written by Garth Wagner
If you are from Billings or just like Billings, I will apologize now. I have only had a few experiences with Billings prior to this show. None of them were all that positive. This night would prove to follow that course. I was trying to keep an open mind. I got into town mid afternoon, the weather was perfect. After driving through a snow storm for five hours I was happy to have sunshine and 60 degrees. Walked over to the venue to check it out, looked pretty good. Went and found a watering hole. Ended up at a nice looking bar and restaurant close to The Babcock. Bartenders were nice and friendly, a couple from North Dakota couldn't believe I would drive around following a band.
Headed over to the venue to get my will call, good group of fans anxiously awaiting doors. Always a good sign when people are excited. Got inside and claimed my normal spot, right in front of Dave. This is when I got a little suspicious. Me personally, I don't like venues with seats in it. I mean like movie theater seating. The floor gets packed with people all trying to cram in the space between the seating and the stage. Being the only one in that space I started chatting with the security guard. Nice guy, didn't know much about the theater but nice. He got in a conversation with his coworker about people being allowed to stand in the space between the seating and stage. They were not sure if this was allowed and if people would be able to dance or not. Whoa, red flag... Someone made the decision that it would be ok if people danced. I would hope so.
The Deadly Gentlmen came out and finally I was not alone in "the space". The band was into it and so was the crowd. By the end of their opening set they had the crowd in a frenzy and things were looking good. I had a positive outlook for the rest of the night.
Yonder came on and the crowd was ready. A great choice of an opener, which was "Bloody Mary Morning" got this going. But suddenly there was a lot of pushing going on. It was coming from a young woman three people down from me. She got rid of the two ladies on my right and then started in on me. Slamming into me and screaming for me to move. I screamed back. Seeing that I wasn't going to budge anymore she threw my beer on the floor. She threw my beer on the floor. It was a lot like Woo peeing on The Dude's rug. I looked up and saw Dave laughing at the situation. At the end of the first song I was able to explain to her that I had a photo pass and I would not being moving from my spot. All of a sudden she was very apologitic and nice. This kind of set the mood for my evening. The Billings crowd continued to be pushy, trying to cram their way in. The first set was kind of average with the highlight coming at the end with a tasty sandwhich made up of "Snow on the Pines" with a "Girlfriend" in the middle. Stash Wyslouch from The Deadly Gentlmen joined the boys to help out with the making of said sandwhich.
Not wanting to deal with the crowd, I headed for the balcony for the second set. Found a nice spot up front and took a seat. A pretty fun second set followed. "Pretty Daughter" and "How Bout You" opened things up. A nice "Little Lover" and "Mossy Cow" brought us to a "Bird Can Sing" into a Jeff favorite of mine, "Ain't Been Myself in Years". Another Jeff goodie of "Too Late Now" followed that. "Naughty Sweetie" got the crowd ramped up. A fast and upbeat "Loved You Enough" paved the way for a sweet "Belle Parker". An always welcome "Criminal" and "Little Rabbit" led things to an always smokin' "Whipping Post". "All The Time" closed out the set. "Not Far Away" was the first encore, and another favorite I had not heard in a while, and "Crazy Train" finished out the night.
Between the crowd and the cramped venue I would not be bummed if Yonder skipped Billings in the future. Although the Billings folks sure seemed to enjoy the boys. Like all of us always do. I was looking forward to the next night in Bozeman.
Written by Garth Wagner, with photos also by Garth
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