slowly and steadily becoming one of the marquee acts in bluegrass, jam and rock music \u2014 realms once thought to be mutually exclusive until Greensky Bluegrass started climbing over the walls.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s to the point now, I think, where it\u2019s easier to maybe define us because we have so much original music and so much experience with our own repertoire that we just truly are ourselves,\u201d Hoffman noted. \u201cAnd I think that was harder in the early days to do because there wasn\u2019t as much of \u2018us,\u2019 it was a lot of us playing bluegrass and rock-n-roll covers.\u201d\r\n\r\nGreensky Bluegrass is part of this latest generation of string bands. With the likes of The Infamous Stringdusters, Billy Strings, Trampled by Turtles and Town Mountain, you have these rapidly rising groups who have soaked up so much in terms of modern musical influences (rock, jazz, hip-hop), but all seem to retain a core of traditional bluegrass.\r\n\r\nIn the midst of a live performance, Greensky Bluegrass and its audience is a sight to behold. It\u2019s truly a back-and-forth cosmic energy, an ebb and flow of intent and purpose. It\u2019s about being part of the human experience, about letting go and opening yourselves up the endless possibilities of live music \u2014 from those on both sides of the microphone. \u201cOur people want to see sincerity, they want to see struggle, and we go for that,\u201d Hoffman said. \u201cWe\u2019re trying to have fun ourselves, too. It\u2019s not just about putting on a fun rock show. It\u2019s cyclical. If we\u2019re challenging ourselves and we\u2019re remaining creative, and we\u2019re having fun, then that\u2019s what it translates to for everybody else.\u201d\r\n\r\nWith the band\u2019s 20th anniversary on the horizon, and thousands of shows behind him and his bandmates, Hoffman feels the ensemble is only beginning, as there is so much more to chase after \u2014 musically, creatively and spiritually.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s shocking, really. It\u2019s to the point where it\u2019s half of my entire life, which is kind of crazy to conceive. When I picked up the mandolin it was kind of random. I didn\u2019t put a lot of thought into it. I didn\u2019t think I would take it seriously,\u201d Hoffman said. \u201cAnd now I think to myself what my life would even be if I hadn\u2019t had that whimsical idea that one time and followed through with it or if I hadn\u2019t walked up and introduced myself to those dudes [that became Greensky Bluegrass]. It\u2019s pretty wild just to think about spending so many years trying to make it, trying to decide if I can quit my job, if this can really be our job \u2014 and now it most certainly is.\u201d\r\n\r\nAnd Hoffman himself will be the first to stop and reflect on just how wild and wondrous the musical journey has been thus far for Greensky Bluegrass.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe responsibility of being an artist and doing what we do is so huge. And to one point, it seems like we skated out of responsibility and never wore suits and ties,\u201d Hoffman said. \u201cBut, at the same time, for so many people our music means so much more than just entertainment. It\u2019s the catharsis from their pain. It\u2019s the escape from their reality. It\u2019s the thing they work hard for to do on the weekend. It\u2019s the place where they can be with their friends \u2014 it means so much more.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nGreensky Bluegrass will be one of the performers during the Jackson Hole Rendezvous. The festival will be held March 15-16 in the historic downtown Jackson Town Square and the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Other headlining acts include Grace Potter and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, among others. For more information and\/or to purchase VIP tickets, go to www.jacksonhole.com\/rendezvous.