Liberty Hall - Lawrence, KS (March 29, 2012)

written by Dorothy St.Claire

It felt really good to finally be back at Liberty Hall.  It had been such a long time since Yonder's last trip to Lawrence, and even though we only had one night this time, we were excited to get to start the tour in one of our favorite places.  It was an odd feeling being at Liberty Hall without Junkyard there to bug us the whole night, but even though there were a bunch of folks we were missing, there were still a lot of great Kinfolk there for the beginning of Spring Tour and Nickolus' birthday celebration.  

Brown Bird opened the show.  I checked them out briefly online, but I didn't want to listen to too much before seeing them live.  I really enjoyed their set, and it appeared that everyone around me did as well, but I wondered what they would be like night after night.  Would they play the same set?  Only time would tell.  

"We're pickin' this one for Earl Scruggs tonight, everybody."  Jeff spoke the exact words we wanted to hear as we stood Dave-side, ready to go banjo-crazy.  They opened with "No Expectations", easing us into the night.  "Polka on the Banjo" came up next, and by that time we were all warmed up and dancing hard.  Then Jeff came through with the intro of all intros, "Whether you're baking a birthday cake (happy birthday), or a big old wedding cake (happy wedding birthday), or just having some cupcakes not come up properly in the oven - whatever you do, things are always better, things are always more improved when you use the one, the only, the ultimate self-rising flour, Martha White's with hot rize!"  Holy cow, they played "Martha White".  Then to top it off they followed it with "Dear Old Dixie".  I really love everything Yonder does, but whenever they start playing old bluegrass numbers, I am as happy as I can be.  

"Northern Song" was next, and I thought Adam's solo was better than ever.  This would be the first of many times that Adam surprised me on this run.  Then Dave took over and that was it.  I had to just throw my hands in the air.  It never gets old, and this band just keeps blowing my mind.  A pedal-heavy "Criminal" followed, adding some funkiness to the show.  After that, Ben talked about being cooped up at home with the baby and how good it was to be on the road... even though it was only three weeks since Cabin Fever ended.  Then came one of my favorite moments of our four night run: "Cryin' Holy".  I had been waiting years and years to hear this song again, the last time being at the Boulder Theater in 2008.  It was all I imagined it would be, and more.  

Dave sang "Fingerprint" next, which was followed by "New Horizons"> "Mother's Only Son"> "New Horizons".  That was nice.  Those first notes of "Mother's Only Son" always bring such a comforting feeling.  We had a nice little groove with this sandwich before it wrapped up and we found ourselves in the set break.

Set two opened with "Up on the Hill Where They Do the Boogie", making sure everyone was indeed boogying.  Jeff's noodling gave away the next song, "Boots", but it was still awesome to hear this one.  It had been a while.  "Ripcord Blues" was next, and Dave had a little moment where he forgot the words.  But, he brought it back together nicely. "Let me be your cannonball, you can be the cannon in the rain, ... from what it was... get your parachute"  "That's Dave Johnston," Adam said, pointing down the stage. "You know, if you didn't change the lyrics so much you might remember 'em."  "I really forgot them," Dave replied, "so I had to just take it out there on the fly."  Then it was time for a little more Flatt and Scruggs, with a song that gives Dave a chance to show off his linguistic skills, "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down".  It started innocently enough with the usual, "Oh honey", but in subsequent verses progressed through different banjo terms, including "boogie-woogie" and "alternating thumb", finally ending with "We'll miss you, Earl".  

"Pain in My Heart" came next and continued the Flatt and Scruggs theme, while also being the first song Adam would sing at this show.  Finally!  Then, what do you know, another Scruggs instrumental, "Groundspeed".  By this point in the show, we were all pretty much melted to a puddle at the end of the stage.  I know it wasn't just the music, but it was brutally hot.  Luckily, I had my trusty fan - like always. "Finally Saw the Light" came at the perfect time; allowing us to slow down and cool down while we enjoyed the smooth voice of Ben Kaufmann.  The bounce in our steps picked up as they played "Winds of Wyoming", then it turned into more of a sway and stomp as they played "Ragdoll".  

The crowd was rowdier than I've ever seen it in Lawrence, prompting Ben to say, "I only have two questions: what did they give you? and where can I get some?" Adam added, "It's a great way to start a tour, I'll say that.  So, thanks."  "Jail Song" was next, followed by one of the best chunks of music ever.  Seriously, it was what everyone was talking about all week.  "Midwest Gospel Radio"> "On the Run" for jam of the year.  It was a fully instrumental "Midwest Gospel", putting us all in a trance, so that when "On the Run" blasted in, we all found ourselves in Yonder bliss.  These two songs gave us the best of Yonder, giving all of us one of those moments that are the reason why we do this night after night, mile after mile.  They finished off this jam of the year with "2 Hits and the Joint Turned Brown". Sometimes I don't like this song, sometimes I do.  This time I did.  After the jam we just got out of, it was the song that brought us to the end of the show.  The song that cleansed our pallets of the rowdiness we had just danced through.  The song to pull it all together.  Also, Ben's "2 Hits" bass solo was the best I've ever heard.  

"Usually it takes me 2 1/2 weeks to sweat through denim of this quality!" Ben said as they came out for their encore.  Yeah, it was hot.  And so was the "Casualty" that came next.  I love it.  "You folks were f*ckin' sh*t up tonight, good job!"  Jeff said with a grin, "This is a song for all you ladies out there that are drunk right now. 'Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, and Loud Loud Music!'"  I think that was the perfect way to end this show, and this show was a smokin' hot beginning to our Spring Tour.  

Written by Dorothy St.Claire

Yonder Mountain String Band
3/29/12 Liberty Hall, Lawrence, KS

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