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Yonder Mountain String Band / Jay Farrar, Paramount Theater, Denver, CO- 12/31

The road goes on forever, and the party never ends deft songsmith Robert Earl Keen said it first, but on this night Yonder Mountain String Band gave real life to the declaration. The second of a two-night stand in Denver Leo Kottke opened here the night before Yonder Mountain stomped in the New Year well past the end of 2003, offering 29 songs in two sets that ended around bar closing time.

Not once did the musical train stammer. Relentless touring has shaped YMSB into a failsafe unit capable of seamlessly weaving disparate tunes into and out of each other that in the end produced a singular cohesive and complex hillbilly opera. This aptitude offered the most ideal live result for an end of the year blowout continual and effortless interaction uniting enthusiasts and band members on the same utopian plateau.

Slugging liberally from Coronas onstage, singer/guitarist Adam Aijala led the celebration as he guided fans through YMSB live favorites "Just One More Jagermeister Shot," "40 Miles From Denver" and "Peace of Mind," as well as a searing cover of the Rolling Stones' "No Expectations." Predictably, "Two Hits and The Joint Turned Brown" triggered the most epic crowd response, and early on opener Jay Farrar and guitarist Mark Spencer returned to the stage to expertly steer the band through the winding roads of "Sing Me Back Home." Mandolin ace Jeff Austin and doghouse bassist Ben Kaufman lifted the band's impact to mountainous heights and kept the level of intensity the entire night; Dave Johnston's sizzling banjo runs displayed the mastery of a well-seasoned veteran.

In a one-off appearance with YMSB, alt-country legend Farrar offered a generous hour-plus set largely focused on his ambitious first solo album "Damn Shame," "Voodoo Candle" and "Vitamins" the brightest sparks on this stage also sprinkling in meticulously-embroidered favorites "Tear-Stained Eye," "Windfall" and "Driving the View" from his days fronting Son Volt. It was an inspired, if mysterious, pairing for YMSB, but with Farrar's own significant cache of fans it insured the sell-out stamp on the Paramount's marquee weeks in advance.

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