Arcata Theater - Arcata, CA (April 18, 2012)

written by Dorothy St.Claire

It was a beautiful, yet rainy drive from Napa to Arcata for my last Yonder show of Spring Tour.  My mom and I got settled into our room at the Arcata Hotel, and she stayed in and ate sushi while I met up with Brian and Rebecca for some pre-show dinner.  The three of us got in line nice and early, and almost immediately, the hippies started coming out, asking if we had any extras.  This tiny show was sold out, and a lot of folks had waited too long to get tickets.  We had a really nice time in line, but as it got closer to time for the doors to open, the problems started. Brian and Rebecca had bought pre-sale tickets from MusicToday, and as the doors opened, the list was still not at the box office.  Then the venue opened its doors, took Barb's ticket, didn't scan it, then realized they weren't ready and closed the doors on us again.  We waited almost another half hour before they let us in, and thankfully, they remembered taking Barb's ticket and didn't give her any trouble. Unfortunately for Brian and Rebecca, when the MusicToday list finally came to the box office, their names weren't even on it.  They ended up buying new tickets and getting in about 20 minutes after us.  So tell me, what's the point in buying pre-sale tickets if the list doesn't show up before doors, and when it does, it doesn't have your name on it?  Why stand in line for hours before the show in order to get up front, when you have to wait past doors for a list you're not even on?  Pre-sale ticketing should be for die-hard fans that can't wait for their tickets and can't wait to get inside the venue.  I have never seen ticketing through MusicToday go smoothly, and every Yonder fan I talk to thinks it's about time to use a different ticketing company for pre-sale.  Maybe if we all stop buying from them, they'll get the point.  Can't we just give our money directly to Yonder?  Oh well.  End of rant.

The Arcata Theater is a nice little venue.  There are multiple tiers, with tables and chairs at the higher levels.  The venue had created an odd little rail in front of the stage by stacking chairs and pushing the stacks under the stage.  It was weird, but it was nice - and it ended up being a necessary barrier for some of the crazier folks.  I absorbed my last Brown Bird set, thoroughly enjoying what had come to be my favorite songs of theirs: "Fingers to the Bone", "Blood of Angels", "Bilgewater", and "Nothing Left".  I came into this tour a little apprehensive about some unknown band opening for Yonder every night, and now I was coming to the end of the tour wishing for more.  

After Brown Bird finished their set, we watched as the crew took down their gear. These guys worked for the theater, and were the slowest dudes you've ever seen. It took three of them at least five minutes to wind up the cords on stage.  The look on Kevin's face as he watched them was priceless.  Needless to say, when they were done doing... whatever it was they were doing, it only took Kevin a few minutes to do... everything else.  

The show opened with Jeff and Dave singing "This Train is Bound for Glory", getting us started with a great gospel number.  I walked through the crowd during "Loved You Enough" and "Rag Mama", and let me tell you, the B.O. in this room was so thick you could taste it.  It buried itself in my hair, and clung to my clothes.  I can handle a little body odor here and there, but this was ridiculous.  The second thing that struck me about this crowd was how inconsiderate a great deal of them were.  Hardly anyone I passed would let me through the crowd.  They would look at me, look at my camera, and step in my way.  They would turn their backs to me and dance harder.  It was the most uncomfortable I have been at a show in quite a while, so I made my way back to my friends as fast as I could, through the non-obliging crowd.  

I got comfortable, back in my spot next to Gregg, Nilima, Brian, and Rebecca, as "Northern Song" kicked into high gear.  Adam rode this one like a runaway train, and it took my mind off of my negative experience in the crowd.  Then Jeff brought out an oldie, "At the End of the Day".  It felt like forever since the last time I heard this one, and we were all full of joy as we sang along.  The musical mood changed drastically, with "Nothin' But Nothin'" next.  The distortion at the end didn't die out, but instead changed its tone and turned into "I'd Like Off".  Rebecca and I looked at each other and laughed, having talked about this song earlier in the day.  The energy level and the audience's connection with the band dipped pretty low during this song.  The crowd became more interested in each other, and it started to feel like we were just standing in the middle of a packed bar, with everyone yelling over each other.  Thankfully "Red Rocking Chair" came through next and snapped people out of it (mostly).  I can't believe they played this one three times on this tour and that I was there for each one.  How does that happen?  You barely ever hear a certain song, and then things just turn around and you get it all the time.  I love it.

"Near Me" came next and was followed by "Not Far Away".  This was another one that Colin and I didn't hear for over a year, and now this was twice for me on this tour.  I freaking love "Not Far Away", and I was completely engrossed in each note that they played and each word that Ben and Jeff sang.  "Hot damn, Arcata!  Ya'll came out to party tonight, didn't ya?  Let's see what you do with this."  It was "Ten", and what we did with it was dance.  Hard.  This was the second time I heard this song on this tour, and both times Jeff sang the lyrics "mountain high, and river wide" an octave lower.  It sounded good, but very different, with the lower notes not giving the same feeling to the words as the higher notes do.  As the song fell into its groove, Adam took it away, solidifying his Spring Tour MVP status.  The crowd went wild, and there were many times where I got sprayed with liquid... hopefully water, or at the worst, beer.  I had to keep my camera safely tucked away for most of this show, because I  never knew when we would get rained on.  With a full, stand-alone "Ten", I thought it felt like the end of the set, a short set, yes... but it was not.  "Boatman" finished out the set and brought the crowd to an even rowdier state before the band left the stage.

I visited with Scotty a little during the set break, and met Beau and Gentry from the local Kinfolk street team.  It was pretty easy to get around now, because there was a strict non-smoking policy at this venue, and it seemed like damn near everyone went outside during the break.  Maybe the B.O. wouldn't have been so noticeable if people could smoke something indoors.  I mean, we were in Humbolt County, after all.  I managed to get back to my spot with my Kinfolk friends before the venue filled back in, and we savored our last set break together.

The second set opened with a heavy "East Nashville Easter", and then they came right out of left field with "Easy as Pie". This show had such a weird vibe, but it was peppered with real treats, including this one. They said they still didn't have a name for the next one, but Jeff called it "Jimmy Leg", and Adam repeated the title with a chuckle. This was my second time hearing this one, and I was thrilled to get it again on this tour. It was a Dave double-header, with "Polka On the Banjo" next. I did not see that one coming, and even though the band didn't gather together as Dave sang, we were all smiles as we did our best polka boogie. Ben sang "Straight Line", followed by Adam singing The Misfits' "20 Eyes". Jeff's "Shake Me Up" came next, and put a little more funk in my step. Ben completely took over in the middle of this one with a seriously funky bass solo, making this a "Shake Me Up" to remember. The boogie songs didn't stop there - "Damned if the Right One Didn't Go Wrong" kept us dancing - hard. Before playing it, Ben talked about the complexities of the guitar riff, stating, "Adam makes it look very very easy, and that's why he plays that thing, and I play this thing." "It would be cool if we could trade, though." Adam replied as he started teasing "Baked as a Rat", reminding me of my birthday show where they did just that. Dave had fun with his "Damned" solo, making the gaggle of girls in front of him probably the happiest people in the room. He also introduced the next song, in typical Dave fashion: "Looking down here at the setlist, and I can see that the next selection is a song that features the great state of California. It features its highways, it features its byways, its inter lands, its winter lands, its wonderlands, snowy mountain tops, dry deserts." While all this was happening, someone threw Jeff pair of glasses, which he wore for just a second before bursting into the aforementioned California song, "Steep Grade Sharp Curves". My new Kinfolk friend Beau had been yelling for this song, and when it finally hit, he made his way up front and raged it. I love seeing people get so excited to hear their song.

A little more bluegrass was in the cards for tonight, and I was overjoyed to get "Walking Shoes". That made this the second show on this tour where I got "Walking Shoes" and "Red Rocking Chair" in the same show. How fun! "Kentucky Mandolin" came next, sliding everyone into the familiar groove of this old favorite instrumental. "New Horizons" came next, and knowing that they usually sandwich this song, and knowing that a sandwich at this point of the set usually means the end of the set, I started to mentally prepare myself for this final handful of songs. It gets harder and harder to face the end of a run of shows, and I was not ready to say goodbye just yet. I danced hard to "New Horizons", excited and curious for what would be the meat in the sandwich. Ben grabbed his bow and broke it down with Jeff before Adam changed it around and brought in "They Love Each Other". I was so happy to be with Gregg and Nilima for their song, but I was sad to be between two sets of couples (not to mention the couple that nearly started having sex on top of Gregg and Nilima) and not have Colin there with me. Maybe I wanted to make out, too. Oh well. Luckily, with the end of "TLEO", the make out couple left, and we were able to enjoy the rest of "New Horizons".

The Yonder boys came out for their encore to a loud crowd and got ready for a couple last numbers as Ben introduced the first song.  "So this song seems appropriate, I think, in this particular place... No, it's not '2 Hits', but it's written by the same guy." "Holdin'" was the first song of the encore, which greatly pleased one girl in particular, who had been screaming for it for almost the whole show.  Brian gave her his spot, where she lit a doobie and danced her ass off.  It was so funny, after a whole night of no one smoking inside because of fierce threats by security, she just went for it.  I'm willing to bet she had more fun than anyone else that night.  Jeff thanked everyone for coming and for giving them so much love all throughout California, and finished the show off with a fast "Get Me Outta This City".  

This show was... different.  The band played great, like always, but were obviously distracted by the crowd.  None of us could believe how crazy this crowd was. There was almost no connection between the audience and the band, and I think this was due to the widespread lack of consideration for each other.  People spilled drinks on strangers without an apology, others hung on people and pulled on them without any sense of boundaries, and then there were the ones who would scream incessantly right in your ear, trying to yell at the band.  I know what a lot of people would say, "It's a concert.  That's how it is."  Unfortunately, that's how it is at some shows.  But that's not how it is at 90% of Yonder shows, and it really sucks when you find yourself stuck in one of these crowds.  Of course, not everyone at this show was a jerk.  There were plenty of wonderful people there, but the jerky ones are the ones that stood out and tainted our evening.  I hate writing negative things about a Yonder show, but I can't lie and say that everything about this show was great.  That being said, even the worst Yonder show is still a blast, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.  

Written by Dorothy St.Claire

Yonder Mountain String Band
4/18/12 Arcata Theatre, Arcata, CA

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