The Social - Orlando, FL (January 31)

Florida? Yeah sure, why not? We found a good deal on plane tickets and went for it. This run is me, Colin, Alison, and Lori. We rented a convertible and started off our Florida run at The Social in Orlando.

We met up with Steve, Theresa, and Michael at the venue. The best part about waiting outside, was that it was 70 degrees. We weren't wearing sweaters, or coats, or snow boots... it was glorious.

I was very happy to see that the venue was nice and small. The stage was just big enough for the band, and we were nice and close. Sometimes it can feel awkward to be so close to someone when they are performing, but most of the time the energy flow between the band and audience is unmatched. These smaller shows are my absolute favorite.

We had heard a couple of days earlier that Dave had seriously injured his picking hand. We were concerned that this would mean that they would need a replacement (we wouldn't even let ourselves worry about cancellation), but Dave was wrapped up and ready to rock.

The band came out only a few minutes after 9, opening with Alison's favorite song, "Cuckoo's Nest". For me, I didn't get really excited about any particular song until "And Your Bird Can Sing", one of my favorite covers that I was hoping to get on this run. I just can't believe it happened so early! Most of the rest set was really on fire, with "Idaho", "Takes a Lot to Laugh", "Steam Powered Aereoplane", "Walking Shoes", and "Elzic's Farewell" being my favorites of the set. Even though there were a handful of songs played that aren't particularly my favorites, this first set was so much fun. I think it was the energy of being right up front, seeing our friends, and being in a warm climate - we had a blast.

So, not only was it warm outside, it was warm inside. Very warm. OK, it was HOT. I've only been to one hotter show, and that was at the Ogden in 2010. And at both shows, the band turned their fans to us for the set break. Such nice guys. But thank God I always bring my own fan!

Set 2 started with a ferocious "Death Trip", followed by a killer "Part "1. Always a favorite. They slid right in to "Fingerprint", followed by "Hit Parade of Love" and "Life's Too Short". We don't get these two songs very often. A couple songs later and Kevin brought out a couple lyric sheets for Ben and Jeff, but they were right in front of our faces and could easily be seen. Ben grabbed his bow, flicked away the pages, and started jabbing at all of us in the front row. What song would it be? It was "New Horizons"> "Come Together"> "New Horizons". Always a hit with the crowd, and it seems like it's a sandwich favorite of the band. The 2nd set ended with "Night Out" (love the harmonies in this song), "Little Rabbit" (felt like I was going to pass out from the heat), "No Expectations" (a little slowdown, but not much of a cool down), and a freaking raging "Oklahoma" (so close to melting to a puddle on the floor). Did I mention how hot it was in there? Those who were closer to Jeff must have gotten sprayed with headbanging sweat, but they loved it. There was a whole group of Jeff fanatics, taking photos and video taping during some of the high energy moments. It was fun to watch. And it was also really nice to see Adam's mom right against the stage in front of Adam. So sweet.

This was an intimate, high-energy beginning to a run of shows. We knew we were in for a great week...

Written by Dorothy St.Claire

Yonder Mountain String Band
1/31/11 The Social, Orlando, FL

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Tennessee Theater - Knoxville, TN (January 29)

With so much buzz in the air from the previous night's extended show in Nashville, people were wondering how the energy was going to play out on this night. Never fear Knoxville, never fear....this was by far one of the best Yonder performances I have seen in many years; while Dave still tore up the banjo with a broken right hand!! With his hand in cast, it was awe inspiring to see him do as much playing as he did with such an injury...and make no mistake, he put in a full night's work.

The Yonder nation showed up proud and strong, helping ignite the fire of the YMSB machine for two sets and a wonderful encore. With Ben sporting his new aerodynamic look (it apparently makes him play faster), we were treated to "Looking Back Over My Shoulder", and "Casualty" in classic Yonder fashion. However, there was a tinge of blues in the of the best moments of the night was a rendition of "Whipping Post" led by Jeff and joined by an enthusiastic audience. At this particular moment the band truly acknowledged the energy in the beautiful Tennessee Theatre, as the crowd roared at such a well executed classic in jam grass style. We were all treated to foot stompin', put some swing in your thing flatpickin' by Adam, who also graced us with "Left Me in a Hole" that night.

It's often hard to articulate the ebb and flow of energy between performers and audience, but rest assured this was one of those special occasions in which we were all in sync. Characterized by tremendous stage presence and a flurry of strings and melody, this was a powerful performance by some of the country's best bluegrass musicians. No need to delve into the set lists here....just do yourself a favor and download the show, you will not regret it!

Written by Brent Kerns

Yonder Mountain String Band
1/29/11 Tennessee Theater, Knoxville, TN

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Cannery Ballroom - Nashville, TN (January 28)

Through rain and sleet, and mud on your feet, Yonder Mountain String Band's yearly Cabin Fever Tour routinely meanders its way around the Southeast and, like clockwork, manages a short stop in Nashville, TN. It would be nice if their tenure could be longer, but a night in Music City USA with fellow Kinfolk never fails to deliver. Perhaps it's because almost every show in Nashville since 1999 has been at a different venue - the Cannery Ballroom is Yonder's 11th - that it seems the Nashville crowd always gets a unique experience. Or, maybe it's that the great city of Nashville holds special memories and friends for the band. With very few exceptions, the Nashville shows are frequently peppered with extraordinary sit-ins, making the evening more special. Regardless of who is playing, a sold out show in Nashville is always indicative of a great night ahead, and this evening would prove to be no different.

Yonder emerged on stage in front of a packed house a little later than usual, but with excitement clearly painted on their faces. After quickly tuning up, Jeff Austin, jubilant as always, exclaimed, "This is going to be fun as hell," and dove right into an energetic and always welcomed, "Spanish Harlem Incident". This Dylan tune is one of my favorites and is a great way to kick off a Friday night in Music City. The band opened their sound up a little with "Ragdoll", falling into stride and warming up the crowd. Before proceeding into the obligatory nod to Nashville songwriter and performer Shawn Camp, Ben comments on how Nashville is a tough nut to crack and sincerely appreciates the warm reception and great vibes from the crowd. An excellent rendition of "Ain't No Way of Knowing" was followed by a rowdy "Jesus on the Mainline", offering a tip that this Friday with Yonder might be a little out of the ordinary.

In the middle of the first set, with a smirk on his face, Jeff asked the crowd, "You know what is some badass sh*t?", before introducing longtime friend Todd Snider, as well as Andy Hall of the Infamous Stringdusters on dobro. The anticipation from the crowd for what was about to unfold was palpable and written on the faces of the band. It was evident that Jeff Austin felt at home with Todd filling in on vocals for a mandatory "Sideshow Blues". It was also clear that from his time at the String Summit, Andy felt very comfortable with the pace and openness for experimentation that Yonder's music offers. The audience had the pleasure of hearing two more numbers from Todd Snider, one of which included an extraordinary version of "Fortunate Son". It was very nice to hear an emotional Credence Clearwater Revival cover, which was also a new debut for Yonder. Although Todd Snider's sit-in was short and sweet, Andy Hall decided to hang around for more of the shindig.

Once Todd had left the stage, Yonder proceeded into, "Keep On Going", which is a great standard as evident by the results of the 2010 Yonderpoll on Phantasy Tour. The "New Speedway Boogie" was a pleasant surprise, and the "Keep On Going" > "New Speedway Boogie" > "Keep On Going" delivered as the audience reached a feverish level and the show's pace rocketed into orbit. The band moved almost seamlessly into a huge "Traffic Jam" to close out the first set, which served to only fuel the fire that had been set under the heels of the audience. It was fun to watch Adam and Jeff's faces as Andy Hall launched into some stratospheric jams. What a talent! The first set ended like a showstopper after more than an hour and a half. Out of breath, but still begging for more, the Nashville crowd stocked up on their favorite beverages for what would prove to be an enormous second set of music.

After what seemed to be a quick set break, Yonder was back on stage and ready to pick up where they left off. They kicked off the second set with "What The Night Brings". This newer, fast-paced tune is a great set opener. Dedicating the next number to Del McCoury and his band, Yonder launched into what would be a monstrously good "Kentucky Mandolin". I always use "monstrously good" when Bryn Davies sneaks in to tickle Ben's bass. In Ben's own words, "That is the closest I've ever come to having sex on stage.", which was made in reference to how Bryn had just completely abused his bass during "Kentucky Mandolin". Following a "Funtime" breather, Yonder quickly restored the aerobic workout to the audience by speeding into "Raleigh & Spencer", and then into a huge "My Gal" > "No Expectations". They then played "Redbird" to round out Andy's extended stint for the night, and Bryn Davies also managed to sneak in one last time. "At The End Of The Day", "Night Is Left Behind", and "Corona" were a nice respite before Yonder jumped into a giant "Years With Rose" > "Peace of Mind" > "King Ebeneezer" > "Peace of Mind" to close out the second set. "King Eb", written by Jeff Austin and Andy Pond, is always great to hear because of how far it has evolved from its debut in Nashville at The Trap in 2004. Closing in on 2:00 AM, the audience, although still stomping and spinning, was visibly tired from what had begun almost four hours earlier. "Peace of Mind" ended and the band graciously thanked the audience for spending their Friday night, and now Saturday morning, at the show. Yonder's genuine respect for their audience and fans, and the high level of interaction they have with the crowd, are refreshing things to see in a band. After very little prompting, Yonder came back out for a single encore. As if to cap off an almost perfect evening that spanned into the early morning, Yonder played "Ooh La La", which was a fitting cover to end a full night of music. Now, the waiting game is on for another raucous night in Nashville with Yonder Mountain String Band. I'll be there, will you?

Written by Jeff Green

Yonder Mountain String Band
1/28/11 Cannery Ballroom, Nashville, TN

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Bama Theatre - Tuscaloosa, AL (January 27)

After a four hour drive west, we “rolled” into Tuscaloosa Alabama, home of Crimson Tide and… I’m sure some other nice things that I’m unaware of. I do know that it is, for tonight at least, the home of the Yonder Mountain String Band. It’s a chilly Thursday night outside of The Bama Theatre, night 2 of everyone’s favorite winter tradition, the Cabin Fever Tour.

“Who’s interested in more Yonder!?” I scream, flashing handfuls of yellow Asheville and Atlanta flyers. After a while we decide to head inside. Once at will call, I’m handed a small red ticket, like the ones they hand out for some sort of cake raffle. Once inside, my hand is stamped and my ticket ripped in half. So much for saving this show’s ticket. But hey, you can’t argue with re-entry! Now that we’re inside I can really feel the buzz of excitement. Before we make it past the restrooms I can hear familiar voices, amplified from the auditorium. They’ve gone on! After a quick “hello” to Scotty we scamper inside. This is when I learn that by Bama Theatre, they pretty much mean old movie theatre. It’s a cool place, lots of detail and interesting paint work on the walls and ceiling. It’s also full of seats. And the seats are full of asses tonight (although at this point no one is sitting). The dance floor extends about 5 feet from stage to seats. Needless to say, it’s packed. Ben asks the crowd what would happen if he said “Roll Tide” as we get as close as we can to the stage. This gets the crowd going and Jeff goes to work on the strings. "Cuckoo’s Nest". I haven’t seen the boys since Harvest Fest, which might as well have been years ago! I’m overcome with joy. No denying it at this point. I am where I belong. Thank you, John Hartford. Thank you, Yonder Mountain.

"Cuckoo" got everyone ready for a great "Dawn’s Early Light"; then a crowd-pleasing "Bolton Stretch", followed by "Pockets", one of my new favorites, "River", and "Mental Breakdown". After that we get "Blue Collar Blues", "Honestly", another favorite, and "Naughty Sweetie". Then things really pick up for "Fastball". It’s at this point I notice Dave’s face. He doesn’t seem all too pleased with Fastball. He actually seems to be… in pain. After the show I noticed his hand covered in ice. The next night in Nashville, the ice would be replaced by a cast. All this only leads me to conclude one thing. David H. Johnston is a badass dude.

"I’d Like Off" is next, complete with light spectacle, electric distorted mando, and a raucous applause that meshes with the beginning of "Sometimes I’ve Won", which at some point becomes the ever-pleasing "2 Hits". And that wraps the first set. Remember when I said something about re-entry? Time to go chug cheap beer and head back inside!

At this point we’ve made it a little closer to the stage, so I take a piece of paper, a sharpie, and write "Ruby"> "Reuben’s Train"> "Reuben & Cherise". Now I know there is no way this is going down tonight, but hey, I’ve got all tour, and many more tours to come. I fold this piece of paper into an airplane. At some point of my engineering they’ve begun "Ten". Then we finally get some Dave with an extra rockin "Fingerprint". After that "How Bout You" pumps us up, "Jail Song" strikes us to the core, and "Out of the Blue" gets everyone screaming. Then Jeff says a little something and “Well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”….. Well, you know how that goes. "Rambler" seems fitting in Alabama. The “shots” get brought on stage, and here’s my chance. I take careful aim from the rail, and toss the airplane, which lands right at Ben’s feet. Ben sets the bass down, sips the Pellegrino, and steps up to the mic, seemingly ignoring the airplane that has crash-landed at his feet. This followed by a chorus of “doo’s” can only mean one thing, more John Hartford. Nothing like "Holding" to bring a room of once strangers together. Especially when sandwiched between "Rambler". Needless to say, after a "Rambler"> "Holding"> "Rambler" sandwich, it takes a second for the crowd to die down. During the ovation Jeff happily walks to the airplane and snatches it from the floor, unfolding it as he walks away. I give him the thumbs up, he reads the note, nodding slightly. After the crowd dies down we get "Lonesome Heart", and an awesome "Mother’s Only Son"> "Polly Put the Kettle on"> "Mother’s" sandwich. The lights dim, and the band plucks at strings randomly. “Have you folks had a good time here?” asks Jeff. They continue to strum. I get an overwhelming feeling of excitement. I grab my friends shoulder, “This isn’t?” I trail off. Jonny laughs and tells me they haven’t started playing anything, but I knew better. In that moment I could feel the excitement.

The plucking starts to come together. Jeff wails. Something about how he searched low and high and far. At this point I’ve basically lost it. Now, you have to understand, "Ruby" was one of the first songs I remember truly losing my mind to at one of my first Yonder shows. And I do love a good version of "Ruby", especially with some "Reuben’s Train" in the mix, and who doesn’t love "Reuben and Cherise", hence the airplane. And a spectacular version of "Ruby"> "Riverside"> "Ruby" was just what they had in store. Jeff screams “…for my Ruby!” The music comes to a loud crescendo, and a halting stop. “This is dedicated to my muse” says Jeff, “Ruby!” Now, I’m not going to get away with myself here, but could this mean the airplane, or a better version of the airplane request may one day come true? Only time will tell. A chorus of “little girl, follow me down” leads us into "Riverside". This song has come a long way. With a great story about the little girl, and some creative fun from Ben Hines, taking Jeff’s voice to a creepy, low octave, to tell us about the pick ax, and the hacksaw, doin’ the deed. After this, Jeff walks to Dave, says something in his ear, Dave nods, Jeff walks away. This is when Dave throws a little "Reuben’s Train" into the mix. Imagine my excitement at this point. The chorus of "Reuben’s Train" leads us back into "Ruby". "Ruby" comes to a huge, climactic end, and they proceed to walk off stage. Wow.

It doesn’t take too much yelling to get them back onstage. A short and sweet "Sharecropper’s Son", but wait, time for one more!? They finish the night with a Danny Barnes number, "Death Trip". Perhaps you’ve heard it?

Well, needless to say this night was all it took to seal my weekend plans with the boys in Tennessee. Their second night on tour, but night one of Cabin Fever Tour for me, and it started and ended the way every Cabin Fever Tour does, with amazing music, and great friends, old and new. See you in Nashville.

Written by Eric Martin

Yonder Mountain String Band
1/27/11 Bama Theatre, Tuscaloosa, AL

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Varsity Theatre - Baton Rouge, LA (January 26)

First "Cabin Fever" Show, 2011

Yonder's first show since their NYE concert was one I will never forget. I was visiting the South for the first time in a coon's age and I happened to make a couple of friends who were also into Yonder Mountain String Band while in Mississippi. I had no idea what to expect on my drive down to Baton Rouge. As soon as we found the venue we realized that it sits pretty much on the LSU campus. We got there early and parked right next to The Varsity Theater. There was a donation based coffee shop right next door to the venue at which we witnessed some college student organize a Rubix cube in under three minutes.

We went into the bar that was connected to the theater and immediately began to meet people that were there for the show. This show was the first time I have seen them east of the Mississippi river and the crowd seemed much more diverse than the shows I have been to on the West Coast and in the Rocky Mountains. There were quite a few college students and young professionals at the show as well as a lot of old time Yonder fans. The energy was like a cocktail made on Bourbon Street. The fans were ready to do some serious boot scootin'.

The show started and right away I knew it was gonna' be a good night. It was boot scootin' indeed. I haven't heard a "40 Miles" in a long time and the one they played in Baton Rouge hit the spot. The set continued to get better and better with an above average (sick!) "Oklahoma" followed by a phenomenal "Winds of Wyoming" where the band really seemed to be on point. All the boys were on fire, especially Dave singing those low notes and picking away at that banjo.

During the second set they opened up with my Mississippi buddy's favorite song "Catch a Criminal." Everyone seemed to be having a good time; especially the people up front who were jiggin' away to a stellar bluegrass band. Half of the people in there had never heard of Yonder before that night and their feet were stompin' just as hard as the Yonder veterans. I eventually made my way up to the balcony and did some square dancing with the local girls who were loving Yonder and telling me how free the music made them feel.

Between Classic Yonder favorites and a little Jimmy Cliff to mellow the mood everyone at The Varsity Theater in Baton Rouge, LA had a Good night of bluegrass. I'm willing to bet that all the people who saw Yonder for the first time that night will remember the name Yonder Mountain String Band .

Written by Jake Ridinger

Yonder Mountain String Band
1/26/11 Varsity Theatre, Baton Rouge, LA

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