Boulder Theater - Boulder, CO (December 29)

For the first two nights, we felt like we had all the time in the world.  But then night three hit us.  We could feel the halfway mark closing in on us, but we were still able to hold on to a tiny bit of denial.  As we stood in line, we felt the cold wind pushing against our aching joints, but we had each other to keep our moods warm.

On this third night of the run, the stage progressed into a vision of Telluride.  The band came out on their own, and as we were all welcomed to Telluride, we felt as if we could have actually been there.  "We're Yonder Mountain.  Day three of the journey.  Return of the Jedi."  Jeff started to pluck a few familiar notes, and I looked around and found that Max was right by me and we would enjoy "Polka on the Banjo" together.  The way it should be.  The band huddled around Dave, who immediately took over and rocked the house.

"Good evening, everybody!  I'm feeling excited.  It's this sort of bubbling excitement.  It's kinda nice."  These were Ben's words right before kicking off "Part 1".  There were a couple juicy moments in this song that made this version one of my favorites.  I love this song, and even though I think they should follow it with "Bolton Stretch" more often, I always love hearing it.  Right away, Adam kicked off a fast and precise "Idaho", and I was in the Yonder groove, so happy that we got a little bit of pure Yonder on this run - just the four guys doing their thing.  After "Idaho", Ben introduced Jeff as "the greatest bass player you never heard of in your life!", and I was curious to see if we would find out for ourselves.  Jeff dedicated the next song to Kristen and Aaron, playing "Out of the Blue".  After that, Ben thanked everyone for selling out the place (again), and played the lovely "Someday's Reunion".

After "Someday's Reunion", we were ready to move our feet, and "Ripcord Blues" did the trick.  And, as always, Ben's bass slap brought some words out of Dave, "How about a hand for 'Cherry Bomb' Ben Kaufmann over there."  Ha!  I love it. "Just Like Old Times" was next, and I personally could go without hearing this song for a while.  It was a treat when it was brought out earlier this year, but I don't think we need to hear it multiple times on each tour.  Adam brought the tempo back up with "Another Day", which always puts a smile on my face.  Especially this time. Maybe it was just me, but tonight's "Another Day" felt bouncier and more exuberant.  Then it was another one of my favorite tunes to bounce to, "Casualty". I remember in Bloomington last November Pearhead said to me that he was on a huge "Casualty" kick, and I think I know exactly where he was coming from. Adam's first solo in this song is one of my favorites and he played it perfectly (of course), and then Jeff came in and melted our faces with his solo, and when Dave came in with his second solo he just took it to a whole new level.  And all of this madness on top of that driving bass line.  Sorry... I guess I am on a "Casualty" kick.

Jeff told us a story about standing in the back alley of the Boulder Theater - with a lightning bolt crashing down and a black hole coming towards them from the sky and spitting out Futureman, from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.  It was a pretty freaking sweet introduction.  Futureman sat down at a drum kit, Adam strapped on an electric guitar, and this new rock n roll Yonder kicked it into "One More".  I must confess, originally we had planned on going Dave side for this show, but we heard the sound check from the cold line outside and knew we had to be Adam side to witness the electric madness.  It was awesome.  The sound coming out of that guitar took me back to my metal days, and I was on top of the world as they played a crazy fast and wailing "Corona".  Unfortunately, we heard that this song didn't sound that great from the balcony... but up in the front, it f*cking rocked.  If my chiropractor wouldn't scold me, I might have felt like headbanging to that one. Then, the weirdest thing happened.  Ben sat down at a piano (that I couldn't see from my spot), Dave grabbed the Stump, and Jeff strapped on Ben's electric bass. Yes, Jeff on bass - we were going to hear proof of Ben's earlier statement.  The song was a new one of Ben's, "Used To It", and I'm not used to this one yet, but I really like it so far.  I'm interested to hear what it sounds like with the four guys on their usual instruments.  Or will this be a song that is always played with a little switcheroo?  I guess we'll see!  Everyone switched back to their usual instruments, and with Futureman still on drums, played "Up On the Hill Where They Do the Boogie". Then it was already set break time.  The halfway mark in our week.

Set two started with "Keep On Going", the ultimate feel-good Yonder song, and with its abrupt end came the immediate start of "My Gal".  Jeff won a gold medal for his "Over the Waterfall" solo (I got mine earlier for being first in line).  It was a killer "My Gal" that upon its end immediately transitioned back into "Keep On Going".  Good way to start the set.  Adam sang "Jail Song", which was followed by the return of the Stump and Dave singing "Just the Same".  I sure do love "Just the Same".  It was a great night for Dave.  Jeff dedicated "Ten" to Ron Santo, saying "Justice is done a year too late".  This was a typically awesome "Ten" through most of the song, and then the melody changed into something that felt like the sun coming up, and Jeff sang something about "coming home".  It was really beautiful, and it led us into the end of "Ten", getting me to whip my newly short hair back and forth.  During a short pause to tune up and have a drink, the crowd started screaming louder and louder, "We've said it many times folks, don't hold that stuff in!" Ben said to the excited crowd, and sang "Sometimes I've Won".  What can I say about this song?  It has such powerful lyrics that sometimes I can't help but get a little teary watching Ben sing this one.

"Honestly" started, Annie and I looked at each other, and I had a good feeling.  We slow-jammed to the first half of the song, and as it reached its breaking point, Adam strummed faster and faster, and we were taken into an "Honestly">"Honestly" sandwich.  It was good, and we danced hard.  After that, it was time for more drums in our lives, so Futureman joined the band on stage once again.  Yonder Mountain Rock Band started with "Criminal", which was real nice with the drums, electric guitar, and the funky pedal goodness.  Ben's voice also made a change, reflecting the rock and roll course the song had taken.  Then Jeff started strumming, "Let me ask you a question.  Where my freaks at?!"  This started one of my favorite versions of "Sideshow Blues" ever.  Adam was back on acoustic guitar, the drums created this whole new feel to the song, and there was no way anyone could deny the urge to dance during this one.  You can always tell when Adam's having a good time, because he starts to bounce in his knees - this was happening now, for sure.  "I go to church on Sunday, and it ain't anywhere near as fun as this!"  Damn right, Jeff!   "Sideshow Blues" might not have been a song that we expected to hear with drums, but the next one, "Pockets", certainly was, and it was pretty sweet with the electric guitar, as well.  At this point in the show, I was enjoying Futureman, but was very glad that he wasn't on stage all night.  A whole show of Yonder with drums would have been too much, but what we got was just right.  They picked the right songs for drums (I think Eric guessed five of the songs while waiting in line), and we all got to experience a different kind of energy.

As Adam retuned and strummed a couple power chords, I felt the shiver run down my spine and I could hear Jeff say to Adam, "Do it again!".  My thoughts exactly. "Fingerprint" came next, and was probably my favorite song on the electric guitar. Normally, my favorite part of this song is Adam's distorted solo, and now the whole song had that element to it.  Awesome.  "Hands up, who's got chapped lips?"  Ben asked, just as I was wondering to myself where I had put my chap-stick amongst all of my things.  A super long "Shake Me Up" was the last song of the set, and I guess I just wasn't ready for the end.  The flow of this show was quite different from the regular flow, and I was shocked that the end had come.  Kevin brought out a couple lyric sheets for Jeff, and I could pretty much guess what song it was going to be.  A few of us joke around about Jeff needing lyric sheets for certain songs, yet he can remember all the words to "Darkness and Light".  The band came back out, complete with Futureman, and played a funky "Come Together".  I was pretty excited, mostly because I was wearing a Coca Cola shirt and Coke is mentioned in this song.  Nerd.  Luckily for us, tonight was a two song encore night, and it ended with "Whipping Post".  Hell yes.  Usually, I don't expect to get a special treat in the encore, but this band likes to exceed our expectations; and with this song, they did.

And just like that, our New Years Eve run had passed its halfway mark and we were thrown into the whirlwind of the last two nights of the year.

Written by Dorothy St.Claire

Yonder Mountain String Band
12/29/11 Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO

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