written by Dorothy St.Claire
Leaving Eugene also meant starting the second leg of my Spring Tour. I said goodbye to Claude and hopped in the car with Donuts to make our way to Ashland.
Our GPS led us to a nice little Ashland neighborhood, with our venue tucked right in the middle. It was weird not being downtown or surrounded by consumers, instead being surrounded by beautifully manicured lawns and flowery gardens. Oh and Kinfolk. Lots of Kinfolk.
The venue was pretty big - and divided right down the middle. Booze on the right, no booze on the left. And the rail zigzagged around the speakers in front. This created two extreme points, one in front of Adam and one in front of Dave, with enough room for just about three people. It was weird.
The Ashland crowd filed in as Head for the Hills started our night of music. It was a beautiful night, so it took a while for folks to mosey in, but once they did they were welcomed by more Kinfolk and loud bluegrass.
Some of my friends had claimed the Adam-side point in the rail, and were kind enough to let me squeeze in for the beginning of the show. I felt so exposed and conspicuous standing there at the very tip, but it was a great spot for some photos. The crowd was so loud as Yonder walked on to the stage. Adam answered the screams with "Yes. It has been eleven years, has it not? We've matured a bit. A little bit." Jeff thanked us for coming out on a Sunday and then the show started with "Illinois Rain". It was a whirlwind of notes, working up the crowd and getting their feet moving. Dave took over, singing "Fingerprint" next. Like always, the solos in this song grabbed me hard, pulling me in. And then Adam strummed the intro to "Corona" and I let myself rock out. It was such a good version of this song. Like, really freaking good. Adam has been rocking this one harder and harder this past year or so. A bashful smile appeared on his face as the song finished, and then our attention was directed to Ben, singing "Straight Line".
It worked out perfectly - our first four songs featured each of our four guys on vocals. This meant I could leave this awesome but awkward spot on the rail and wander. I went and stood next to Kevin as Jeff said, "We'll play a little banjo number for you now, because nothing goes better with a Sunday than bloody - no. Nothing goes better with a Sunday than laying in bed - no. Nothing goes better on a Sunday than banjo music. It makes all those things even better." It really did feel good to hear some banjo on a Sunday, and Dave was hitting all the right notes as he led us in a little "Strophe". This show felt like a Sunday afternoon pick. Like we should all be grilling and hanging around a bonfire. I hadn't felt this vibe at a show in a long time and it was pretty darn awesome.
Jeff stomped on his pedal, letting the feedback ring through the room. Ben and Adam joined in, and soon we were stomping our own feet to "East Nashville Easter". I had noticed it from the beginning, but Ben's bass sounded so good tonight... especially on this song. It was loud and clear and was the puppeteer to all of our dance moves. It's no secret. I love the bass. Ben helped Adam sing "Rain Still Falls" next, both of them sounding just as good as ever. By this time in the show, I was fully in my Yonder euphoria, unable to hide my smile or keep from dancing, so I found a great wide-open yet slightly hidden spot behind Kevin to get my groove on. Ben wailed on "Complicated", and I made my way back by Kevin before it was over. As Adam and Jeff turned away from the crowd (and toward me) to tune up, Jeff said to Adam, "Let's go crazy on 'After Midnight'. Let's just let it get weird. Scare 'em." Adam nodded before turning back around and starting "Oklahoma". Yeah, things were about to get crazy.
"Oklahoma" was huge, and our laid-back audience became a frantic, bluegrass-crazed audience. It was incredible watching this transformation and seeing just how much energy these folks really had in them. Jeff brought "After Midnight" in slowly and quietly, with a little creepiness behind it. But it wasn't long before Adam, Ben, and Dave joined in and the song exploded. It was a huge "After Midnight", spanning ten minutes of thumping beats and blurry fingers that eventually led us back to "Oklahoma". What a set.
I hung out in a bunch of different spots for my setbreak. The merch booth. Outside. At the rail. While at the rail, one of my friends told me she got busted smoking pot by the venue security, "If I catch you smoking that in here two more times, you're out." Ha! I never heard that one before. We got a good chuckle out of that. As everyone else came back in from their smoke break, the venue became extremely packed. It was tough getting back to my side-stage spot, so as soon as I got there, I knew that's where I would spend the rest of my show.
The crowd went nuts as the guys came back to the stage, and Dave said to everyone, "Ashland Oregon, we love you, too. Mark down this: we will never stay away for eleven years again." The set started with Ben singing "Blue Collar Blues", and it was clear that the backyard BBQ feeling was long gone. This had turned into a raging party. "Ready boys?!" Jeff asked his bandmates before starting something that I didn't quite recognize. As he started singing "Now I was a stranger in love and in town..." I became even more excited. He was singing James King's "Leaving", a song that Yonder has only played 17 times (according to Phantasy Tour). It's not very often that I get a song I've never heard them play, and I loved it. So much. I'm going to make it my mission to get them to play this one more.
Dave sang "Polka On A Banjo" next, and I could tell how much fun they were all having up there. I love it when I can see them being amazed by their brothers on stage. As Adam took his solo, Jeff gave a loud "Yeah!" and I felt the shockwaves run through my body. "Harder They Come" was next, followed by a sandwich favorite, "Troubled Mind"> "20 Eyes"> "Troubled Mind". Yonder's lovely version of The Dead's "Jack A Roe" filled our ears and filled our hearts, and then we were brought back up to full speed with "What the Night Brings".
It was time for another Dave song, and I was thrilled to hear him sing "Red Tail Lights". Then Adam tore it up with his fast instrumental, "Stumped". Ben sang a heartfelt "Finally Saw the Light", as Ted's lights shone down on the stage, creating ripples and swirls in the air as the smoke machines worked their hardest. "We wanna thank you guys for being here with us tonight, we hope you had a good time." As Jeff spoke, I knew the end was near. "Thanks again to Head for the Hills for being here with us and to the one balloon that has survived through the entire show. Hey little balloon." "New Horizons" was the beginning of the end, bringing an even higher level of energy from the crowd. Girls got on shoulders, and people actually tried to crowd surf. They weren't very successful at it, but they still had Kevin on his toes, ready to defend the stage. They calmed down a little as "New Horizons" broke down, Ben brought out his bow, and they transitioned into "Dear Prudence". It was a rich "Dear Prudence", thick with passion and emotion. But then things just got crazy as "New Horizons" came back in. I half way expected Dave's banjo to just implode on itself, but luckily it remained intact and we were able to keep dancing through the end of the song.
The encore started with a really fun "Naughty Sweetie", putting the swing in our hips. "Well, I will always remember you as a very excitable crowd." Jeff laughed, "Some people say 'It's just bluegrass' and I say 'ah, f*ck that. It's fast, excitable music.' And tonight you showed us that that's the case. So we're going to try an experiment. Let's see what happens when we play this next song... I don't care... What you say... let me write this down... I'm gonna drink my corn liquor anyway." Dave came in with his "Oh me" and "Oh my", and we were thrown into a rowdy "Let Me Fall". And I mean ROWDY. From the band to the crowd, everyone in the room gave it all they had. It was an incredible end to a really fun and unique show.
Written by Dorothy St.Claire
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