Yonder Mountain String Band, Fillmore Auditorium, Denver, CO- 12/29-31
This past year was particularly positive one for the Yonder Mountain String Band. The group performed sold-out shows from California all the way to Vermont, including their first headlining show at the prestigious Red Rocks Amphitheater. Yonder also delivered a series of dates with Phish drummer Jon Fishman, and once again hosted their wildly fun and intimate festival, The Northwest String Summit. As they have for the past four years, Yonder helped ring in 2008 with three shows at Denver, Colorado’s Fillmore Auditorium, two of which offered intriguing openers with and an expanded Yonder line-up.
Supporting Yonder for their first day was a special solo acoustic performance by G Love. The early crowd was bigger than anticipated, with Leftover Salmon playing in the area. It was a rather intimate performance for G Love, and he was well-received. He offered a great set of both original and cover music that got the audience grooving and in the mood.
Shortly afterwards, Yonder took the stage on time with fiddle player, and long time collaborator, Darol Anger, who would be joining the band as the fifth member for the first two nights of the run. The quintet kicked things off with the classic “Dawn’s Early Light” which they smoothly jammed into an always-rocking version of “Raleigh and Spencer.” Bass player Ben Kaufman next offered his vocal renderings to his introspective “Finally Saw the Light,” which served as a fine end of the year message for all of those soul searchers out there. A nice block of bluegrass followed, including the hot instrumental banjo number “Maid of the Canyon,” the Benny Burle’ Galloway song, “Train Bound for Gloryland,” and a slick version of “Another Day.” From here Yonder produced a huge chunk of music, including “Ramblin in the Rambler,” the Danny Barnes’ tune “Death Trip,” which segued into a slick jam with G Love on vocals and guitar, followed by the final verses of “Death Trip” and finally back into “Ramblin the Rambler” to finish the first set. A solid beginning but there was a long way to go yet and Yonder was still just warming up.
The second set started off with Todd Snider's “Sideshow Blues,” a tune that Yonder has often proclaimed (and rightly so) to be something of a festival or jam scene anthem. This song then led into versions of “Sidewalk Stars” and “Ain’t Been Myself In Years” (the first two songs from their most recent self-titled release). The light show, which featured the work of new technician, seemed a bit overwhelming at times, but certainly offered tasty eye-candy for all of those in the state of mind to appreciate such and definitely added a bit of professionalism to the overall show. The quick-picked Shawn Camp song, “Damned If The Right One Didn’t Go Wrong,” always one of the highlights of any show, came next and offered the perfect mid-set number to keep things rolling. The rest of the set included a version of “Night Out,” also from their latest release, and a set closing block of music which included John Hartford’s “Cuckoo’s Nest,” the super bluegrassy “Fingerprint,” and rocking versions of “Snow on the Pines,” “Angel,” and the extremely danceable traditional tune, “Boatman.” The guys closed the night out with a dual song encore including the Sheriff Saga tune, “Catch A Criminal” and “Too Late Now.” All in all, the show was quite good and offered a nice way to start off the New Year’s run.
The legendary Wailers offered support the second day, and were well received by a large, early crowd. They performed classic Wailer tunes for their set, including everything from “Jammin” and “Natural Mystic,” to “Exodus." They played a tight set and really got the audience dancing, as people sang along with clouds of smoke hanging thick in the Fillmore air.
Yonder started things up tonight with another John Hartford song, “Holdin,” which kept things chill and smoky, before launching into a ripping version of “King Ebenezer,” a tune which is built for straight, open-form jamming and Jeff Austin power scatting. Darol Anger, who was again with the band for the duration of the night, absolutely exploded on “Ebenezer,” which carried into “Steep Grades, Sharp Curves.” From there the group played tight versions of such songs as “Rain Still Falls,” “40 Miles From Denver,” “Fine Excuses,” and Bob Dylan’s “Spanish Harlem Incident,” a staple among Yonder covers. The quintet closed with a take on “Out of the Blue” that segued into “East Nashville Easter,” also from their most recent release. Once again the first set was a good start, with Darol Anger absolutely ripping it up.
The second set opened with a bang as Ben Kaufman treated us to a lengthy taste of his Sheriff Saga, which included an “On the Run” sandwich, filled with stellar versions of “Looking Back Over My Shoulder,” “What Your Selling,” “Postcard To My Son In Jail” and then the final verse of “On the Run.” The rest of the set belonged to Darol Anger, as Yonder started a second, and final big chunk of music that began with the rarely played “Gilpin Swing,” which segued into the Anger open jam tune, “Ewie with the Crooked Horn,” one of the evening's highlights. A smoking version of “Ten” followed before “Peace of Mind” finished the second set. Yonder then closed out the two day run with Darol Anger via a dual bluegrassy encore of “Troubled Mind” and “Hill Country Girl." Overall, the guys pulled this one of the fire as it turned out to be a great night of near-continuous music.
At first, the news that Darol wouldn’t be playing on New Year’s was kind of a shock. It felt like a daring move by Yonder, as Darol tends to add a whole different dynamic to the show, even bring them to a whole different level at times, and the thought of Yonder without him, especially after two days with Darol on board, at first felt like a downer. However, by the end of the night, Yonder proved that we never should have doubted them, as they certainly can hold their own, and more, as a quartet.
The fellas started right on time tonight (9:00) with the fast and always fun Shawn Camp bluegrass number, “Red Bird,” getting everybody dancing right off the bat and warming the guys up with some quick, hot picking. The night didn’t slow down from there with solid versions of “Nothin But Nothin,” “Amanda Rose,” which featured Adam Aijala on harmonica, “Just the Same,” and a crowd pleasing version of “Southbound.” Two newer Kaufman tunes came up next, a jug band number, “Cupid Shot Me Twice,” and “Casualty,” a cool new bluegrass tune that got the place absolutely hopping and added yet another number onto his epic Sheriff Saga. The remainder of the nearly two hour first set included smoking versions of “This Lonesome Heart,” “Left Me In A Hole" and “Traveling Teardrop Blues,” which included a guest appearance by long time Yonder collaborator and Colorado songwriter, Benny Burle’ Galloway, who would be celebrating his 50th birthday at midnight. The band wrapped up the set with an animated version of the old school Yonder tune, “Mother’s Only Son” which the group jammed into “Bolton Stretch.” The first set was tight and full of energy, and the sold-out Fillmore crowd was absolutely explosive, awaiting the turn of the new year.
With a great first set under their belt, Yonder maintained the momentum as they tore into a big block of music that went from “Years With Rose,” into a hot version of “Follow Me Down To The Riverside,” back into “Years” before finally sinking into a puffing version of “Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown.” The light show was by far the best of the three days as the l.d. seemed to finally find the perfect balance between effects and the Yonder groove. Less than half an hour until midnight, the guys played a couple of short but sweet tunes, the Hartford-esque “Town” and the bluegrassy “Loved You Enough,” and then tore into a thumping version of Danny Barnes’ “Crow Black Chicken.” As the clock rested minutes away from the midnight hour, Jeff Austin went through an all-inclusive and appreciative thank you to everyone who helped them get through the past ten years (Yonder turned 10 with the turn of the new year). With the countdown’s conclusion, the crowd was in great spirits and Yonder looked overjoyed to be blessed with such a devoted fanbase.
The new year opened with the debut of a Bluegrassholes’ song (Jeff & Dave’s first band together), “Since I Started Drinking Again,” and then continued with the positive message of “Keep On Going,” which sandwiched a hot version of “New Horizons.” Yonder closed out the set with “I’d Like Off” and a ripping version of their old school jam-horse “Traffic Jam.” The encore included a hot bluegrassy version of “Free to Run,” “Bloody Mary Morning,” and then finally the John Hartford tune, “Tear Down the Grand Ole’ Opry” to close things out. The show was a great one and we couldn’t ask for a better way to ring in 2008. Yonder concluded their first 10 year stretch with an awesome three day run and a great year New Year’s Eve party, and set the gears in motion for another 10 years to come.
yak farm productions