written by Dorothy St.Claire
After seeing Jason Carter with Yonder at Jomeokee, then again during the New Year's Run, I was more than excited for him to join us for a couple weeks. As we entered the Plaza Live, I was surprised at how large the room was, and I wondered how full it would get.
Grandpa's Cough Medicine opened the show, and Michael wasn't kidding when he told me all of their songs were about drinking! The trio of Brett Bass, Mike Coker, and Jon Murphy put everything they had into each note they played; each verse they sang. They were really good, and really fun to watch.
The room slowly filled a little more as Yonder hit the stage, and to my delight started the show with "Steam Powered Aereoplane". My grin was huge as I stood just off stage behind Dave and watched the start of a new Yonder year unfold before my eyes. The music kept its upbeat pace as Ben told us we were going to answer the age old question, "Is bluegrass music any good?" and went on to play "Sharecropper's Son". Adam sang "Night Out" before Ben asked us the age-older question "Is polka music any good?" Hot damn, it sure is good! Oh - and did I mention that Jason had a beard? Yeah.
"How about that Jason Carter, huh?" Jeff asked with a grin as he started "Lay it on the Line". It was so beautiful with Jason's fiddle, I just couldn't get enough. "Corona" came next, and Adam belted out those lyrics just the way I like. There was no time for any jibber-jabber as they punched into a heavy "Funtime". Dave's "Little Lover" came next, and to my surprise still didn't get the whole crowd moving. I think there were a lot of folks new to Yonder at this show, and maybe those in the front were all soaking it in too much to dance. I know I couldn't stay still, though. Especially as "No Expectations" flowed in and bounced through the theater. It felt like the end of the set, but Yonder did what Yonder does best, and threw another fast one in there before leaving us. "Casualty" ripped through the calm that "No Expectations" created, and left me tired and sweaty. In other words, the first set was a complete success.
I spent the set break at the merch booth visiting with Brian, Sandy and her neighbors, and Betsy from my Orlando street team. And trying my hardest to cool off. It was like a sauna in there. Luckily I was able to sneak out back for some fresh air before the music continued and the heat rose again.
The second set started with a fun "Blue Collar Blues" and a surprising "At the End of the Day". They've really brought this one back in the past year, and I am so grateful to get to hear this old gem more often. "I remember this one time I was sitting there and I thought to myself - 'man, banjo music is the best music in the world!'" Ben said as he watched Dave tuning up. Adam called Ben a suck-up before they started Dave's "Irondale". I love this banjo tune, especially when Adam and Dave break it down together at the end. So good. "I tried to get all fancy there and my picks got stuck!" Oh, Dave.
Jason accentuated all the right tones as they raged through "Raleigh and Spencer", finally getting some movement out of the stoic crowd. Then Jeff informed us that it was time for a bluegrass song before singing "This Train is Bound for Glory" with Dave. "I'd like to say hello to my mother, she's here tonight. Hi mom." Ben had a big smile on his face, as would anyone with such a wonderful mom. The feedback started, and Ben sang a heartfelt "New Deal Train". I've always loved this song, but since last fall they've added a few little elements that really take it to the next level. A little more harmony from Adam. Some fun new banjo licks from Dave. All good things. We got a lot of harmony when each of our Yonder guys sang on "Rambler's Anthem", and then just a lot of killer notes with the addition of Jason Carter on "Kentucky Mandolin". The sweet sounds of "Left me in a Hole" followed, and I took a moment to stop and take it all in.
Tonight was one of those nights where I cheated and looked at the setlist ahead of time. I'm so glad I did, because I knew exactly where I wanted to be for this set's final chunk of music. As "New Horizons" started, I ran up to the balcony to sit with Ben's mom, Sandy. She was excited to get another song where Ben used the bow, but this wasn't what I was waiting for. They started to jam out "New Horizons" with a familiar riff that finally turned into "Mother's Only Son". The look on Sandy's face as she realized what song they were playing and heard Ben sing those first words, "I am my mother's only son"... it was priceless. Sandy was beaming as she looked down at her son. She was so proud. It was a moment that I will treasure forever. "New Horizons" came back in after some extended jams, and finished off the second set.
"My hips always move a couple times when we play this next number." Ben said as they all tuned up for the encore. This was a neat show, with a lot of unexpected songs thrown in together, so when they started their encore with "Rag Mama", I thought they were definitely on the right track for the end of the night. "Again, Jason Carter, thanks for being with us brother, we appreciate ya." Jeff said. "See ya on the bus." They wanted to make sure to give us something to talk about for the next few days, so they dropped "Red Rocking Chair" on us to finish off the show. Yep. It's a shame we didn't have more of our Kinfolk friends with us tonight, but at least a few hundred folks witnessed a pretty kick-ass Yonder show.
Written by Dorothy St.Claire