Simon Estes Amphitheater - Des Moines, IA (July 5, 2012)

written by Dorothy St.Claire

Another hometown show.  It's amazing how the years seem to just fly by when you measure time by Yonder tours.  My first time seeing Yonder at Simon Estes Amphitheater was in 2007 for their 1,000th show, and each time they play at this venue it is unbelievably hot.  This year was the hottest.  I think it got up to 103 degrees... not counting the humidity.  Needless to say, I started downing Gatorades days early.  

Rick, Melissa, and I went downtown in the mid-afternoon and met up with a bunch of friends staying at the Embassy Suites.  This is definitely the place to stay if you don't live in town.  It's so cool to have the venue as the backyard of your hotel, and to be able to run back to your room anytime during the show.  This is probably one of the coolest venue/hotel setups we have experienced, right along with The Pageant/Moonrise Hotel in St. Louis.  Colin eventually got off work and we hung out at the hotel for a while as the excitement built, then made our way to the line, where we sweatily waited to get in.  Once inside, we found our spots (Dave side), stocked up on waters, and even ate some watermelon.  

The crowd packed in as the smoke machines started and the buzz of anticipation came into the air.  The band walked down the hill and came out from behind the stage to a roar of screams from the crowd.  Ben would be the most talkative of the band tonight, "Well good evening, everybody, and welcome to Yonder Mountain's performance on the surface of the sun." And he would be the first to sing, with "If Loving You Is Killing Me".  (Lord, what a way to start the show!)  Right away, I started running around, taking photos.  I loved being able to stand behind the band and see my friends dancing and smiling and laughing together to the music. Those are the moments that I remember the most when it's all done.  Each and every show comes with a whole new batch of wonderful memories.

"That's Dave Johnston on the banjo, everybody." Adam pointed across the stage, introducing Dave. "Not to be confused with inflatable banjo guy, in front."  Ha!  Our friend Steve-O was having so much fun with that inflatable banjo, which he played (straight-faced, I might add) all night.  "Irondale" was our first instrumental of the night, and Dave took it to all new places.  "Left Me In A Hole" was next, and got everyone singing along.  The usually boisterous Jeff was noticeably quiet until this point in the show, where after introducing Adam to the crowd, and asking our permission to play more bluegrass music, he went on to sing "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down".  Some of us knew that Jeff was under the weather this day, and I really didn't expect him to sing.  But Jeff's a pro, and the show went on, with all but a few of us being completely oblivious that anything was wrong.  And I think the heat was getting to everyone today, because Dave didn't even give us any bizarre 3-syllable words in this one.  Oh well, his "Oh honey" is nothing to complain about.

Ben sang "River" next, and the Des Moines River flowed behind the band as everyone undoubtedly imagined themselves in a nice, cool mountain stream.  He thanked everyone for coming, "And we thank those people on the bridge, too, but only like 25 percent of the thanks that I feel towards you guys.  Still thankful, but they're cheating, aren't they?"  I agree.  Just spend the $25, support a great band, and join the party!  It was only mid-set; hell, the sun was still shining, when we heard Jeff begin strumming "Girlfriend Is Better".  It came out of nowhere and brought us all to the same groove.  "Somebody calls you, but you cannot hear..." I love what this song brings out of me.  We all had a good groove going, but I think the band wanted to see just what they could do to all of us, and ripped right into "Raleigh and Spencer".  Holy hell.  It was too hot for that, but we raged through it and came out alive.  This was such an awesome mid-set crescendo, that we didn't know what could be next.

One of my favorites, "Pride of Alabama" was next, followed by another hot bluegrass number, "Don't You Lean On Me".  They sped it up even more with "Troubled Mind" next, omitting the "20 Eyes" middleman this time around.  Dave was having fun on this one, making me very happy we had chosen Dave-side for this show.  Ben was on a singing streak, with "Funtime" coming next.  I think this is such a fantastic song, and Ben sings it so well.  This is also one of Chelsea's favorite songs, and she was having a great time dancing to it behind me.  I love seeing people get to hear their favorites.  The set closed out with a fast "What The Night Brings", and I barely had time to catch my breath before making my way through the crowd and to the merch booth.

I ran into some of the Kansas Crew ("Rock Chalk It's Hot!") before meeting up with the Des Moines street team, and had a nice set break getting to know new Kinfolk friends.

"Well welcome back everybody." I had barely gotten back to my spot before the band came out and Jeff stepped up to the mic.  "So we hope you're having a good time so far tonight.  We are excited to play more music for ya, and we play it with our dear friend Lilli Trippe in mind, who we lost one year ago today.  But man, she's as big as can be, hangin' out, floatin' everywhere, so during this second set just throw a little energy out there for her, and she'll get bigger every second."  We felt the ripple of energy as Jeff talked about Lilli, and when they started playing "Elzic's Farewell", every foot-stomp, waving arm, and wiggling hip was for her.  The dancing certainly didn't stop when "Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie" came next.  "Ladies and gentlemen, I just wanna say this from the bottom of my heart.  Adam Aijala's awesome.  Isn't he awesome?"   Adam graciously accepted Ben's compliment, "Thanks, Ben." Then as he looked back toward the river, "There is a smell."  The smell from the river hit us a few seconds later as we heard the beginning notes of "Idaho".  We enjoyed the song much more than the river smell, and so did Ben. "I told you, didn't I?!" He yelled, before the music completely stopped.

"It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry" followed, showing us over and over again that these guys can take someone else's song and make it completely their own.  No matter what Yonder plays, I always enjoy myself, but I was hearing a lot of favorites during this show, including Adam's "All The Time", which came next. I love all of these newer songs, and you can really tell that the band loves playing them, too.  They proved that by playing Dave's newest song, "Pass This Way" (previously referred to as "Jimmy Leg") next.  Seriously... what a great song.  The tone of the music, and the feeling it evokes are one of a kind.  There was barely a pause before Jeff started playing "One More".  I liked this song a lot right away, then not as much, and now I like it more than ever.  It's weird how that happens sometimes.  

Adam strummed a chord, and my eyes lit up.  I would know that sound anywhere. It was "Looking Back Over My Shoulder", and I was as happy as could be as we all danced to one of our favorite songs.  How could it get any better, I wondered to myself... With "On The Run"> "High Cross Junction"> "On The Run".  Yes, you heard correctly.  A little Sheriff Saga block was the perfect way to end the set.  I love it when Ben takes over and tells us a little story.  I love how Adam has been playing some of his fills more heavy-handed.  I love that Dave has been using his old school banjo lick in "On The Run".  I love how seamlessly "On The Run" flowed into "High Cross Junction".  I love the swish on Jeff's strings during "High Cross Junction".  And I love how Ben keeps them all together, with a bass sound like none other - one that completely engulfs me and sometimes drowns out all the other instruments on stage.  It really doesn't get better than moments like this.

It was a short show, with the end coming at only 11pm, and even though the energy might not have been as high as we're used to at a Midwest Yonder show, it was still a scorcher (in more ways than one).  "Holdin'" and "Hill Country Girl" made up the encore; after which, we all sweatily lumbered towards the hotel.  We had a great show and some really nice hang out time with our Kinfolk friends afterwards. I love traveling to see Yonder, but there's nothing like going home to your own bed (and cats) after a killer show.

Written by Dorothy St.Claire

Yonder Mountain String Band
7/5/12 Simon Estes, Des Moines, IA

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  1. Thanks for another great update. Love that everyone danced their ass off I know lilli was dancing with you. Kinfolk=family

  2. Sounds like a killer show! Great write up, I really felt like I was there! Can't wait to see you at NWSS!!


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