written by Dorothy St.Claire
Assspen. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. This was my first time in Aspen, as it must have been the first for many Kinfolk, because you couldn't go an hour without hearing the classic Dumb and Dumber quote. I traveled in with Tim, Lori, Stephenie, and Chris C., and as we got settled in this incredibly beautiful mountain town, I knew this would be a memorable weekend.
It's weird traveling around the country in a short period of time. I went to warm, sunny beaches in January, and here I was in the snowy mountains in March. I much prefer the snowy mountains, but I still skipped the line and went inside the Belly Up as the rest of my Kinfolk friends gathered outside to wait for doors. Oh, and I ran into Jason Carter while Stephenie and Chris C. were getting their will-call tickets... so of course Stephenie grabbed my camera and took our picture. Oh yes, it was going to be a real good night.
I really love that Yonder is reaching out and bringing opening bands with them most of the time these days... but nothing beats an evening with Yonder Mountain String Band. Just us and the boys. Because that's really what we're here for, right? Kinfolk filled the Belly Up pretty darn fast, and got louder and more boisterous as we waited for Yonder to start the show.
Since there was no photo pit and I wasn't mentally prepared to be in the crowd quite yet, I found a pretty sweet spot - basically right next to Dave. Technically I wasn't on stage, but sometimes during the night (usually as Dave threw down) I sure felt like I was. The thick sold-out crowd roared as Yonder hit the stage with Jason Carter. And we were all shoved right into the madness when the show started, incredibly, with "Ten". It was fast and strong and pulled us right along into "Polly Put the Kettle On". It was pretty cool hearing Jason play this one. We have heard it with Darol Anger for so long, and Jason put his twist on it and made it his own.
Ben sang Shawn Camp's "Ain't No Way of Knowing" next, which just put a huge grin on my face. I don't know when I had heard this last, but it had been a little while. I made my way into the crowd and up front as Adam sang "Pockets", and then I was completely stunned as Jeff led us all through the upbeat murder ballad, "Angel with the Golden Hair". I never expect to hear this song, so when they threw it out there at us, I almost missed out on enjoying it because I was just so darn excited. They followed this old chestnut with "Pass This Way", perfectly mixing the old with the new. Jason's fiddle added a whole new element to this song, and at one point Dave mimicked Jason and I just about lost it. Everything clicked and we were all sucked into the vortex. I knew I loved this song, but I never heard anything like this before. That's why I keep seeing these guys.
Jeff introduced Dave as I wiped the sweat from my face and caught my breath, "That's David Johnston right there on the banjo." Dave smiled and added, "We're here for your mountainous pleasure." This was turning into one of those shows where you're just blown away more with each consecutive song, because the one and only "Eli Renfro" was next. And let me tell you, "Eli Renfro" with Jason on fiddle is nothing to trifle with. And then, wouldn't you know it, it was time for Dave to sing again! "Don't You Lean On Me" tickled our ears, with Dave adding "Think about it" before Jeff eased us into "Elzic's Farewell". I know I'm going to end up sounding like a broken record here, but Jason Carter blew me away on this song. The sounds and the melodies he comes up with amaze me beyond words. But before I could absorb "Elzic's", we were brought into "Looking Back Over My Shoulder" to finish the set. With a smile that felt like it would never end, I closed my eyes and danced to this song that has come to mean so much to me.
Setbreak came, and I semi-successfully maneuvered around the packed Belly Up. I visited with those friends I was lucky enough to find, and then I made my way back to my safe zone next to the stage. The band came out, and right away I noticed that Dave had removed his flannel shirt. Whoa, buddy... it was about to get hot! No words were spoken by the band, but Jeff started strumming the intro to "King Ebeneezer". It was dirty and angry, and then unexpectedly went into "Boatman". I thought that was an odd choice for a segue, but it worked, and the crowd loved it.
"Why don't we have Jason sing us one?" Adam asked the crowd, and I knew my dreams were about to come true. Unfortunately, I was back by the merch booth at this point and knew I didn't want to spend the whole song struggling to get up front for some photos. This was one of those times where looking at the setlist would have given me a chance to perfectly place myself for this song... but oh well. I figured Jason would sing again tomorrow, so I would take this chance to just enjoy it. And as Jason finally spoke to us, telling us he would sing a John Hartford tune, I knew that yes, I was about to be very happy. But it wasn't just me - EVERYONE was ecstatic to hear Jason sing and play "Vamp in the Middle". It was everything I hoped for and more. Jason seems to bring out the best in all four of our Yonder boys, and the smile that spread across my face was bigger than I ever thought possible. That smile hadn't faded one bit when "Going Where They Do Not Know My Name" came next. It was fast and fun, as usual.
Neil Young's "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" came out of... well... nowhere. It was an awesome surprise, and I loved hearing Jason's contribution to the song. And as everyone tuned up for the next tune, Dave picked a little and gave it away - "To See You Coming Round the Bend" was next, and made me really wish Colin was there with me. I'm so glad they've started playing this song more regularly - even though it has too many chords. "Ben was mentioning earlier that we had played 300 feet underground in a cave in Tennessee." Dave said. "And now we're playing practically on top of the world here in lovely Aspen. Give yourselves a hand. This next song is about being high... on a hilltop. So, that's how I tie it all in together." Awesome. I love the sound of Dave, Ben, and Jeff singing "High On A Hilltop". It really doesn't get much better than that. Adam introduced the next one. "And yet, another song by Ben Kaufmann that has far too many chords." "The chords Adam's referring to are affectionately known as 'out of town' chords." Ben added. "If you're from where Jason's from, that means it don't ever get on the radio." "Finally Saw the Light" was that song, and it was very enjoyable, indeed. No matter if it don't ever get on the radio.
Things got a little romantic as Jeff sang "Half Moon Rising", following it with the reeling "Lay it on the Line". As we were all settling down, Ben looked out at us with a smile. "It's really nice to look out and see so many familiar and friendly faces. Like, I recognize most of you. Like, since forever." His smile couldn't have gotten any bigger as he added, "All of a sudden something got up into my heart and made me feel good just then, my goodness! That's not supposed to happen in America!" And then of course Dave had to make us laugh before we could move on, "Looking out on the crowd, I think I got about eight or nine Scrabble games going on with you people." Then the mandolin feedback started, Adam began strumming, and Dave sang "Winds on Fire". Nice.
Then we were hit with "Traffic Jam", and again, I think Dave and Jason were the stars of this one. I love watching them play to each other from opposite ends of the stage. They bring out the best in each other, and it's obvious they love playing together. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor as this song progressed. "Traffic Jam" was obviously the first slice of bread in the closing sandwich, but as Jeff started to go crazy on his pedal, I had no idea what the meat would be... until Adam added his touch with a deep and slow strum that started "Years With Rose". It was a great "Years" that got the crowd stomping their feet. And as "Traffic Jam" was ushered back in, all of the Kinfolk in the room, and all of the Kinfolk listening at home were (no doubt) jumping for joy. I could hardly breathe as the tension built and built before the music stopped and Ben, Jeff, and Adam sang us back into the last verse of the song. It was huge, and it was an incredible way to end the set.
The band left the stage to rowdy screams and applause, barely waiting at all before coming back out to play us a couple more. "Ooh La La" came first and mellowed us all down a little bit. But then "Sideshow Blues" came second and got us all riled up again. Yeah, it was a great night in Aspen. Just one sleep and we would be ready for night two!
Written by Dorothy St.Claire
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