Back when this little Midwest summer run was announced, I was so thrilled that I was getting jitters months before the actual dates. Hearing that Yonder was doing Summerfest, where I first saw the band in 2008, and then an Iowa show the day after, I knew exactly what days to request off for work (it seems like the only days I ever request off are Yonder dates). So a few friends of mine and I made the two hour trip to Summerfest and right back to the suburbs of Chicago for as much rest as possible for the killer Iowa show we were all anticipating.
Waking up at noon was not the original plan, but we all quickly gathered our necessities and were soon off for the long six hour drive ahead of us. We all were nervous wondering if we had left too late for the show and we were going to miss the set opener, however, we pulled into Des Moines about twenty minutes before the show, thank the lord! We parked the car and ran across the street into the line where almost immediately we were greeted by some friendly faces, Max and Carin with a couple of new Yonder faces.
We all managed to get into the venue and buy a couple of beers each just minutes before the Yonder boys made their way to the stage. As we made our way closer to the stage, I ran into one of the friendliest faces, Colin, which put a huge smile on my face. I remember the lawn was packed with tons of members of the kinfolk and the two neighboring bridges with even more spectators lined up ready for the show to begin.
After a brief welcoming from Jeff, the show began with a long "Well!!!," and we all knew what was in store for us now. The band started their show with a long segue of songs beginning with a “Ramblin' in the Rambler” right into “Southern Flavor”. After the second song I was already short of breath! Ben then busted his electric bass out and played John Hartford's “Goodle Days”.
Then the band explained how there was a list of song requests that were made for the show and Ben came up and explained how this next song was not one among the lists and said "If you don't like this song it's nothing to do with you it’s not your fault at all doesn't that feel good? It's no pressure for you, all the pressure on me!" Just then Ben started with another crowd favorite, “40 Miles from Denver”.
The band then introduced Dave's mom, who was among the crowd that night, then went right into Dave's instrumental, “Strophe for an Unsung Albatross” (love that title for a song). Then there was a short minute of silence then a sudden "If you're livin’ good...and you're feelin’ right, you gotta tell ‘em what you want to!" Everyone looked around and knew what was coming, but little did I know it was going to be the most raging, gut-wrenching “Jesus on the Mainline” I would have ever seen live to date.
Adam then started up “A Father's Arms”, which he explained was one of the many requests that were made for the show. I immediately called my good friend Katie, who is like a sister to me, and was not at the show, because it's one of both of our favorites and I knew how much it would mean to her to hear it. After the song ended I received a text from her saying "OMG TOM I CRY EVERYTIME!!!!! I love you, thank you, you just made my weekend :)" Just knowing how Yonder has spread their joy and love to so many people put the biggest smile on my face.
Jeff then transferred all the crowd's attention to the front row where a young girl named Gabby was sitting and sang Happy Birthday for her 7th birthday. Jeff went straight into a crazy intense “Traffic Jam” for Gabby and Austin's birthday (another young Kinfolkian in the crowd). Yonder continued to jam right into “Whipping’ Post”, originally by The Allman Brothers. I remember jumping around for literally ten minutes straight and almost collapsing from not being able to breathe as it seemed nearly impossible to stop gettin' down. The boys jammed right back into “Traffic Jam”, which nearly stole my face; I was in love with this jam!
I was thankful that Yonder slowed the tempo down after this and played my favorite instrumental, “Midwest Gospel Radio”. It was a perfect song to play down by the river, as you can see both the sun setting and the moon already raised in your view of the stage, absolutely beautiful. The end of the song was sped up with Jeff’s mando pickin' and then came to a sudden halt.
Jeff then stood in front of the mic making random poses, as if readying himself for something. I was not sure if anybody else knew what was about to happen, but I was certain I knew what was coming. "That 500 bucks you loaned him that you will never see!" and sure enough it was the “Rambler Reprise” to end the set. Many people have heard or seen similar sets like this, but it was my first time seeing Yonder open a set with “Ramblin in the Rambler” and closing the set with the reprise and I absolutely loved it!!
Set break came as the sun was fully set and it seemed like over half the crowd left their spots to get their beer refills and use the restrooms, typical. I thoroughly enjoyed the set break bluegrass music as I never stopped dancing even after the first set ended. It seemed like one of the shortest set breaks I've ever been at and before long everyone was gathered around the same spots they were in before and Yonder came on stage after a huddle backstage.
The band started strummin' with Jeff singing "My little one!" It could only be a “RUBY” opener!! What a great way to get the crowd stompin' their feet again after set break. Just a couple minutes in, my buddy Max tapped me and told me it's for sure “Rubyside”. Then I heard Ben's familiar bass line and Jeff started ranting "If you don't believe I'm right you better follow me down" and of course Max was right. The stage lights became dark with red and green lights shining upon Jeff’s face and it grew a bit scary as Jeff was using an effect that changed his voice to sound almost evil. In my opinion, the light show during this “Rubyside” opener made it absolutely disgusting!
After finishing the jam back into “Ruby”, Ben stated how they played "one kind of a love story to another kind of a love story" and explaining how this next song was a request which put the pressure back on Ben. Adam then gave Ben some moral support telling Ben "its a good song man, don't get down, bro." After thanking Adam for giving him confidence, Ben started his song “Someday's Reunion”. I love this Ben song in particular because it always makes me think of my significant other, Jess, as Ben sings "for a while, I looked into her eyes, remembering their light, just like the stars at night" and I had the pleasure to dance a slow one with my girl.
After enjoying a slow jam, everyone was quite thrilled to hear Dave's old original instrumental “Mental Breakdown”. Jeff then played one of his newer tunes, “Lay It On the Line”, which has become one of my new favorite songs they have recently come out with. After enjoying “Only A Northern Song” and Danny Barnes's “Pretty Daughter”, the band bantered about how tourists in the hotel in front of the venue were most likely requesting room changes due to the loud madness that was occurring next to the river.
My jaw then dropped as Jeff's explosive mandolin intro to “Spanish Harlem Incident” began and I looked next to me at Alyssa and shouted "Oh Sh*@!!!!!!!" with excitement. Then the band had a short little jam in which Jeff was rambling about talking to friends in the crowd and saying "just Keep On Going" and jamming into just that.
Every member of the Kinfolk family was feeling the love from everyone there that night and just continued to boogie. Just then, “Keep on Going” was jammed into other crowd favorites, “Part 1 (Lord Only Knows)” and “Mother's Only Son”. Then began the unforgettable bass line to “Keep on Going” again. I don't think there was one person in the crowd that was not singing during this last jam, everyone's spirits were definitely lifted.
The set then ended with everyone screaming and whistling for more. Yonder came back out and Jeff stated "this is one of our favorite places to play music, it really is! I mean that extremely sincerely, you Midwest peeps are the best, that’s the way it goes." He then continued on, saying they will play this last one as long as everyone keeps dancing. Then Jeff started off again on his mando beginning Boatman's Dance. I looked around and saw everyone's arms flailing as if they were one of those huge inflatable people whose arms go wild with the wind. Never wanting this set to end, I made sure that I never stopped jumping and dancing my ass off.
Unfortunately, the song ended and the band said their thanks as I shouted for three more songs. However, my luck had run out and the show was over. Jeff gave away his pick to Gabby who was still having a blast front row and center. No one wanted to leave all of our beautiful Yonder friends but it being about 12:30am, I knew It was time to depart as I was the lucky one who had to drive back sober to the suburbs of Chicago, a full six hours.
We said our goodbyes, which lasted longer than expected, and we were on the road yet again. It was not long till after we were on the highway out of Des Moines that everyone in the car was passed out. I had the joy of driving everyone home while rockin’ out to the radio as we listened to all the Phish and Yonder on the drive out. I did have more fun driving than I thought I would as I got my “Electric Avenue” played on the radio along with a few other oldies. After several pit stops to use restrooms (and also the middle of roads to pee, just for John) and a trip to McDonalds for breakfast, we were home in the burbs again with the sun fully risen.
After dropping everyone off at their houses, Jess and I went back to her house where I laid awake for hours, still hopped up on the 5 hour energy shot I took for the drive home. Though I got only an hour or two of sleep that night, the trip was worth it entirely. To this date, it was one of my most fun Yonder concerts I've been to because of the reunion with long missed faces and a killer set. Thank you all for making this so memorable!
Written by: Tom Clinge
|Yonder Mountain String Band|
7/8/11 Simon Estes Amphitheataer, Des Moines, IA
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