Yonder Mountain String Band, Orange Peel, Asheville, NC – 2/23
In late February, Yonder Mountain String Band stopped in Asheville for a two night run at Asheville’s Orange Peel. A mutual admiration has developed between the band and the city that makes a multi-night run in Asheville really make sense. Yonder always brings a high energy performance and two night runs always give a band a little room to open up the setlist and explore a little bit more.
After the Infamous Stringdusters delivered a quick set, Yonder came out to a fairly calm Asheville crowd. Perhaps the attendees were attempting to pace themselves through the two nights, but after the opener of “Part I (Lord Only Knows),” a solid Ben Kaufman tune that worked well as an opener, Yonder segued into a fantastic “Piece of Mind.” Over the years, “Piece of Mind” has become a great jam vehicle and has provided some classic set closing sandwiches. On this night, Yonder dropped “Piece of Mind” early and they totally dominated it, stretching it over the eighteen minute mark. Jeff Austin led the tune on mandolin with several inspired solos, but Dave Johnston on banjo and Adam Aijala on guitar both provided wonderful moments during this jam. Playing “Piece of Mind” as one solid piece of music was a fresh take on this tune and it definitely worked well on this evening.
Following the opening segment, Ben Kaufman dedicated “Funtime” to his newborn son and Dave Johnston led the band through a newer tune called “Don’t Worry Happy Birthday.” Then Adam Aijala was able to provide the crowd with his first tune of the night, a crowd pleasing “Left Me In a Hole.” Although this was a pretty standard version, this tune is always fun and was perfectly positioned. As has become custom in the last few weeks, Yonder invited the Infamous Stringdusters’ Andy Hall out for a portion of their set that began with “Criminal” and included the set closing sequence of “Dawn’s Early Light” into “Boatman.” “Dawn’s Early Light” is another Yonder staple and they performed it well but the jam leading into “Boatman” was one of the high points of the evening. Jeff Austin teased “Boatman” for a few minutes and really built up the beginning before Yonder finally dropped into it and the Asheville crowd loved every second of the party tune.
The quartet opened the second set with the corky instrumental, “Southern Flavor” before playing the high octane Kaufman tune “Casualty.” After “Casualty,” Infamous Stringdusters banjoist, Chris Pandolfi was called onstage to contribute to the Jeff Austin tune “No Expectations.” As expected, this tune opened up and allowed for some impressive soloing between Pandolfi and Johnston on banjo. “No Expectations” has come to offer really great potential each time it is played and this night was no different.
After “No Expectations,” Johnston got the call again as Yonder flew into “Polka On the Banjo,” a song that will always get the room bouncing. After takes on “Idaho” and “One More,” Kaufman came to the microphone and declared, “We’ve had to call an audible!” before leading Yonder through the thoughtful “Things Your Selling.
Then, after a brief huddle, Yonder dropped into “Years With Rose,” which offered some splendid improvisation as Jeff Austin led the way through the song. Yonder then brought the dance party back as they segued into “Shake Me Up.” The Orange Peel was in a full on boogie as this song opened up for a dance heavy jam. During the jam there was a lot of communication on stage between the members of the band. Perhaps there was a curfew issue? If there were any problems it didn’t take away from the quality of this tune as Yonder finished the sequence with “Angel.” A set closing “Angel” was a little out of the ordinary and felt a little awkward, but nothing could take the buzz out of this final sequence.
For the encore, Yonder called all of the Infamous Stringdusters out for “My Gal.” The tour with the Infamous Stringdusters has been a success thus far and the relationship between Asheville and Yonder Mountain String Band seems to blossoming just fine. If Yonder is going to keep bringing shows like this to Asheville, here’s to hoping it will continue for a long time.