We thought James Hetfield won Halloween this year with his Stranger Things Eddie Munson-inspired getup, but bluegrass phenom Billy Strings may have taken the Metallica leader’s crown with his three-night Lord of the Rings-inspired North Carolina residency, which culminated earlier this week on October 31.
Strings and his backing band performed for three nights in a row from October 29 at Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, dressed as characters from Peter Jackson’s fantasy film series in shows dubbed “Away from the Shire”.
For the shows, Strings himself assumed the costume of a hobbit – with burgundy trousers and a waistcoat, and pointy ears – while members of his band dressed as various other characters from Middle-earth. The best individual costume, we’d say, was that of the bass guitar player, who donned a very believable Gandalf the Grey outfit.
Among a selection of cuts from his growing catalog, including Highway Hypnosis, Know It All, Dealing Despair and Fire Line, each set included a vast selection of covers, with performances of Black Sabbath’s The Wizard, Jimi Hendrix’s Fire and Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On – for which Strings donned a sunburst Gibson Les Paul – as well as a few takes on songs from Howard Shore’s LOTR score, like Concerning Hobbits and A Walking Song.
Other covers performed included Black Sabbath’s War Pigs, Led Zeppelin’s The Battle of Evermore, and Pink Floyd’s Fearless.
Billy Strings has made a habit of hosting Halloween events in Asheville, NC. While this year marks the guitarist’s most grandiose Halloween setting yet – the 7,600-capacity Harrah’s Cherokee Center – recent years have seen him host shows themed like The Wizard of Oz and A Clockwork Orange at clubs around the city.
The guitarist just announced a headline arena tour in early 2023 – with Denver, Atlantic City, Nashville and a host of other cities on the schedule. Unfortunately, though, he will not be decked out in Lord of the Rings gear. See Strings’ website (opens in new tab) for a full list of upcoming dates.
In an interview with Guitar World earlier this year, Billy Strings recalled receiving his first guitar as a young boy, when his father spent his last $30 to purchase one from a generous antique store owner.
“There was a guitar hanging on the wall of this place with a light shining down on it, like light from heaven – and I needed that guitar,” he said. “I threw a fit for it ’cause my dad just told me he didn’t have the money and the old lady there said, ‘He really wants it. How much do you got?’ My dad said, ‘I got 30 bucks to my name’ and she said, ‘I’ll take it.’ And my dad spent the last $30 he had in his wallet on that guitar for me.”