Helium Taxi is a new Austin group that aims to continue the explorations of others who’ve taken bluegrass instrumentation and textures to cool new places.
Blending bluegrass with jazz (gypsy, bebop, and beyond), Western swing, rock, and anything else that inspires curious pickers is a practice that’s been alive and well on the fringes of the ever-expanding bluegrass universe for decades now. Artists like David Grisman, Darol Anger, Mike Marshall, Sam Bush, and Béla Fleck have already inspired multiple new generations of musicians to learn the traditions of bluegrass as deeply as possible, but also turn them inside out and make unique new things.
Guitarist Rob Lifford originally imagined Helium Taxi as a one-off album project, recording his compositions with musicians borrowed from two top-shelf Austin acoustic bands, MilkDrive and Wood & Wire. A series of shows to promote the album with a revolving cast of players led to deeper relationships with like-minded musicians in the community, and eventually a cohesive band had coalesced featuring Andy Lentz (fiddle), BJ Lazarus (mandolin), and Josh Flowers (bass). Lentz relocated to California in the summer of the 2017 and the band is working with various musicians in search of its next regular fiddler.
Together, the quartet performs a wide array of material that may feature ferocious improvised bluegrass runs, intricate harmonized melodies, deeply swinging grooves, and sweeping majestic passages—sometimes all inside a single tune. The dynamics and and variety inherent in their music can connect strongly to audiences in nearly any environment, from small listening-room venues and house concerts to rock clubs, festival stages, and concert halls.