Vinyl Music Hall - Pensacola, FL (February 15, 2012)

written by Eric Martin

Most people’s logic seems to lean towards, “I may have a free ticket, but 6 hours is a long way to drive back home at around 2 in the morning.” My logic works a little more like, “I got a free ticket! Let’s go to Pensacola!” 

Thanks to Lara Keithley, I was headed to Pensacola with a friend who had never seen Yonder. It was hard to tell in the car ride down who was more excited about his first show, but we were both ready for some Yonder. With my ears still ringing from Sunday's show, we pulled into beautiful Florida. We would soon find that Pensacola was more of a harbor town than a beach town, and after giving up on finding sand we walked around the city for a while. We immediately began meeting great folks and running into old friends, and everyone’s excitement eventually built to the point that we just had to go stand in line. 

Unfortunately, the security guy at the door told me I had to leave my camera outside the venue. I begrudgingly abided. The venue was pretty small, with huge bars along the side and a stage just big enough for 4 tucked in the left corner. We set up as front and center as possible, what was once a friend and I, now a crew of 8. 

I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t see the Stringdusters opening tonight, but was definitely looking forward to a night jam packed with Yonder. The guys would come out to a rowdy and ready crowd, most of them getting a kick out of Jeff’s Lady Gaga shirt. Since I had no camera tonight, I had a drink in each hand. We call that “The Jeff Winter”. A couple drinks and an “Aint No Way of Knowing” opener put an instant grin on my face; followed by “Too Late Now” putting a boogie in my feet. Afterwards, my first “Mossy Cow” really got me excited. How could it get better? How about a Dave tune? Yup, “Fingerprint” made it better and then a smoking “Idaho”, one of my favorites, and I knew this would be a show to remember (or try to remember). 

Around this time I looked to my friend, the Yonder virgin, and confirmed that he was as blown away as I was. Another one hooked. After they jammed a great “Death Trip” I got one of my ragtime favorites, “I’ll Never Love Anybody But You”, followed by “River” and “Another Day”. Not wanting to get too sentimental, they would change it up with a rockin' “Nothin' But Nothin'” before finishing the set with “Cuckoo’s Nest”> ”Bolton Stretch”.

Damn. We all decided we needed some “fresh air” after that set, so we set off for the designated smoker’s area outside since the venue had everyone’s favorite “No Re-Entry” policy. I had noticed that a guy without a photo pass had been allowed to bring his camera in, and I also noticed his big, fancy, and most of all RUDE flash atop his camera. Anyone who has ever shot a concert will tell ya, no flash. It is very rude and distracting to be blinding the performers, obviously. Thankfully I never saw him light the guys up with a nice, big, blinding flash, but it did make me a little irked I wasn’t allowed to bring my camera in. When we got to the smokers area, my car was literally inches away, so I squeezed past the gate, grabbed my camera, and headed back inside for second set. Nice!

But please don’t forget, thinking I wasn’t going to have my camera with me, I had been pulling “The Jeff Winter” most of the night. So I only got a handful, and a few of them were… let’s just say, as askew as I was. The second set would start off very strong. “Part 1” and then “I Am the Slime”! I waited to hear this cover for a long time, and since Harvest Fest have caught it 3 times. Sweet, sweet, validation. This version would even include a short “Muffin Man” reference. One of my favorite Zappa covers would be followed by my favorite Beatles cover, “And Your Bird Can Sing”. “Walking Shoes” would lead us into “Dreams”, then they really picked it up with “Get Me Outta This City”. At this point I couldn’t disagree more, Pensacola seemed a fine place to spend a Wednesday, but I do love some Drew Emmitt. And I wasn’t the only one enjoying myself. Some guy dancing, jumping around crazily, and screaming to everyone, “this is a once in a lifetime experience!”, also seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself. And I wasn’t too quick to judge this guy, I thought maybe he was just being really philosophical. If you think about it, which I did, I guess every experience is a once in a lifetime experience. I mean, even if I see Yonder at the same place same time next year, I will still have only seen them that specific time, once. But by the end of this song I just came to the conclusion that the guy was really drunk. By the middle of “Head of That Woman” some girl close by also reached that conclusion. She was none too happy with this guy's screaming and jumping. At the beginning of “Snow On The Pines” she proceeded to pick up the beer the guy had just knocked out of some girl’s hand, asked said girl if she wanted the rest of the beer, (half a beer) then proceeded to place her thumb in the opening of the bottle, and vigorously shake it, pouring beer all over the drunk guy. He at first relished in it, accepting it with open arms and pride. He then realized he was covered in cheap beer, and disappeared. I can’t say that I approve of this method, but at least I could pay attention to the show now. Good thing too, as this all went down right around an amazing “Snow” / ”Girlfriend” sandwich. Next Dave sang Dylan; “It Takes a Lot To Laugh”, followed by a mid-tour “Rambler’s Anthem”. After they sang about a rambler, they gave us advice about a rambler. If there’s still rambling in the rambler let him…… something. I can’t remember what they said.

“Rambler”> ”Illinois Rain”> ”Rambler” would round off the second set, and leave me and the rest of Pensacola wanting more. Much like the rest of the tour, it wouldn’t take long for them to come back onstage. Ben grabbed his bow and I immediately started thinking which songs it could be. I’m always hoping for one song in particular when Ben grabs the bow, and never expecting it; but they soon started those familiar opening notes to “Goodbye Blue Sky” and played one of the best versions I’ve seen yet. What a spectacular finish to a spectacular night. Only, they weren't not done yet. Next Dave showed off his prodigious vocabulary in “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down”. Every time they play this song I think I enjoy it more than the last. Anytime Dave gets to sing and make jokes in a song, I’m all ears!

And so another bittersweet ending to another great night. I wasn’t looking forward to heading back to Georgia tonight but I was definitely looking forward to heading back to Florida Sunday night. See ya in the next city!   

Written by Eric Martin

Yonder Mountain String Band
2/15/12 Vinyl Music Hall, Pensacola, FL

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