Belly Up - Aspen, CO (March 17, 2013)

written by Dorothy St.Claire

We had so much fun at the Belly Up the night before, and from the moment I woke up (at 8:30a.m. thanks to my earlybird roommates) I was buzzing with anticipation for tonight's show. I spent a good chunk of my day enjoying the view and the smell of the snow from our room while the rest of my friends went to the hot tub. I love winter, and as I took in the incredible snowy view, I knew my days of cold comfort were nearing an end.

I went to the Belly Up early enough to watch soundcheck and get some good Kinfolk time in. Although it was St. Paddy's Day, the streets weren't full of wild people decked out in head-to-toe green, and I was amazed by the difference from what I have always experienced in any other city on this day. It was a good day, and although the streets seemed calm, there was a buzz of anticipation in the air around the Belly Up.

Time always flies while on tour, and we were thrust into another big night before I even realized then sun had gone down. No opening band again meant that we jumped cold and blind into the Yonder pool, but the thumping bass and screaming mandolin of "East Nashville Easter" warmed us up immediately. Jason Carter joined them again tonight, and his fiddle changed everything right from the start. I could tell the guys were all feeling good, and it came out in the music. Jeff connected with all of us in the crowd as the lights went low and he stomped on his pedal. Adam comforted us with his gentle and precise strums. Dave hypnotized us with the constant roll of his fingers, and Ben grounded us with his low and steady beat. And when we all screamed along with Jeff, "One of these days I'm gonna wreck myself!" it felt as if the room exploded all around us. I couldn't believe the energy that was already brewing.

"St. Patrick's day's always an interesting holiday." Ben said. "I'm happy to see most of you still upright. Here's a bluegrass song, try not to throw up on your neighbor." This statement made me a little more conscious of my surroundings and who I would decide to stand next to for the remainder of the show, but I let my concern for puke take the back seat as I danced to "Walking Shoes". Adam's crooning filled our ears with "Lonesome Letter" before Dave took over with his instrumental, "Strophe". 

Jeff introduced the next song as "A Midwest bluegrass song about where I grew up", and we were all taken into the frenzy of "Illinois Rain". Jason's fiddle mimicked Jeff's strumming melody, which only skyrocketed the energy level even higher, and when Dave and Adam came together for that wonderful break before the last verse, I could only think that it just couldn't get any better. "Jack A Roe" immediately followed "Illinois Rain", and I was so happy to hear this cover. It was then followed by "Straight Line" and "Ripcord Blues"; these last four songs really showing us the wide spectrum of what Yonder can do. "Mother's Only Son" came next and I accepted this song as a freezing person would accept a warm blanket. There's just something about this song that is comforting and soothes the soul. And then, BAM! We were greeted by the end of the set with a wild "Raleigh and Spencer". If there's one song that really gets people fired up... that really gets them jumping into the air, it's "Raleigh and Spencer". And it had the whole Belly Up jumping and punching the air as we all screamed together, "...when this whole damn world's gone dry!" 

Like usual, I visited with Scotty and some Kinfolk friends by the merch booth during the set break. The out-of-the-ordinary part of this was that this would be my last time visiting with Scotty during the set break. He didn't tell many people, choosing instead to avoid the sad goodbyes, but this would be our last Yonder tour with Scotty (or Slowbear or Party Party - whatever nickname you have come to know him by). Todd's departure at the end of the last tour rattled me, but Scotty leaving just makes me sad. 

I didn't want to make the same mistake as the night before, so I looked at the setlist tonight to make sure I would be in the right spot when Jason got to sing one. I made my way up to the rail to stand with some friends - right in front of Jason. It wasn't bad at all, and as the band came back on stage and started the second set with "Kentucky Mandolin", I happily soaked it all in. It's one thing to listen to Jason Carter play. It's a whole different thing to stand just a couple feet in front of him as he rips his bow across the strings of his fiddle. This was probably my favorite "Kentucky Mandolin" in a long time, and it went right into "Left Me in a Hole". I had such a great time taking photos and just watching Adam sing this song. Before the next song could start, Jeff gave a warning, "Gentlemen, you better hold your ladies tight, cause the croonin' is comin' in!" And a bashful Jason Carter stepped up to the mic and sang his way into all of our hearts with Waylon Jennings' "Lonesome On'ry and Mean". At this point, I was so very very happy that I was up front. There is a reason everyone likes Jason so much. He has the greatest energy around him - and more talent than any one person should really have. 

"So I would like to take this time to say what a treat it's been to get to play here in this place with you guys this weekend." Ben was obviously happy to be here tonight, "Experiencing the energy you guys put out and just how awesome that is to feel... so while I'm feeling thankful I'd like to say thank you, for that. And for those of you listening at home, put some clothes on for crying out loud. It's disgusting." And with that, it was time for me to get moving. "Redbird" filled the air as I danced and slinked through the crowd, stopping at the merch booth before finally settling in next to Dave at the side of the stage. Jeff dedicated "Shake Me Up" to his buddy John DiMaggio, which I thought was a weird match, but, whatever. And then they went right into "Winds of Wyoming" - and this time I was so very very happy that I was next to Dave. 

There are some songs that I love more and more each time I hear them. "Another Day" is one of those songs, and we got to hear it next. Maybe in its simplicity I just didn't give it enough credit, but it has come to be one of my favorites. "Here's a song we don't get to play very often, and it goes like this. Almost exactly like this." Ben introduced the next song, and if I hadn't already looked at the setlist, I never would have guessed they'd play "Easy Come Easy Gone". Which is exactly what it was. They never ever play this anymore. My guess is that some songs just don't find their place - whether the band doesn't feel it or the crowd doesn't feel it - and they just fade away. I wouldn't mind if this one stuck around.

"So I am a proud Irish-American, friends." Jeff stood before us, wearing a big smile and a green Cubs shirt. "This is for my mom... and my whole family." And he started softly playing "Midwest Gospel Radio". It was so beautiful, and so sweet, and circled around us in a big musical hug. And then it got faster. And faster. And then, oh yes, it got real fast and turned into "Peace of Mind". The first thing I noticed as this song roared in was Jason's fiddle. He ferociously sawed at the strings, making sounds I never expected to hear, and making me close my eyes and throw my arms up in disbelief. I danced. We all danced. And eventually "Peace of Mind" slowed into "Morning Dew". Kinfolk all around whistled and cheered as I closed my eyes and let the music sway me back and forth. It felt so good to let the music take over, and as "Morning Dew" burst out of itself and sped up, we all burst out of ourselves and I swear the whole building was bouncing. "Peace of Mind" came back in perfectly, and I felt that unconscious collective sigh that always comes out of the crowd when this song resumes. I could feel the energy that came from all of us dancing together as we all sang "You and I". It was a great feeling. 

There were hugs and drinks were being toasted as the band came back to the stage. "Ladies and gentlemen, it is past midnight, which means... our dear friend Kevin Gregory, our monitor engineer, it's his birthday, everyone." And Jeff led us all in a round of "Happy Birthday". We all clapped and cheered for Kevin, and the band started their encore with John Hartford's "Holdin'". Of course, Jason put his bow down and used one of Jeff's picks on his fiddle. It was one of the best versions of this song I've heard - right up there with the other times I've seen Jason play it with them. Incredible. As they played, I reflected on what an amazing couple of nights we had just experienced, and what a wonderful tour I had had. Jeff thanked us all one last time before we were given a little "Southern Flavor" and then sent off into the night. 

The music was great and I didn't get puked on. It was a successful St. Paddy's day. 

Written by Dorothy St.Claire

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