All Good Festival - Masontown, WV (July 16)

 “Hey everybody! You look just as lovely in the day time!”  Yonder stepped out onto the All Good Main stage to an extremely excited crowd.  All who witnessed their late night set last year had high hopes for this All Good.  But Yonder never disappoints.  It was the third day of the sold out festival, and it was hotter than hell.  Most had been anticipating Yonder’s 7:00 set for multiple reasons.  First of course was for the band.  Second reason, it signified the beginning of an epic evening, as well as the setting of the sun, which would provide the mountain with cool relief.  As it began to sink behind the stage we all knew we were about to be served yet another memorable set.  YMSB wasted no time setting the tone for their chunk of music to come, opening with a “fast-ass bluegrass” tune, “Casualty”. 

This year, I was attending All Good in a slightly different manner than last.  With a media pass on my wrist, I was granted access to the photo pit to shoot the show.  I was elated to have such an incredible view for photographic ability, as well as my need to be as close as possible at any Yonder show.  As the energy of “Casualty” flowed from the band to the crowd, I was caught in the middle, between the stage and the hill of 30,000 people.  I maneuvered my way around looking for good angles, but I couldn’t keep myself from dancing, or singing for that matter.  For me, being drowned in the sound of a band I’m shooting has somewhat of a meditative effect on me, and causes me to be more in tune with the visual perspectives I’m witnessing.  Quite an experience it was for me.  I’ve always brought my camera (The Stormtrooper) to Yonder shows, but have never before had the privilege of having room to work, and wiggle, at my disposal.  On a pure adrenaline rush, my finger relentlessly snapped the shutter.  I only had three songs to get the shots I wanted before I had to exit the pit.  As is customary at most festivals, there is by no means a lack of beach balls skimming across the crowd.  Just as well, there was nothing preventing them from smacking me in the head every twenty seconds.  But it was all good, because I was in the zone. The Yonder zone.

Next up, “Fine Excuses”.  Hell yeah.  I was really happy to hear that tune.  I’ve always had a personal relation to its lyrics.  “Fine Excuses” did a really good job of getting the crowd good and movin’, increasing the energy, and drawing in more people.  After that little number ended, it was clear the effect it had on the crowd.  Jeff noted how fired up we all were announcing, “God Damn! Let’s play some bluegrass music, make some dust rise…” Then Dave chimed in informing us, “Me and Adam wrote this next song… and it’s told from the point of view of a fence post”.  “Don’t You Lean On Me”.

Dave’s singing always brings out one of the various elements of the group that makes Yonder so dynamic.  All Good was turning into one giant party on the mountain.  You could tell the guys were taking notice of this, which in turn, predicted the vibe and energy of the set to follow.  They are great at feeding off of their audience and playing each song accordingly, which creates a different atmosphere every time.  Dave joked after the song saying that the mountain was looking quite festive, making him want to “throw on a bikini”. Ah that Yonder sense of humor!  I always get some good laughs from their quirky banter and character.  But I wouldn’t blame him either.  It was hot!

As I mentioned in my Summer Camp review, I had fallen in love with their new number “All the Time”.  So after having such a significant place for it in my heart, I hardly knew what to do with myself as they began to play it.  At this point, I had exited the photo pit and danced my way, luckily, front row, left side.  When the harmonious jam began, I was literally overtaken with emotion.  I won’t definitively say that this did or did not happen, but Yonder may or may not have brought me to joyous tears with that song.  Can’t explain it in words, only that it’s this feeling.  As Adam sang, I was near the point of a bluegrass breakdown, as I’d like to call it.  By the time it came to end with those powerful last strums, da-da-da-da-daaaaah, I was nearly gasping for breath.  Heart attack. Gave me chills all over.

Jeff took the time to inform the crowd of the special nature of that set for them as it signified the end of their three-week tour.  This only meant they would play harder as it was their last chance to get it all out of their system.  We were just the lucky beneficiaries of those circumstances.  Only the better for us!  Yonder is so in sync with their fans at all times, and you can really feel the appreciation they exude.  The next song to come was “Rag Mama”.  Exciting for us, as well as the happy girl in the audience who had sparked that little number.  They mentioned how they had pulled in on their bus that day to see the cute girl holding a cardboard sign with “Rag Mama” scribbled on it.  They took the opportunity to give back by playing it.  “Ah the power of the cardboard sign” they said.  As if we hadn’t been dancing hard enough, “Rag Mama” really got people to pick up their heels and move their feet.  The set was generating more and more energy with each song.  Not only was it emanating from the audience with more intensity, but the band was having a reaction as well.

The next song was for all of us.  This tune is a sure fired way to really bring the audience together.  It’s also a nice relic of the vast archive of Yonder music. So for those who might not be all too familiar with the band, this song can give you a little bit of an idea of what they're all about.  Pure unhinged fun! The funky little tune began as Jeff encouraged people to meet their neighbors, and the quirky little picks and pops of “Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown” began, getting everyone in the same mindset.  It’s also a great one to sing along to, and it sounded like the entire festival was echoing the band’s melody, projecting it up and over the mountain beyond.

“Two Hits” got everyone so excited, I think Yonder realized that it was necessary to continue heading on into the next high voltage jam by smacking us straight into “If You’re Ever In Oklahoma”.  I absolutely love this song and had not heard it since Harvest Festival last year.  It brings back awesome memories of my good friend Sarah who shares the same deep Yonder love as me.  At that moment I was wishing she was there, but it caused me to totally let loose and let the song take over.  By the time “Oklahoma” ended, I was slowly starting to realize that I was losing my voice.  It was a good feeling though because I realized I knew every incredible lyric they had sung so far.  When you get to sing along with Yonder, releasing those lyrics from inside that move you so intensely in your day-to-day life, that inspire you, and really find their way into your soul, it’s therapeutic, almost like a stress relief.

The crowd was getting really riled up, so Yonder took a brief pause to give the sweltering hot mountain and all who danced upon it a chance to cool down.  Ben joked around before kicking off the next song disclosing to the crowd,  “Normally I like to play this song with no pants on”.  Then “Complicated” began!  I was beginning to notice something different about Yonder at this point.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at the time, but looking back now I realize what that was.  Every time I see Yonder, it’s like they get better and better.  They become more and more inspiring.  It’s like each song they play reaches into your soul and lays down a thick coat of love that moves you to really allow their songs to effect you and remain with you forever.  They really touch your heart and soul.  The moment they arrive on a stage, you can tell that we inspire them as well.  It creates this incredible atmosphere of genuine kindness and appreciation for all the things you are fortunate to have.  Whether it be your friend next you, your ability to be at the show, or the temporary break from daily life that they provide, they really cause you to recognize the unity and shared passion we all have for music and how it changes peoples’ lives. 

I noticed how the band seemed to have their own party together on the stage as they were laughing and joking around with each other.  This to me is another reason Yonder seems so comfortable in their bluegrass skin.  Yonder may be a matured heavy hitting bluegrass band of (fine looking) men, but they have the souls of children.  Just pure fun.  All the time.  Such great vibes.  After “Complicated” came “Deep Pockets” and “Only a Northern Song”.  Both great ingredients to the delicious meal of a set they were cooking.  I couldn’t believe it when they played “One More”.  As I also mentioned in my previous review, I was devastated that I missed 30db’s set at Summer Camp, so when Jeff announced that he was going to sing a number he wrote with Bayliss, it was almost like retribution for me!  “Night Out” followed and did a great job, yet again, of maintaining the pace of the set.

The most memorable moment however came next.  Yonder took a moment to talk about Lilli Trippe, dedicating that next chunk of music to her.  We were instructed to dance harder than we had danced before, and form one giant ball of love and energy to send up to her.  It was an emotional moment.  What better of a mash up to do just that than “Ruby”>”Shake Me Up”>”Ruby”?  “Shake Me Up” is a new tune, and was the first song of the set I didn’t know.  “Ruby” on the other hand…man.  Probably one of my top ten favorites.  Last time I heard it was in Columbus this past February.  That song is a reminder of a really special time in my life.  That show was the beginning of the happiest era of my life so far.  Since that Columbus show, Yonder has had such a significant effect on my outlook on life.  I love that I can look back to the start of this time and say that Yonder began it all.

Just enough time for one more set closer.  “East Nashville Easter”.  The song brought a noticeably intense energy.  The level of the crowd's dance was nearly brutal, like a fire was lit under us all.  There was an element of rage to this part of the set.  Not rage like party rage, and not rage as in anger.  It was just an intense, flat out emotionally explosive moment.  That musical voltage surged until the very last drop.  After it was all over, I realized that that set may have been one of the most comprehensively sound Yonder sets I’ve seen.  For me, every element was there.  Nothing lacking.  Nothing but the perfect showcase of the band I love so much. 

Written by Alicyn Lane

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