Liberty Hall - Lawrence, KS (February 28, 2013)

written by Dorothy St.Claire

Hooray!  First day of tour! I didn't know three weeks could go by so slow, but even though I was loaded with photos to edit, the time between Madison and Lawrence dragged on. Colin and I drove down to Nicole and Cy's house in Kansas City, where we met up with Whitney, Chad, Nathan, and Liz. From the second we arrived, there was nothing but hugs and smiles, and I knew we all felt the same joy of being back together again. We visited for a while, then jumped into our cars and made the quick drive to Lawrence, where we met up with Bert and ate at the Free State Brewery. I love Lawrence. Like really really love it. It's like a home away from home, and it felt SO GOOD to be back.

Once we were nice and full (I had a turkey sandwich) we headed next door to Liberty Hall. The small line was confined to the box office, but was soon ushered through the doors and into the venue. I remember years ago when Yonder would play two nights in Lawrence. There would be a line around the building, and all the rail spots (against the stage, not a rail) would be gone right as they opened doors. Now that they're only spending one non-weekend night here, it's just not the same. It's hard enough to convince Colorado Kinfolk to leave their state for shows, but for only one night? Nope. Only a few die-hard Colorado Kinfolk made the trek this year. Another difference this year was that most of my friends decided to grab spots in the balcony, leaving just Whitney and Colin holding down some rail spots. I threw my jacket on the rail and my sweatshirt in a balcony chair, but I knew I was just going to be roaming the whole night. 

Wood and Wire opened a few shows on the first half of Winter Tour, and was set to open a handful of shows this time around as well. I was ready for my first one. Right off the bat, I liked them. I mean, they play bluegrass, how could I not enjoy it?! They had a lot of fantastic songs, and I really had fun watching them, shooting them, and dancing to their music.

Tonight wasn't only the first night of tour, it was the first show for new tour manager, Mark Nicolella. I didn't take the news of Todd's departure very well, but while I missed my friend, I was excited to get to know Mark better, and to start this new journey. Things were going smooth so far, and as I waited in the photo pit, the stage lights came up and the band entered the stage - right on time. "Well howdy everybody, thanks for being with us."

Adam started strumming, and Whitney and I looked at each other as we both realized we were getting a "Dawn's Early Light" opener. It was perfect, and I knew we felt the same goosebumps. It was such a good "Dawn's" and had a nice extended jam that I was sure would go into "Robots" or even "Over the Waterfall", but it just stayed in "Dawn's" until it got darker and became "Fingerprint". They were going heavy from the get-go. And I liked it.

But then they pounded right into "Bolton Stretch", finally giving us that fast bluegrass sound that we all love. Adam followed it with "Pockets", and then Jeff sang Leftover Salmon's "Get Me Outta This City", which Adam said "is in no way representative of this town." The crowd loved this one, and got all amped up before Ben announced, "I'd like to play you the least psychedelic song I've ever written." They all had a little chuckle before starting "Straight Line". "It's good to be back... it feels like a sister city to where we come from. Or a brother city. I don't wanna discriminate against the dudes."

I enjoyed "Strophe" as I wandered the venue, making my way up to my balcony spot just in time to hear Ben say, "I swear folks, one time fast bluegrass music saved my life" before Jeff kicked off "Spanish Harlem Incident". It was a whirlwind of notes and harmonies and dancing feet. And then we got a pleasant surprise when Jeff sang a beautiful "Half Moon Rising". This led to Dave's "Little Lover" - "Let's play one for the lady-hawks!" This "Little Lover" was nice and fast, and Dave sang with gusto. It might have been my favorite version of this song, ever. I had a great spot in the balcony next to Bert and Chad, and we all gave each other a nudge as "Looking Back Over My Shoulder" began. Of course it was great to hear this song, and I took a break from shooting to let myself boogie to one of my absolute favorite songs with some of my favorite people. "East Nashville Easter" came up next, and although I didn't look at the setlist tonight, I figured it would be a good bet that this was the end of the set. I grabbed my camera, snapped a few shots, and danced my way through the crowd and to the merch booth to await set break. 

It was a good break. I spent most of it hanging out at the merch booth with Scotty and visiting with friends as they would squeeze through to us. Once the smokers went outside and the venue cleared a bit, I found my way backstage to get ready for the second set, and found myself getting some good Kevin and Mark hang time in. It only took a couple minutes for me to see just how good of a fit Mark is with this team, and after some good joking around, it was time for another set.

I spent a lot of this show side stage and behind the curtain. It was nice to have some "alone" time while absorbing the music and the start of a new tour. I was Adam-side with Kevin as they opened the second set with "Come Together", and I migrated to the photo pit long enough to get a few shots during "Sidewalk Stars" before retreating behind the curtain Dave-side. If I'm being honest, I must say that I used to really not like "Sidewalk Stars". But now... now I love it. I don't know what changes in someone to make them love something they used to dislike, but it happened to me. I stood at the side of the stage as "Sidewalk Stars" thundered toward its end, and I hoped... please please let it keep going. I pleaded silently for Jeff to take us into "Ain't Been Myself in Years"... and that's exactly what he did. Yet another song that gives me goosebumps. I got a little emotional during this Burle number, but I rode it out and rocked it out, watching the crowd through the spaces between the guys on stage. "You appear to be having a good time tonight, and that is what we are after. Every night. Tweaking your little buttons." I heard Jeff say as I re-entered the throngs of people and quickly made my way to the balcony. 

And then, as if "Ain't Been Myself in Years" wasn't enough, they charged right into "High on a Hilltop", and then blew us all away with "Jack A Roe". All right! All right! We surrender! I was gettin' down in the balcony with Bert, Chad, Nicole, and Cy, with my eyes down on the floor, watching Colin get down up front. No one has as much fun at a Yonder show as Colin, and I just love watching him have the time of his life. And then he turned around and looked up at me just as we all sang "This couple they got married, so why don't you and me?" Bert caught us and laughed, saying it was destined to be. It was a fun moment.

We got some distortion, then "New Deal Train". Man, this second set was incredible! I was ready for a snoozer next (knowing full well that those don't really exist in this band), but they just pushed it harder with "What the Night Brings". The crowd somehow grew even louder when this song finished, and Dave responded with "All right, Liberty Hall! Go get some popcorn and a beer and a pretty lady!" The lights came up just enough to see Kinfolk swaying with their arms tight around each other's shoulders as Dave sang "8 Cylinders". It was great. "I have said it before..." Ben said to us, "That Dave Johnston down there is a romantic son of a bitch." Dave talked about his post-shower routine, and Adam finished by complimenting Dave's aroma earlier in the day. It's nice to know they're close. "All the Time" came next and reminded me that I was quickly running out of time and that I should probably start moseying through the venue again.

Ben sang "Rag Mama" as I made my way back up front, adding at the end, "True story, I swear. Absolutely true." And then I found myself just where I wanted to be as they started "Corona" - right in front of Adam. Bright lights and a kick-ass tune made for some awesome photos and a really fun time. When "Corona" finished, Ben stepped back and put his bass down. "For those of you who have been seeing us for a number of times, I suppose, when I put the bass down like that and I come up and I am gonna sing without any bass at all, so completely naked and singing, that can only be one thing. There's only one song that it could be, so it's sort of like giving the cat away with the cookie jar... that old expression. I do hope you enjoy the 'Duke of Earl'". Of course, it was "Holdin'" next, but that didn't stop Jeff from scatting a little "Duke of Earl" in there. It was a nice touch. And then... "Peace of Mind". 

I knew just where I wanted to be for this last chunk of music, so I made my way back to the balcony, left work mode behind, and boogied with Cy and Nicole, Nathan and Liz, and Andy and Leah. "Peace of Mind" was the perfect song to close the second set of this first show back on the road. It's one of those ultimate Yonder songs, and when you hear it, you know you're at a freaking Yonder show and that things are about to get real. And real it got, when a super-charged and emotional "Morning Dew" came out of the "POM" jam. As we came down from the "Morning Dew" high, hypnotized and swaying in the dark to the delicious melodies, Jeff sang "Nothing really matters anyway..." And at that moment, I believed him. Then the music picked up, the crowd started clapping in unison, and "Peace of Mind" came right back in. 

As the band left the stage and the crowd cheered for the encore, I made my final trek through the masses and to the side of the stage. Jeff thanked everyone for coming out, and Ben suggested starting with a Stanley Brothers song. I was thrilled to get a little bit o bluegrass in the encore, with "If Lovin' You is Killing Me". Before playing the final song, Jeff introduced all of us to Mark, "Not only has he never toured with a band before, this is his first live concert ever. We hope you had a good time!" Mark, Kevin, and I were standing there, just laughing as Jeff looked over at Mark. "This is what it's like! Good people, jumping around, and cool guys and hot chicks, and everybody bouncing and having fun. That's what this is all about, so we hope it's okay." We all got a good chuckle out of it before Yonder raged into the final song, "Pretty Daughter". What an encore. It had been a while since I enjoyed an encore quite this much. This "Pretty Daughter" had so much energy and ferocity. And when Jeff came in with the final "Had supper on the table and her bed already made", he drug it out, all dirty like, getting the crowd completely riled up. Holy cow, it was good. 

This whole show was a surprise. Song after song, note after note. It was a phenomenal way to start the tour, and although we couldn't make the trek down to Texas for the next two nights, we only had to wait a couple days until we met up again in Arkansas.

Photo courtesy of Whitney Maxwell

Written by Dorothy St.Claire; photos by Dorothy St.Claire and Whitney Maxwell

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