Yonder Mountain String Band
21 August 2015 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO
for The Lot Scene by Parker
Band Members: Ben Kaufmann - bass, vocals; Dave Johnston - banjo, vocals; Adam Aijala - guitar, vocals; Allie Kral - fiddle, vocals; Jake Jolliff - mandolin, vocals
Set One: Around You, Left Me in a Hole, Only a Northern Song > Sidewalk Stars > Only a Northern Song, I Got a Name, Another Day, Black Sheep, All Aboard > New Dusty Miller > All Aboard
Set Two: Drawing a Melody, Criminal, The End Is Not in Sight, I'm Lost, (Hard To Be A) Saint in the City > Eat in Go Deaf > Saint in the City, Jolene, 40 Miles From Denver, Landfall, Love Before You Can’t, Insult & Elbow, Angel > Robots > Angel
Encore: Traffic Jam > Jaywalking > Traffic Jam
The picture perfect Red Rocks night aged and matured like a robust yet mellow wine as the music continued last Friday evening. After such superb performances by Greensky and Fruition, we were all primed and ready for two sets from Yonder Mountain String Band. Up front I will just come out and tell you that this was the best show I have yet seen from the new “Yonder 2.0” line-up. I don’t know whether it was Red Rocks or that they have simply hit a new drive and groove, but the end result was a wonderful show from this multi-talented band. I was very impressed and enjoyed their portion of the night immensely. Kicking things off with “Around You” the band made it plain they meant business on that stage. A really great middle jam came out of this one with a decidedly lovely solo from Allie on fiddle. They followed this with an old fan favorite: “Left Me In A Hole” with Adam on lead vocals which sounded just like the old friend it is. “Only A Northern Song” was next in line for us and what a version it was going into and out of “Sidewalk Stars” in the middle. Especially with Allie and Jake playing to and off of one another in a sizzling hot duet during the long jam. Not to mention Allie’s very own and epic solo…wow can that lady tear it up on the fiddle!! But you don’t need me to tell you that. What an asset she is to this group, both personality-wise, energy-wise, and musically speaking. The other recent asset added to the group, Mr. Jake Jolliff, stepped up to the mic to give us his rendition of Jim Croce’s “I Got A Name” which we recorded on video just for you…please enjoy:
Lovely singing voice, no? And those mad, mad mandolin skills — but more on those later. Adam stepped back up to the lead for “Another Day” which was followed by Dave singing the title track from their newest album, “Black Sheep” which ended with this crazy fast breakdown ending. One of the best memories of the night were the twirling, spinning black sheep that our friend Ted Atwell (lighting designer/director for YMSB) pulled together for this show. Too cool and too funny!! Not to mention all the other incredible lighting from Ted…thanks, good sir, it was great to see you!! It was Allie’s turn up to the mic for a favorite Del McCoury cover of mine, “All Aboard”. Some seriously good harmonies going on here — very well done. Del would be proud. This went into a funky and fun and very long “New Dusty Miller” with a dark and brooding jam at the end and then right back out into the close of “All Aboard” with an explosively massive and tight ending with every member of the band featuring their various and adept skills on their chosen instruments with speed and accuracy and the trimmings of magic and then slowing down to the groovy, mellow end. Wow. What a first set! I was thrilled at the prospect of what the second would bring!!
Second set jumped off to a speedy and fast pickin’ start with Jake’s aforementioned (See? I told you we’d get to them.) amazing mando skills ripping things apart with the opening licks to “Drawing a Melody”. Seriously, folks, how does he do it? Simply stunning. Next was an answer to my wish list for the night: “Criminal”, another personal favorite of mine. Good to get some of that good old repertoire that made all of us Yonder fans to begin with in addition to all this great new material. It sounded excellent and I was grateful to get it to be sure. Jake took the mic once again for the newer song “The End Is Not in Sight” which featured a really sizzling guitar solo from Adam as well as one from Dave on banjo. These both counterpointed Jake’s wicked fast jam on mandolin to a fantastic degree. Really like that song — hope my first won’t be my last time hearing it. This was followed by “I’m Lost” and then the band broke out an interesting cover with some Bruce Springsteen. “(Hard to Be a) Saint in the City” was taken directly into “Eat in Go Deaf” and right back into “Saint”. The central jam here featured a smoking Jolliff mandolin solo which led the band back into a monster jam of their own. Never heard Springsteen all grassed up before. Not bad, not bad at all. Then it was time for Allie’s signature song, Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, one that she has been honing and perfecting for months and months. And it sounded unbelievably soulful and heartfelt drifting out and up towards those sandstone monoliths on either side of all of us gathered there transfixed by the beauty and the power of the music before us. Brava, Allie, brava! Another oldie-but-a-goodie came along next in the form of “40 Miles From Denver” another favorite of mine. This was followed by “Landfall” which featured a very nice banjo solo from Dave again. I couldn’t help but be impressed by how much energy and joy each member of the band seemed to emit throughout this second set. It was palpable in the tiers where we stood and danced. Then it was time for “Love Before You Can’t” featuring Allie on fiddle and vocals. Another great selection from their recent album. “Insult & Elbow” followed “Love” and then the band ended their set with a whopper: “Angel” into “Robots” and back into “Angel”. Big energy right up until the end, that was the name of the game that night. The band really pushed the envelope right up until the last note of the song and of the set. This set the tone magnificently for a gargantuan encore experience. Good thing they had one lined up, right?
From a triple bill we got a double encore? You better believe it, my friends! Greensky Bluegrass all came out on stage to join Yonder for a stellar encore offering. This encore would encompass YMSB’s “Traffic Jam” then would go into GSBG’s “Jaywalking” and then back into “Traffic Jam”. Oh yes, it happened and it was incredible. Here is the first part of “Traffic Jam” for you so you can get the idea for yourself in the comfort of your own home:
They were certainly the biggest versions of these two songs I had ever heard. A very robust and riveting and big sound was emanating from the stage weaving the works of two amazing string bands together seamlessly and sounding terrific in the process. What a way to end a night of music such as this! Incredible. Stupendous. Magnificent. None of these words come close enough to how incredible Yonder and Greensky and Fruition were. Let us all hope for this same line-up at Red Rocks sometime in the future. It is a formula that works, believe it! A big thanks to all the bands for the exquisite time!! Already looking forward to my next Red Rocks show as a direct result of this one. Certainly one of the hallmarks of a marvelous show.