Higher Ground - Burlington, VT (October 25, 2012)

written by Kelli Scott

Somebody call the fire department! All the cold water in Lake Champlain couldn't tame the inferno that roared through Higher Ground Music Hall on Thursday, October 25, 2012. This was "the second half of the drunken uncle picnic" in South Burlington, VT, and Yonder left their mark, yet again, on the New England college town.

Dorothy and I enjoyed a restful morning of sleeping in after a fun night of boogieing down and staying up way too late for night one of HG. We spent the afternoon in downtown Burlington. Our plan was to drive down to take some photos of Nectar's for Colin. While in town, we had lunch at a pub and strolled along the docks of Lake Champlain. It was a cloudy day, but often the sun would shine through the clouds just right, casting beautiful streaks of yellow crepuscular rays down on the lake. Burlington is an awesome town! I could totally live there... enjoying amazing waterfront parks, mountains nearby, and a really quaint downtown area. There are also all sorts of higher education opportunities centered in Burlington. The town is eclectic, while still rooted... totally feels like Appalachia... kinda reminds me of a small version of Asheville with a huge lake. There's also a significantly large, vibrant sustainable farming/local food systems movement in Burlington, really all throughout New England, which I can completely dig. The previous day, Dorothy and I visited a local cheese shop by the venue. It was a real treat! So many cheese options from local dairies, I wish I could have tried each of them... but we limited our decision to three types, grabbed a baguette and a few olives. We were set! 

Dot and I headed back to the hotel to get ready for the night. We got all frocked up with lots of mascara and glitter. It was going to be a fun night! We walked over to the venue to be greeted by John and Jessica. We met Jessica's sister the night before. Tonight we were joined by her mom and sister, for a family event! John and Jessica grew up in the area. They make it a rule to travel back east from Boulder for the Higher Ground shows. I love when we have lots of Kinfolk and community interaction to kill the line/preshow wait time. 

Brown Bird opened up the show, as they have for all of Fall Tour. Dorothy has really gotten me into them. BB's music has been a total joy and delight. I was happy to see them again. They finished their set with a cover of Johnny & June's "Jackson". Talk about a walk down memory lane and a blast from the past… Johnny & June were always present in my house growing up. I was super excited to see BB perform the tune live. It was the perfect cover for the duo. 

Yonder hit the stage with no reservations, ready to go. Jeff opened the show with one of my faves, and a story that takes us back to his hometown in the mid-west with a strong "IL Rain". Dave grabbed the reins and gave the crowd some top shelf advice for any good, equal footed relationship, with "Don't You Lean on Me". It was then Adam's turn with the good ole' bluegrass tune, "Rain Still Falls". Adam gave Dave a shout out for collaborating on the writing of the song. Dave replied with, "We're pen pals!!!” That Dave! :) "Rain Still Falls" always sucks me in with the line, "I looked to you, I lost my way". 

The two nights of Higher Ground were streamed live online. The band gave several shout outs to all the friends & family listening at home..."on their couch, in their underwear". Ben then gave us the "sentence that they handed down", from the famous story of the Sheriff Saga with "Part 1 (Lord Only Knows)". Ben kept it going with another saga tune that I've not heard in a while, with "I'd Like Off". Wow, this one takes me back to the summer of '08 when it was played in heavy rotation. "Inside there's a noise that sounds like dancing, but you know I never learned to move that way. Sister, I'd like off if it's OK."

The first set was starting to heat up; time to get down to bluegrass business. Dave's strong banjo rolls led into Jeff's vocals, "Got no use for the Red Rockin' Chair". This one never disappoints! It's so fun to bounce and dance to, especially with Ms. Dorothy. We met some local folks the night before, and we were so happy to be joined once again by Sam, Sara and Kyle. It was awesome to hang out with John, Jessica and her family, plus all the other fun loving folks of Higher Ground for night two of dancing fun. 

Adam then mounted his head gear for "Amanda Rose". This is a sad, mysterious song, but it always makes me smile for some reason. I don't know if it is the harmonica, Adam's sweet voice, or the story of the farm, but my mind transforms it into a happy country scene... go figure... Jeff then mentioned a nice gentle waltz, which could only mean the total opposite. The driving chops of "Southern Flavor" opened up into an instrumental delight that would make Bill Monroe & The Bluegrass Boys proud! Dorothy and I were frantically paddling upstream for our freedom as Dave's banjo solo drove the tune to new heights. The bluegrass didn't slow down. We were treated to Seldom Scene's classic "Maybe You Will Change Your Mind". Followed by a song that all my Kinfolk friends (including myself) are just in love with, and simply can't get enough of; Dave's newer tune, "Don't Worry, Happy Birthday". Currently, these lyrics are the most quoted in my group of friends... as you know we try to speak in Yonder lyrics as much as possible... We've been told, we have a problem! :)

It was about three quarters of the way through the first set, and time for a big jamwich. Dorothy had the most sneaky, conspicuous look on her face. Earlier in the night, as she was backstage taking pictures, she saw the setlist and knew what was coming next. All day, I'd been jabbering on about Phish, and how it would be perfect for Yonder to play "Sand" or any Phish cover/tease at Higher Ground. Then Jeff said how they couldn't come to VT and not mention how much the Pointer Sisters meant to them. :) Ironic humor gets a modern-day bluegrass band far. Adam unleashed the opening rifts of "Ten", followed by Jeff's robust, determined vocals. Dot just kept smiling... I knew something was coming. Her grin and Jeff's intro told the story... no other choice; "Sand" had to be the meat of the "Ten" sandwich. Wow, this was one of those double stuffed combos! Yonder has really transformed their version of "Sand". All the boys brought it with their solos. Jeff just drives me crazy with his delivery of Tom Marshall's lyrics, and his right foot so perfectly connecting with that damn pedal! Good Lord!!! Talk about getting lost in a trance fueled by the dark, gritty, powerful force of groove and 'wah, wah, wwwaaaahhhhh'. That pedal takes me to another place. "It melts and steals my face right off my head!" The boys were visibly having loads of fun on night two in South Burlington. 

The second set opened up with a fast, in your face, "Troubled Mind"> "20 eyes"> "Troubled Mind". Our new buddy, Sam, really wanted to hear "Keep on Going". He got his wish and then some, with a "KOG"> "All the Time"> "KOG" sandwich. I like this segue. It's a tale of loss, struggle, perseverance, reality, and optimism. It takes you through the journey of a falling and rising tide... Good combo. Dave then took us out west with Burle's "Winds of Wyoming". I can appreciate how Dave has changed the line, "don't be stupid" to "don't be foolish"... maybe a sign of the father in him. Everything then got really quiet and Jeff starting chopping a groove around... which could only mean one thing, “Rag Doll". Most folks know, I LOVE this song! It's nothing short of a fine wine mellowing into a boutique vintage... It just keeps getting better with time. This one may have been perfect! The crowd went insane as soon as it started, as if they had just spent the last two days sitting around waiting for it to happen. It clocked in at approximately 11 minutes long. That groove possesses and infiltrates every crease and crevice of my soul! The crowd exploded with overwhelming excitement and gratitude as the band closed "RD". The vigorous applause was infectiously chilling. It really seemed to touch the boys, and lift their worn, tired spirits on the last week of Fall Tour '12. It was one of those moments when you could plainly see, "this is why we do this" written all over their faces. 

After the crowd settled down, Ben gave us yet another Saga tune with the inspirational "Finally Saw The Light", which led into a cover of The Beatles', "And Your Bird Can Sing". Adam brings his own unique euphonic touches to the late 1960's tune. It was back to Ben with the deep echoes of the bass and "the list they carried round" for "New Deal Train". Adam backed up Ben for a well blended harmony on the tune. Dave let us know that it was "his turn to sing", and "gave me the blues, where I wanna lay down and die" with "Yer No Good". Adam's western licks could only mean one thing, the openings of "Dawn's Early Light". Get ready to saddle up folks, this is gonna be a long, hard ride. This tune is nothing short of a tragic western movie plot. Austin really pushes the envelope with his creative writing skills and stage performance. His true talent is evident and shines through. Each band member's remarkable talent was forefront and present to create an epic "Dawn's". As the second set came to a close, the crowd kicked up a little more dust with Danny Barnes' "Funtime"> A comment from Jeff on how the past two days had been "pure soul-food"> Hartford's "Granny Woncha' Smoke Some". The second set ended, appropriately, on a very irie note. 

The boys took a breath and came back out for a couple more. The very rock n roll influenced, hard hitting "Nothin' but Nothin'"> Willie's classic "Bloody Mary Morning". The two nights at Higher Ground were complete. Nothing left to do, but smile, smile, smile. The night ended with a walk to the nearby Dunkin' Donuts for late night coffee and pumpkin munchkins, the quintessential after show snack for a chilly, autumn Vermont night. :) The next day we had a long drive down to the big town of Philly for the show at TLA. We were looking forward to lots more boogieing down with our beloved Kinfolk! :)

Written by Kelli Scott, Photos by Dorothy St.Claire

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