written by Dorothy St.Claire
I love watching all of the work that goes on behind the scenes. Everyone has their piece, and it all comes together in the end. Even though a couple of the jumbo balloons popped and scared the crap out of us.
Production was finished with just enough time to get ready at the hotel and run right back to the Boulder Theater for our New Year's celebration.
Each day went by faster and faster, and now here we were; standing in the Boulder Theater, full of sparkles, and ready for one last big night. As tickets were scanned and Kinfolk spilled into the theater, I could feel the excitement rise. Winter coats were thrown off and used to save spots as everyone mingled and laughed together - discussing the good times from the past three nights, and predicting what was to come tonight.
After over an hour of wandering the theater and talking with friends, it was getting close to show time. Physically, we were finally all warmed up and loose. Mentally, we were wound up so tight with anticipation that could only be diffused with those opening notes to "If You're Ever in Oklahoma". Oh baby, it was gonna be a good night.
Yonder was joined on stage by the great Darol Anger tonight, and right from the beginning he let us know that he was there and that he was going to be shredding that fiddle all night long. Sometimes it's hard to be mentally prepared for the big songs when they come right at the beginning of a show, and tonight we were getting some big ones, indeed. Adam started the next song as well, the much-loved "Jack a Roe". This is my absolute favorite Dead cover that Yonder plays, and they do it perfectly. "Rambler's Anthem" came up next before Darol took the lead with "Polly Put the Kettle On". He sawed on that fiddle like no one I've ever heard, and the heavy beats of "Polly" brought plenty of heavy-footed stomps with it.
They kept the mood heavy with a seriously funky "One More". As Jeff's pedal permeated the air, Darol's fiddle sliced through the thick sounds and gave us such an incredible contrast that I've never heard on this song. We took a little breath after this one as the band tuned up and Jeff said that they were going to try some new stuff on us. Adam and Dave's "Lonesome Letter" was the first new song of the night, and was so very "Adam and Dave". It was followed by one of Dave's newest and most popular songs, "Pass This Way". I can't get enough of this song, and Darol's fiddle brought down the house as they jammed it out. "Bolton Stretch" burst through next, followed by "Southern Flavor", ensuring that we would be out of breath before they were through.
It was time for some bluegrass, and I couldn't believe my ears when I heard those beginning notes of "Romance Blues" coming out of Dave's banjo. I was in the middle of one of those ultimate happy moments that just can't get any better, when "On the Run" started - and it somehow got better. Again, Darol shredded it during this tune. They just let him go and he took off and ran. As they slowed it down it soon became clear that they were throwing a "Dawn's Early Light" right in the middle of "OTR". As they made their progression I was walking up the ramp to stand at the side of the stage... but as Adam started playing some Metallica in his "Dawn's" intro, I lost control. I ran the rest of the way up to the stage and gave a good whoop in Adam's direction. Jeez, Dorothy. Control yourself. "Dawn's" was beautiful and haunting and everything you ever want it to be. In no way had Dave been hiding in the background all night, but this is when he really came in and shone bright. He gave us a little taste in the middle of the song, but then as Dawn's started to make its way back to "On the Run" he just went for it. I always love the jammed-out end to "Dawn's", but this was incredible. Jeff pushed all of his emotions through his mandolin as he brought us through his journey, adding the pedal as he passed it over to Darol to build the suspense before Dave came in and changed everything. "On the Run" was coming back. That much was clear. But how these guys still manage to shock me is beyond my comprehension. The pace quickened, the fiddle screamed, and Dave's fingers started to roll. The crowd erupted as everyone came together and Ben stepped up to the mic, "The man stood in the shadows, just thinkin' 'bout the past..." Wow. This is what we came here for, and this is why we do this night after night, tour after tour, year after year. It was set break time, and we all deserved a little break.
The set break was full of friends, laughs, and anticipation for what was to come. A bunch of folks were invited to a backstage margarita party, but holy cow it was crowded back there. We didn't last long before we headed back into the crowd and claimed our spaces for the rest of the night.
Our final set of the year started perfectly with "Ramblin' in the Rambler". I know, I know. Some, if not many, of you are sick and tired of this song. Well I guarantee that someday you will get past the "I've heard 'Rambler' too many times" opinion and you will remember just how great this standard Yonder tune really is. It's short, it's fast, it's about drinkin', and it gets the crowd completely fired up. And of course, this tune never stands alone. Tonight it was a spunky "Polka on the Banjo" inside of this "Rambler" sandwich. They kept the classics coming as Ben sang "40 Miles From Denver" and Adam followed with "Spanish Harlem Incident" next.
We were getting close to midnight as the boys huddled together on stage, no doubt making some last-minute setlist changes in order to be ready for the countdown. They finally made up their minds and came in with "Cuckoo's Nest" as our last song of the year. As we waited for the countdown, Jeff got a little emotional as he thanked all the Kinfolk and the crew for being the best people ever. "No matter who you are, no matter who you're next to, whether you're with somebody or by yourself, you are never alone when you're at one of our gigs... 10... 9... 8..." We all counted down together, and then the balloons fell. A lot of balloons. As the band and crew celebrated and hugged on stage, we were surrounded by popping balloons. It was a little terrifying. And really loud. Finally, the music softly came back in as the guys started playing "Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy", but there was no way for me to pay any attention to the music. There were balloons everywhere, and Eric decided he'd be cool and pop as many has he could right in our faces. Jeez, Eric. Thankfully the majority of the balloon popping was finished by the time they got to the "Slap Your Mammy" part of the song, where I was finally able to come up out of the balloon pit for air and get my boogie on.
"So violent!" Adam exclaimed as he watched the balloon-popping frenzy while they all re-tuned for "Just the Same". I thoroughly enjoyed this treat, but then was overjoyed when they came in with "Smiles Like She's Always Been A Friend" next. Yes, I snuck a peek at the setlist already so I knew it was coming, but that doesn't mean I was any less excited about it. This is a wonderful song that Ben wrote many many years ago, but until tonight had only been played when Ben and Adam would do their solo thing. And now, finally, here we were... listening to Yonder play this song that Ben said Yonder would never do. It was a blissful moment, for sure. It was a Ben rock block, with "Finally Saw the Light" coming next, making a whole lot of folks really happy.
Somehow there were still balloons everywhere, and Ben tried to sell one of the bigger ones for 50 bucks before Jeff started a wild strum that Darol and Dave soon joined, that finally exploded into "Free To Run". Followed immediately by "Keep On Going". Oh thank you. It was such a classic Yonder block of music, and they slid "All the Time" right in the middle of that "Keep On Going" sandwich, making it just as tasty as could be. You can tell Adam loves singing and playing "All the Time" - he was ripping apart his guitar strings by the end of the song. And when Ben's bass came in right at the end of the song to bring "Keep on Going" back around, it was everything I could have asked for.
And then they were gone. The room went dark, fans screamed, and we waited impatiently for a few more songs. How could these four nights have gone by so darn fast? It's amazing how huge Yonder's music catalog is, that they didn't even come close to playing everything we wanted to hear over the course of four nights. But they gave us a few more chances to get what we wanted, playing "Boots" and "Crow Black Chicken" before leaving the stage again. But the lights didn't come up. The house music didn't start. Yes, this would be a two encore night, thank goodness. No matter how tired I get (and believe me, by now I was exhausted), there is never enough Yonder. The guys came back on stage to some serious hootin' and hollerin', and we were all ready for one last big jam. Now, the guys had all been kicking balloons off of the stage ever since midnight hit, but this time when Adam kicked a giant balloon out of his way, he kicked it directly into my face. You could hear the rubbery sound as it bounced off of my glasses. This was seriously one of the funniest moments of my New Year's Run, and the look on Adam's face as he struggled with feeling bad and trying not to laugh was absolutely priceless.
"Angel" started off this second encore, and the pre-sandwich jam was incredible. I was happy they saved a sandwich for the second encore, but I would never have guessed that the meat was going to be "Dear Prudence". Yep. It was awesome. Then they brought it back into "Angel" with that great bass line, and I just threw my hands in the air and let the music take over.
It was an amazing four nights, and even though I was completely exhausted, I was sad to see it end. We took our time leaving the Boulder Theater - giving extra long hugs and saying farewell to all of our friends. At least in our Yonder world farewell is only temporary, and we would be starting Winter Tour in just ten days.
Written by Dorothy St.Claire
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