The Pabst Theater - Milwaukee (October 17, 2012)

written by Dorothy St.Claire

Week three of tour, and I was ready for more. I had a couple days at home after Harvest Fest, where I washed the mud out of most of my belongings and had the radiator replaced on my car. Wednesday came around real fast, and I hopped in that car and headed east. A couple hours into my drive I passed some beautiful foliage... and completely forgot where I was or where I was going. I was starting to experience bouts of this already on this tour, but this time it lasted for a few minutes. For a second I thought I was in Vermont, but then I realized that I wouldn't be driving my car in Vermont. I had to reason with myself and mentally check off where I knew I had been. It finally came to me - I was driving to Rick and Melissa's house in Illinois, and we were heading to Milwaukee from there. I got excited all over again.

We got to the Pabst just in time to get Dave-side rail spots and to start reuniting with Midwest Kinfolk. A lot of folks were wondering what tonight would bring, since Yonder's last show - their 1,500th - was rained out after only 4 songs. 

Brown Bird started the show right on time, and let me tell you, I sure missed them. I was so mad at myself for missing both of their sets at Harvest Fest, but the rain really changed a lot of festival plans. They put on a fantastic show, as usual, and got the crowd ready for some mutha flippin Yonder Mountain String Band.

Not a word was spoken as the band came out, tuned up, and started the show with a nice long banjo intro into "Crow Black Chicken". "Well, well, well. Nice to see you all in Milwaukee on a Wednesday night... at one of our favorite places to play. This place always is so vibey." Jeff was in an obvious good mood as the show slid into its groove and the band kicked off their first bluegrass number of the night, "Walking Shoes". Ben was all over this one. Slappin' the bass and singin' it like nobody's business. I love love love being close enough to actually hear Ben slap his bass. What a sound. We appeared to be in a bluegrass block, with "Kentucky Mandolin" coming up next. I've heard this song a lot, but there were some new little surprises tucked away this time around. It was nice. And it was already the second song in this show with a bass solo. I must say, I liked where this show was going. "Troubled Mind"> "20 Eyes"> "Troubled Mind" came in fast and I swear they sounded better than they ever have. Adam sang the hell out of "20 Eyes", his knees bouncing in time, and the veins in his neck popping out with every word. Ben took a couple deep breaths before stepping up to the mic again. "So a long time ago, it seems like ages ago, there was a fella out there and he told me what I should do with my life. His name was Grandpa, I'm not sure if you ever met him. Anyway, old Benny Kaufmann was destined to be a doctor or a lawyer, by God, or else nothin'. This is a song about not listing to Grandpa." That was probably my favorite introduction to "Straight Line", which slowed us down a little bit. But then we got right back to bluegrass with "Mental Breakdown".

Jeff softly counted down "Lay it on the Line", and pushed us all into a new musical state of mind. I love this song more and more each time they play it. "Left Me in a Hole" came next, and the crowd was excited to hear this old favorite. There was a small pause after "Left Me in a Hole", and I whispered to Melissa my guess for the rest of the set, and then headed to the back to enjoy some of the show by Ted. He took the lights down low as Jeff started a slow improvisation "She lay down, and watched the thunder roll. She looked up, at what, she didn't know..." He was building up the suspense, and I could feel the tension of the next song pushing in from the background. Then, BAM! "New Horizons" hit us hard (called it!), with a nice big "Mother's Only Son" right in the middle. And I can't even describe the way Ben and Jeff brought "New Horizons" back in. It's as if they forgot we were all there, and completely let go. Just listen to it for yourself. So freaking good.

I love the Midwest so much. I spent the set break visiting with new and old Kinfolk friends, but time seemed to fly by because soon enough it was time to head back in for another huge set.

The lights stayed low and the second set started unexpectedly with "Dear Prudence". I am so happy that this song has made it back into the rotation. I will take more Beatles covers any day. Then came "Peace of Mind", and I don't think anyone was ready for that one. Not even the band. It took a few measures for them to get on track with each other, but when they did, there was no stopping the massive jam that followed. "40 Miles From Denver" came next, bringing with it the obligatory singalong from the audience.

"Milwaukee, can I sing one for you?" Dave asked. "Can I persuade you to take off all your clothes and jump in the Milwaukee river? ...And be apologetic about my body parts? I hope not, cause I'm not that man!" Well, alright. Dave sang an enthusiastic "Little Lover" that really riled up the crowd. Then Adam started noodling around, and I couldn't believe what was coming. The intro came, and the crowd reacted immediately, whistling and cheering as Adam started singing "Jack A Roe". This is another song that I am thrilled to have joining the regular rotation. We were all innocently enjoying this song when some dude decided it would be a good idea to jump on stage. Right next to Adam as he was trying to sing, "This couple they got married, so why not you and me?" It was definitely not cool, but I do love seeing Adam break while singing. "Give it up for Adam Aijala everybody!" Jeff said as the song ended and our drunk friend was undoubtedly getting kicked out of the back door. Adam was still laughing as he replied, "You know, have a water every now and again. Why not?"

They started playing their "Thanks for Coming, Folks" jam, and Jeff gave us a little improv on top, "Well, we hope you're having a good time tonight here at the lovely Pabst Theater. Some of you, obviously more than others. But, I digress. These new days that we see ahead of us, we can all aim high, aim high in life...  I've seen a lot of things in my time. Twice on Wednesdays. Sometimes better than others. And sometimes, Welllllllllllll!!!!" Of course, it was "Ramblin' in the Rambler" coming in strong, with the whole audience yelling with Jeff. "Oh you want a song, do ya? I'll teach you a song! I'll teach your grandmother to suck eggs!" Yeah! - wait. What? "Rambler" was as fast as ever, and we were at the "Jagermeister" shot in no time. But this was different. I knew the band wasn't drinking, but they didn't even have Todd or Kevin come out with fake shots or anything. Wow. We all toasted with water, and Ben kicked off "Pass This Way".

I think "Pass This Way" is one of the best songs ever. So of course, I was more than happy to hear it. When it was through, Jeff started playing "Happy Happy Joy Joy", making more sense out of the Ren and Stimpy reference from the first part of "Ramblin'". It went faster and faster, pushing all of us to jump as high as we possibly could, and to scream at the top of our lungs until "Ramblin'" came back in and finished us all off. The energy in the Pabst right then was indescribable. The happiness and joy that this band brought to us by simply playing a bit of a cherished childhood cartoon theme song was huge, and continued as Jeff sang "That a whiskey drinkin', bluegrass listenin', Carhartt wearin', all night roamin', IDIOT he'll always be!" It was pretty freakin' great. I tried to catch my breath in the minute they gave us before the next song, but as soon as Adam touched his guitar, I heard what was coming and got all worked up again. Another Beatles song, "And Your Bird Can Sing", made me a happy, happy lady. "Tell me that you've heard every sound there is..." God, this song makes me want to cry. "Half Moon Rising" came next, and I thought that maybe I might just crumble. 

"Sidewalk Stars" was it's usual distorted self, and Jeff counted down the next song during the distortion, leading me to believe it would be "Ain't Been Myself In Years"... but I was fooled because Dave brought in "Keep On Going" instead. I was more than happy with that song choice, and then I think I freaked out a little when it sandwiched around "Casualty". It was perfect. "Casualty" was built up until it exploded into a huge banjo solo, and Ben brought "Keep On Going" back right away with that wonderful bass line. 

We got one song for the encore, so we had to make it count. Jeff was super grateful as they came out and tuned up, "So seriously guys, thank you so much for just some great energy, you guys really blew the tour out of the water. Thank you guys. Thank you for your vibe and everything you give back to us, we really appreciate ya'll." Then they shredded "Crazy Train". That's always a great song choice for a crowd as enthusiastic as this one, and everyone sang along one last time.

Written by Dorothy St.Claire

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