The Pageant - St. Louis, MO (March 31, 2012)

written by Dorothy St.Claire

Night two in St. Louis came on quick, and before we knew it, we were sitting in the Halo Bar - this time eating mac and cheese while we waited.  My food was good, but Michael Walker's buffalo chicken mac and cheese got quite the response from everyone who tried it.  Full and caffeinated, we were let into the Pageant where we set up for night two.  

Brown Bird played a great set.  It was still most of the same songs as the first two nights, but they closed with Johnny Cash's "Jackson".  This got the crowd jumping more than I had seen with Brown Bird, and was the perfect choice of a cover song for these two to play together.  Also, by this time I was becoming familiar with their songs and was really starting to get into them a lot more.  

"Going Where They Do Not Know My Name" opened the show and set the mood for the entire evening.  Everyone was bouncing and happy as Jeff sang "Steep Grade Sharp Curves", and I made my way to the side of the stage for a different view.  "Same guy from last night - just as damn good.  Adam Aijala on guitar!"  Jeff introduced Adam, whose first song of the night was "Honestly".  I was lucky enough to have been in the right spot at the right time for this one, because when the second half of the song started I felt the burst of energy from the crowd.  It was a very cool thing to watch the waves ripple through the audience as everyone danced under Ted's lights.  

"Kentucky Mandolin" was the first and only instrumental of the night, followed by "Loved You Enough", the first of many Dave Johnston numbers.  Then Adam took us into "Damned if the Right One Didn't Go Wrong" with the best guitar riff ever. Ben sang the hell out of it, and Dave and Jeff sure didn't disappoint, either.  "You can't say I didn't warn you!" Ben said after that one.  "Folks, give it up for DJ Jazzy Johnston on the 5-string love box of desire.  During that last song, he took me places."  They were determined to get us nice and sweaty, following "Damned" with "Free To Run".  But then, after a short pause to re-tune, they played "Night is Left Behind", and my heart skipped a beat as they played one of my all-time favorite songs.  "Pockets" came next, followed by the best singalong you will ever see, "40 Miles From Denver".  It sure is something to look out at all of our friends with their eyes closed, singing their hearts out.  They played "Shake Me Up" and then threw themselves into a raging "Raleigh and Spencer", closing the first set. Jeff knows just how to get the crowd in a frenzy, and that's exactly what he did before the band left us for their break.  

The set break felt pretty short, at least compared to what it can sometimes be with this band, and the second set started right away with "Pretty Daughter" and "All the Time".  Two fantastic songs that we were just waiting to hear.  Then Ben dedicated "Blue Collar Blues" to the main man, Todd, for helping him "put out a fire in California from the lobby of the Moonrise Hotel".  Although it's a sarcastic song, it's obvious that these guys really do love their jobs, and Todd definitely makes it easier for them.  After "Blue Collar Blues" came "Deep Pockets" and "Hill Country Girl", creating a menage a trois of Benny Galloway songs (Jeff's description, not mine), but then the feedback started and soon turned into "Sidewalk Stars".  This song has grown on me so much, and this was probably the best version that I have heard. The passion behind Ben's voice pushed through and I got lost in his driving bass notes.  The feedback returned and I came out of my groove just in time for Jeff to start singing "Ain't Been Myself In Years", completing one of the best two-song combos that Yonder puts together.  "Thank you, Benny Galloway!" Adam exclaimed when the song ended.  "Without him, this set tonight would be pretty weak."

Ben sang "Town" next, which he told us always makes him think about John Hartford.  I can see why.  It's a fun and playful tune.  Adam sang "Another Day", and there was some "Faith Hill-ing", before Jeff sang "Fine Excuses".  They were having a great time on stage and it was coming through in the band's performance. I thought the energy was high the first night, but it was totally overshadowed by night two.  Everything seemed to be coming together perfectly. Everyone was happy, and everyone danced and sang together.  "Little Rabbit" blended into "Traffic Jam", containing a really tasty Davey J solo, and then blended into "King Ebenezer".  It was a seamless transition, with the tempo of our dancing changing, but not the intensity.  "King Ebenezer" got real gritty and dirty, with the bass and mandolin spiderwebbing together towards the end, and Jeff making noises with his mandolin that I don't ever remember hearing before.  As the whole band blasted back into "Traffic Jam", I thought about how great it is that even though I knew they would come back to "Traffic Jam", I had no idea how it would happen.  It's always different, which builds on each show experience, and that makes it better every time.  

It was sad that we had already come to the end of this much anticipated two night run, but we still had a couple more songs to enjoy before some of us had to part ways.  The encore started with "Crazy" and ended with "Troubled Mind"> "20 Eyes"> "Troubled Mind".  It was a great way to end the show, but the night was still young, and I was ready to start my birthday celebration.  

Written by Dorothy St.Claire

Yonder Mountain String Band
3/31/12 The Pageant, St. Louis, MO

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