Yonder Mountain String Band, The Showbox, Seattle- 2/21
"Yonder Here, Yonder There, Yonder Damn Near Everywhere"
Two things strike me as I reflect on this evening’s performance of Yonder Mountain String Band. The first is; How many dates these guys play annually, and second; How big a fan base they have gathered in such a short period of time. The two ideas are infinitely interconnected in that; the more you play the better you sound. The better you sound, the more people come to see you. The more people come to see you, the more the word spreads. Pretty soon you find that the venues that you used to play are now too small and suddenly you’ve become a major attraction. From my perspective, this is the case with Yonder Mountain. I can’t remember a band that has gone from relative obscurity to practically selling out every town they play in such a short period of time.
This is certainly true in the Seattle market, which is not thought of as a haven for bluegrass. Since Halloween, The Yonder Mountain String Band has gone from playing at the smaller Tractor Tavern to the spacious Showbox in what, .three and a half months? That is a pretty astonishing statistic. One that the band should be proud of and for those who have yet to see what the draw is, go and check them out the next time they come to your town.
Yonder Mountain is a 4 man dance music machine. From the opening notes of “My Gal” to the final strum of “Roll On Blues”, this was one nonstop party. The unique and infectious Yonder sound has the ability to get anything with a pulse up on their feet and shakin’.
I met my new friend Bridget, a blind date of sorts at the adjoining bar they call the “Green Room.” We talked over drinks and then headed in to the show. I could tell immediately that it was going to be a full house due to the number of people inside, so early. We scored the last spot on the rail stage right as all of the prime real estate had already been taken.
The band came on a little late as for this scheduled 9:00 start. I noticed guitarist Adam Aijala limping as the band took the stage, and that they had set a stool on the stage for him to sit on. I never did find out what happened.
They started out with a little tune-up and then went right into “My Gal.” Next came “Idaho”, the late John Hartford’s “Steam Powered Aereo Plane”, “At The End of The Day” from their first release, Elevation, “Big Spike”, and the “Pride of Alabama.” This warmed them up for “The Ghost of Eli Renfro” and “New Horizons” off their most recent release, Town by Town. Up to this point, the band seemed a little subdued, but this restraint ended as an extra long version of “Snow On The Pines” that segued into The Allman Brothers classic, “Whipping Post” played a la Yonder. The set concluded with a rousing rendition of “Boatman.” At 11:10, mandolin player and supposed front man (if there is one) Jeff Austin, announced the obligatory, “we’ll be back in a few minutes”. We all got the respite we so needed for a short break and some water, anticipating what was sure to be plenty more high energy, “acid jam grass” for the rest of the night.
About a half an hour later the boys took the stage again. The came right out of the gate with a high energy “Piece of mind” off the new CD. It led perfectly into an up-tempo version of Morning Dew” and a killer “Plank Road” before returning to finish out “Piece of Mind.”
They tore through “Telluride, “Don’t Let your Deal Go Down” (no not that one), Robert Johnson’s classic “Walkin’ Blues”, “Blue Night”, and “Sharecropper’s Son. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, the band crafted the sweetest segue of the night with the traditional, “Shady Grove” carrying into a really great yondered up version of War’s finest “Lowrider” complete with adjusted lyrics and then the tail end of “Shady Grove” to complete the set.
With much raucous applause Yonder Mountain returned for not one but two encores including, the recent song by Guitarist Adam Aijala called “Another Day” and the ever-popular “Roll on Blues”.
As I said in the beginning. This band rarely stops touring and should be coming to a town near you soon, as this tour takes them across the Midwest through the month of March, down the east coast in April, back home to Colorado for a special 4/20 show at the Fillmore in Denver, down to New Orleans for Jazzfest 2002 and all the way up to Alaska for a two night run at the end of May. If you get a chance and haven’t seen them yet, make a point to do so. If you have, well you already know what to expect.