written by Dorothy St.Claire
It took a long time for the venue to fill up, with a lot of space still on the floor when Brown Bird took the stage. By this time we were all getting to be very familiar with their songs, and my theory was that they hooked us with repetition. Seeing the types of shows that we see, it's not very often that we see bands play the same songs night after night. At first I was a little put off by this, but by the fourth show I was completely into it. Their set was fun and we boogied hard.
Yonder came out to a room-shaking roar from the crowd. People were ready to get down this Sunday night. "Howdy everybody, happy St. Patrick's Day." Jeff said as the noise from the crowd started to die down. "Today's a cool day, cause there's a lot of people's birthday that's today." It was nice to get a birthday shout out right at the beginning of the show, and lucky me, I share a birthday with Dave's mom and D. Boon. To celebrate, Yonder started the show with the Minutemen's "Corona". Good call. There are three things that I love about this song: the little guitar licks between vocal lines, the sound of Ben, Jeff, and Adam singing "I only had a Corona" together at the same pitch, and then when Adam belts out "five cent deposit!". It was a really good "Corona", and a smooth "Southbound" came next, with the lyrics just rolling off Jeff's tongue.
Ben quoted Bob Wills, "The banjo is an instrument of the devil and anarchy", and Dave's fingers flew over the strings of his banjo as he played one of his oldest tunes, "Mental Breakdown". After "Mental Breakdown", I started to make my way through the venue, saw the green lights come up, and heard the boys start "Holdin'". I joined Ted in his booth for this one, and had a great view of the whole venue bouncing - whether they wanted to bounce or not. "In the green shirt that has the misspelling on it, is Jeff Austin!" Ben introduced Jeff, who immediately started "Red Rocking Chair". Hell yes. I'll give it to your mamma next payday! I made it back to my spot on the rail in time for "Come Together", which was dedicated to Wrestlemania, and was followed by "Left Me in a Hole". Then came "Little Lover", and the more I hear this song, the more I am convinced that it is the perfect song. "My heart is racing like the scattered leaves, chased whichever way, the way the wind blows. If it kept raining I could keep from running, but I'm stuck inside the raindrops with a love I never knew." Those lyrics grab me and hold on for a really long time. Sometimes Dave still completely amazes me with his songwriting.
Jeff looked happy as he stepped up to the microphone, "I just love the fact that it's a Sunday and you folks are all here with six packs of beer." He told us about Scotty's description of the Oklahoma ladies carrying six packs on their belts. "Hang out with Party Party, he won't let you down." It's true. Not only can he sling some merch, but Scotty (also known as Slowbear; also known as Party Party) knows how to get down. Everyone was full of joy as the boys played "Keep On Going", but then at the break in the song something happened. I thought Ben was just switching basses, but then everyone was taking off their instruments and handing them to someone else. "So here's the deal, folks." Ben said as he adjusted Jeff's backup mandolin in his hands. "The band has changed. We're doing it like this from now on, and if you don't like it - tough. Cause that's the way it is, and I'm totally for reals." Dave must have very clean hands, because there he stood with Adam's guitar, while Adam looked right at home with Dave's Stealth banjo. Jeff started playing a chunky bass line on Ben's electric, and this new version of Yonder Mountain String Band played "Baked as a Rat". I think I was the most excited about seeing Dave on guitar. They all had fun with it, as did the rest of us. It was a fun April Fools treat. When it was done, they traded instruments again, so that everyone was back in their comfort zone. "Now, where were we? I don't remember." Jeff started, but then Ben picked up that "Keep on Going" bass line as if nothing had ever happened. "Oh, thank you. Now I remember." They finished "KOG" with an overload of energy, and went right into "Sideshow Blues" without even a pause. That sweet little sandwich finished off the first set, and we were more than satisfied.
The second set opened with one of my favorite set openers - "Dawn's Early Light". It's unlike any other Yonder song. It's so heavy, with a slower groove that makes it unforgettable. They jammed it out a little at the end, and as soon as we heard it start to change, Adam was on it with the opening to "Good Hearted Woman". The energy in the room skyrocketed as this song hit us all. The boys had to pause afterwards as the crowd erupted again. "I'm sorry you're having such an awful time out there. I apologize. I also apologize for 'Baked as a Rat'." Adam laughed. "Winds on Fire" was Dave's first and only song of the set, putting us back into a slow groove. "Idaho" was next, then Adam shared his concerns about the next song, "This is not pandering... Might be considered cheap." Well, it had been years since it happened, so we thought it was more than okay to play "Oklahoma" in Tulsa this Sunday night. This was definitely a high point in the show. It's hard to make an audience happier than you can by playing a song named after their state. We had a lot of friends with us who had never been to Cain's, and I had been really excited to have them at one of my favorite venues. Unfortunately, not all of them felt the same way about the place. By the time "Oklahoma" was in full swing, people were starting to be a little uncool. Lots of folks were just way too drunk and decided it would be a good idea to throw their beer cans - empty or not. Overall, though, the crowd was great, and we weren't going to let the few jerks in the place ruin our night. "We had to, because we love you." Jeff said as the cheers died down.
Ben switched to electric, playing the "Complicated" Eric and I had been waiting to rock out to... but there was no Eric. Damn. I did the "Complicated" dance a little bit for him, but I couldn't fully commit without him there. Next time. The extremely enthusiastic cheers continued after "Complicated". "You guys don't have to thank me for doing something that if I wasn't doing it I would probably kill myself." Ben laughed, with a mischievous grin. "You're welcome? I'm f*ckin' happy to do it. Kinda feel like one of the lucky ones, to be quite frank." Awesome, Ben. Then Jeff dedicated "What the Night Brings" to his good friend Brendan Bayliss, getting pretty emotional as he sang. It's not hard to see why, lives change and bring people to wonderful new places, and Jeff has experienced some big and positive changes recently. It was a great moment. Jeff and Ben then sang a Colorado song, "Not Far Away", written by Benny Galloway. Holy smokes. The last time Colin and I heard "Not Far Away" was at the Big Top show in 2010. That's way too long for such a great song. "Naughty Sweetie" came next, with Ben saying that it's a really fun song to sing - as long as he doesn't screw it up.
"Cuckoo's Nest" came next, and I could feel the end of the set coming. I wasn't ready. These four nights raced by. But, the end of a set is always easier to deal with when it's filled with greatness. "Cuckoo's Nest" rolled into "Snow on the Pines", and I couldn't have been happier. It was a stand-alone "Snow", giving the boys plenty of room to let go and jam it out. Jeff added plenty of pedal as he and Adam broke it down, with Adam throwing in his porno guitar riff before they brought it back around with the best crescendo in history. As "Snow" came to an end, I felt so thankful to have had such a good birthday show to finish off such a fun run of shows. But soon it became obvious that this wasn't the end. They sped things up again and took "Snow on the Pines" into "Bolton Stretch". Oh, thank you. It was amazing. It was everything you could imagine. Unfortunately, a final beer can was thrown, and when they came out for the encore it looked like Jeff had had enough. The encore was a short "Rambler's Anthem", cutting out the "New Speedway Boogie" that we later saw had been on the set list. That's what happens when you throw sh*t. You piss people off and you don't get as much music. I hope you've learned your lesson, sh*t throwers.
The first week of Spring Tour was a complete success. We had four spectacular Midwest shows at some of our favorite places, ending with Cain's on my birthday. It's like this week was made for us. We hated saying goodbye to our friends, but we were only a couple weeks away from reuniting with our West Coast Kinfolk. Life is good when you love Yonder.
Written by Dorothy St.Claire
|Yonder Mountain String Band|
4/1/12 Cain's Ballroom, Tulsa, OK
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