written by Dorothy St.Claire
Colin and I got to Planet Bluegrass around 3pm with Carin, Bub, Emma, Lori, Stephenie, Chris C., Annie, and Junkyard. The campground was so sparsely filled compared to the Kinfolk Celebration a mere month before, but even with the smaller numbers, there was no shortage of Kinfolk.
A few of us wandered over to the Wildflower Pavilion, where we caught up with Ben and Adam and watched soundcheck as more Kinfolk arrived. It really was amazing to see so few people milling around. It's easy to see why people have so many wonderful things to say about Planet Bluegrass - the atmosphere and the energy surrounding this place is uplifting and magical. You can see it on everyone's face and hear it in their voice. When you're here, nothing else matters, and you're surrounded by people you love.
We hung out at our camp for a couple more hours before showtime. We had to get as much loud Kinfolk time in as possible!
The bonfire burned outside as people filed into the Wildflower Pavilion, and we were soon in the middle of a family reunion. We took our seats in the beautifully decorated room, and soon Ben and Adam came to the stage to enthusiastic cheers. They each took their seats, surrounded by various instruments, and Adam's adorable dog Zoe.
They started their show on a familiar note with "40 Miles From Denver" and "Left Me in a Hole". No matter how many times you hear these songs with Yonder Mountain, they're never like this. Watching Ben and Adam play together always feels so personal and intimate. They give us the raw emotions that inspired the songs in the first place. It's a pretty amazing thing.
Next, Ben sang a song he wrote many years ago but never performed before, "Good Brown Earth", which he dedicated to his "beautiful baby mama who couldn't be here tonight". This was also the first song with an instrument switch, with Ben picking up the guitar, and Adam showing us his clawhammer skills on the banjo. I absolutely love when Adam plays the banjo. After "Good Brown Earth", the jokes really started to come in full swing. These guys are hilarious together, and we were prepared for a night just as full of laughs as it was of music.
Jay Farrar's "Greenwich Time" was next, followed by another Ben Kaufmann original, "New Deal Train". Then we got a great surprise when Adam sang "Pass This Way". He wrote the song with Dave, but hearing him sing it and play banjo gave us a totally new perspective. Then they sang a song I hadn't heard in quite some time, Benny Galloway's "Wind Through the Willows".
The fun and fast instrumental, "Music for a Found Harmonium" came next, getting all of our heart rates up. Then Ben took a seat at his keyboard for his song "Used To It", which I actually heard for the first time over the New Years run last December. It's a pretty great song, but it makes sense that Ben wouldn't want to play it with Yonder.
The next song had both Ben and Adam back on guitar singing Vince Gill's "All Prayed Up". I had never heard this song before, but I loved it right away. Then we got a real special treat with the Beatles' "She Said She Said". Awesome. They closed out their first set with the instrumental "Ridin' in A", showcasing Adam's incredible clawhammer skills yet again.
We all had a nice and leisurely set break, and came back to one of my favorites, "She Smiles Like You've Always Been A Friend", or just "Smiles". What a great song. I can understand Yonder not playing this one, but I sure wish I could hear it more often somehow. Then Adam introduced another one written by him and Dave, and as he hammered the banjo strings and a familiar melody hit my ears, I felt my heart go up in my throat. It was "Night Is Left Behind", and it took everything I had to keep it together.
Danny Barnes' "Wasted Mind" came next, which I thought was a really cool choice. Then Ben moved back to the keyboard and played John Oates' "Had I Known You Then", which he described as the only song he can play for his son to get him to stop crying. How sweet. Nick Drake's lovely "Pink Moon" was next, after which Ben and Adam started talking about playing with Phil Lesh this past summer. That could only mean one thing. We were getting a Grateful Dead song next... but which would it be? "Cold Rain and Snow" was such a treat and had the whole crowd tapping their feet and bobbing their heads from their seats. And I just love it when Adam sings Dead songs. His voice lends itself to their music so well.
"I Wanna Sing That Rock and Roll" by Gillian Welch came next and I was just floored. The raw emotion evoked through the vocal harmonies in this song could be felt in the air. They did some "cross-polination", which put Adam on bass and Ben on guitar for Ben's "Be Here Now". This show was a fantastic mix of original songs and covers, with Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe" coming in next and proving this very point.
Ben and Adam left the stage for a minute, but then came right back out for a handful more songs. This had turned into a truly magical night, and I was sad that we were already at the encore of this show. Thankfully, we got a nice big handful of songs to finish off the night. "Remind Me" was first, with its funky bass line, followed by "Someday's Reunion", with some awesome slide guitar work. "The Boxer" came next, and was a wonderful song to showcase the way Ben and Adam compliment each other as they sing. The encore just kept going as they played "Complicated" and "To See You Coming Round the Bend". I thought we were at the end of the show, so I had positioned myself at the back of the stage for some photos, but I could not have been prepared for the how this show really ended. One last song. As Ben started strumming the guitar and Adam plucked the banjo strings, "The Road" hit my ears and I had to duck "backstage" for a few seconds to regain my composure. There's something about this song. The finality of it. It makes me really sad - in the best way.
"Thanks again everybody, that's Ben Kaufmann down there." "Adam Aijala over there." Handshakes and smiles, and Mabon 2012 came to a close. Parents woke their sleeping children from their pile under the lip of the stage. People slowly bundled up as some said their goodbyes and others continued the fun outside by the bonfire. The magic of this place is real, and you can only understand if you have experienced it for yourself. There's no way I'll miss this again.
Written by Dorothy St.Claire
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