Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden - Richmond, VA (May 24, 2012)

written by Kelli Scott

Friends, Flowers and Four Boys with Strings. I had been looking forward to this day since the tour date was announced! It was a combo straight out of my own heart, Yonder and a botanical garden. Jamie and I traveled to Richmond to meet our friends, Chris and Becky, and we all headed to the gardens. I was super excited for this show...I was not only getting to see Yonder and some of my favorite Kinfolk, but I also had the opportunity to walk around Lewis Ginter once again. LG is a botanical garden I love to visit on my travels to Richmond. Haymaker Productions has teamed up with LGBG to offer the "Groovin in the Garden" concert series. 

The day was very overcast and the skies looked full of doom and gloom, but I kept good thoughts in my head, "It's not going to rain, It's not going to rain...NO RAIN". Last year's May Richmond show was canceled due to heavy rains, lighting and thunder.

We arrived at the garden to find the fabulously famous Michael Walker and Ann & Jim Katz waiting in line. I stayed and waited with the "front row faithful crew" while Jamie, Chris, and Becky went to get some grub. The wait was not too long. We could view the gardens from the line. Folks started to gather and, of course, everyone was talking about upcoming summer tour, Kinfolk Celebration, and MEXICO. The gates opened and the garden lawn slowly started to fill up with blankets and lawn chairs. There was a great overhang at the lip of the stage to protect us, just in case it did rain.... 

As we were waiting for the show to start, Ted and Jeff came down to chat with us. Jeff began telling us how his day was not going so well. The guys were at soundcheck and something was apparently wrong with his mandolin. Hines said, "Jeff I can't hear you...what's up?" Jeff said, "Nothing...I just played a gig last week...everything is fine"... Then Jeff looked down at his darling mando to see the bridge had a crack right in the middle, hence the reason for the lack of its sweet melody from being heard. Richmond was the first day of summer tour, and also the first day of a 4 day festival run. The guys were not on a long tour...they did not have all their own equipment. It was a fly in, get the bus for 4 days, fly out kind of run. In a longer stretch, with all their own equipment, Jeff would have 2 mandolins and there would be no problem, but this Thursday in the garden, Jeff only had the one, broken mando. What are they going to do??? OH NO! Disaster strikes Richmond again!

Luckily, Richmond is not totally cursed...Hines got on the horn and found a Kentucky mandolin for Austin to borrow for the night, and it did not rain! (more on the borrowed mando story later...) As soon as the show started, the skies cleared and the sun began to shine. It was as if the sunset wanted to peak through the clouds to smile down on us and get a view of the amazing time that was going on in the garden! We were also graced by a beautiful, bright rainbow streaking down from the dark clouds behind the stage. "Yonder brings Rainbows!!!" :):):) 

The show stared with the flutters of "Looking Back Over My Shoulder" and lead into a happy "Boatman" to get the crowd going. Jeff was doing well with the borrowed KY mando. Of course, he was not as comfortable with the Kentucky as with his little Nugget, but he was holding his own and bringing the energy! Ben addressed the crowd and said, "You can book a gig, but that doesn't mean that it's going to be cool, so THANKS for making it cool!". It was then Adam's turn. He opened up by saying, "Glad we were able to play this year....sorry about that", (referring to last year) and broke into a jazzy, funky, danceable "Pockets". It was on! The first set allowed for lots of dancing room, and I took full advantage :):):). And I met a great dance partner with some old school cowgirl boots. 

Next it was Dave's turn to unleash his hot 5 string with a little advice about..."that ain't eye to eye sweetheart, 'Don't You Lean On Me'". Dave has been ON FIRE for a while now and this night was no exception! His banjo rolls just keep going and going, and I love the little side to side dance he does with his banjo.

Now it was time for a little bluegrass with the classic "Country Boy Rock N Roll". This song is like an anthem of my life. It tells a story of a farmer that has left everything in the country to rock n roll in town... somehow the story is very familiar! :):):) Things got down and dirty with my favorite, "Ragdoll"! Oh, this f*&kin' song! I LOVE the lyrics, I love the rifts, the groove...ALL OF IT! I just wish it were longer. They could put this one on 'repeat' and I would be fine. Adam followed up with a story of a "Night Out" and a place that can "fill me up when I'm down". Dave then drove home some more banjo magic and gave us a nervous twitch with his "Mental Breakdown". 

Jeff then gave a big shout out to the master, Doc Watson, who was in critical condition in a Winston-Salem, NC hospital after surgery. He then lead the band into the lullaby of "Half Moon Rising". I don't know how Jeff had the experience to write this type of song at such a young age, but I'm truly grateful of his wisdom and talent to do so. It is one of the sweetest, most reflective songs I have ever heard...and don't forget Ben's favorite! 

The first set was heating up, and it was time for the first big jam sandwich of the night. The bottom layer started off hard and in your face with the strong beat of "On the Run". The boys caught their stride and took off with this one. Everyone was bringing their best and jamming out! The solos were clean and crisp. "On the Run" slowed down and the tease of a tight jam began...Ann turned and said "'Pretty Daughter'"! They unleashed the Bad Livers song like an open flood gate of string rhythm. I fell in love with this tune on Cabin Fever Tour. It gets into your head and will not let go. The fast beats and heavy solos, paired with the harmonies in the chorus, and Jeff's energy to deliver the lyrics are unmatched! Crazy how I can love a song about such a disturbing topic...but I DO! We were not done, yet. The Dunt...Dunt...Dunt-Dunt-Dunt of "On the Run" was to finish the jamwich. 

The sun fully went down during set break (half-time), and the evening air allowed us all to catch our breath.

The second set started with "Raleigh and Spencer". I haven't heard this one in a while. This song has so many quotable lines...but the venue was very appropriate for my favorite one, "you can stomp on the flowers that grow around my grave, but they will rise up and bloom again"...Perfect for a botanical garden set. Jeff made mention of the clear skies and beautiful night and how we all deserved it! Next came the story of a long, roaming and rambling travel, and what it takes to be away from home for 30 days with "Rambler's Anthem". "Up on the Hill Where They do the Boogie" and a story of Jeff's truck stop experience from the night before was next. Followed by a song that transported the boys away from the humid, moist southeast back to their home high and dry in Colorado/CA with the always funky "Criminal". Adam then played his beautiful classic, "Rain Still Falls". By this time, the crowd had really grown and it was getting rowdy. The dance space of the first set was gone, but we still managed to make space and keep the groove going. 

Tonight's setlist was made totally of online requests. A local guy from Richmond really wanted to hear "40 Miles From Denver" and he got his request the middle of the 2nd set. Then Dave made everyone aware he was "no guarantee" with his bluegrass tune, "Little Lover"; another example of the wonderful, creative talent that continues to come out of YMSB these days. Then it was back to Adam for "All the Time"; great lyrics. Jim was really happy to hear this one, and the crowd got heated up by "Steep Grades, Shape Curves".

Jeff then told the story of the broken bridge on his little Nugget and how he came about borrowing Jarron Lippin's Kentucky mandolin. This is a little crazy... because my husband, Jamie, is great friends and taping buddies with all of these guys. Hines called around to find a mando for Jeff to play...NO LUCK. He then contacted Derek Davis (longtime Yonder taper) who got in touch with Chris King (also a Richmond taper) who got in touch with Jarron. A mando was found :) The craziest part is that Chris took the Kentucky mandolin that Jeff played home to return it to Jarron. Jamie and I were staying with Chris and Becky...so I got to go home with the mando!

After "SGSC", I could hear Hartford's soft jam and the beginnings of "Natchez Whistle". Nothing like hearing that Natchez Whistle blow. The soft, slow, easy "Natchez" was follow-up by a fast, hard, out of the gate "TEN"> "Mother's Only Son"> "TEN" jamwich to end the second set. This was a jam beyond jams! "MOS" was stretched out, well played, and so well written...that Kaufmann sure does have a way with words. :) It was a great way to end the Groovin' in the Garden set. I was totally lost in the dance, sweat, and endorphin enhanced magnetism of the night and Yonder Mountain String Band! A perfect example of why it is never enough and what makes me keep coming back for more. :):):) 

The crowd went crazy with the chants of "one more song" as the boys took a pause before the encore. I was like, "screw 1 more...I want 3 more....". Anyway...we were lucky enough to get one more, and as soon as the first chord of "Casualty" was struck, a deep, roaring, hooping holler came from me and the entire crowd! They couldn't have ended it on a better note.

When I got home, I bought Sound Stage tickets for B'more! I'm looking forward to summer and the Kinfolk Celebration in Lyons this August.

Keep Rockin' Kinfolk! 

Written by Kelli Scott, with photos by Kelli Scott and Michael Walker

Yonder Mountain String Band
5/24/12 Lewis Gunter Botanical Garden, Richmond, VA

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