McDonald Theater - Eugene, OR (April 20, 2013)

written by Dorothy St.Claire

In the aftermath of a horrible night's sleep, changing rooms, and finally giving up on good rest, Claude and I met up with another old hometown friend for some lunch and some beers (beers for them, a deliciously bubbly Izze Soda for me). Nice and full from the Bier Stein's yummy mac and cheese, I left the boys to their debauchery and headed back to the McDonald for night two. 

Tonight seemed to get underway much quicker than the night before. I was visiting with folks outside, and all of a sudden the doors were open and the Head for the Hills guys were getting ready to take the stage. I had never seen them before this tour, but now, by the third night, I was starting to really feel their groove. The theater filled faster than the night before, and Head for the Hills gave everyone a stellar warm-up for the main event.

Jeff wished us all a happy holiday as the Yonder boys took the stage, plugged in, and tuned up. "You folks ready?" He asked, as they started strumming the intro to "Looking Back Over My Shoulder". With this song starting the show, it could only mean we were in for a wonderful night. It was as if we had never left - last night's show flowed into tonight's, and I danced my butt off in between shutter clicks. They played my favorite song with perfection, capturing the attention of everyone in the room, and threatening to never let go. "Steep Grade Sharp Curves" came next as I roamed the room and found some space next to Kevin. I stayed in this spot for the beginning of "You're No Good", but quickly made my way back to the front for those Dave shots. 

Adam and Jeff sang "Night Out", singing those wonderful harmonies over some of the most enjoyable bass and banjo, and then Ben sang "40 Miles From Denver", leading the whole audience to sing "life is better there". We were long overdue for a Dead tune, and the smiles and the joyful feeling spread through the room as Adam started picking "Althea". Arms flew in the air and bodies swayed back and forth. The crowd showed their appreciation as the song ended and the room was filled with one loud roar. Jeff liked what he heard, letting us know we weren't alone. "We are feelin' it tonight, friends! It ain't lost on us, people." A fast "Hill Country Girl" was a pleasant surprise, pulling behind it our first instrumental of the night, "Maid of the Canyon". "Redbird" came in with a start, and Ben even gave us a little taste of that old-school high note as he sang. It was pretty great. 

"So this is for the little kids... and for all the big kids out there celebrating this lovely green day we have today. Keep on goin', friends!" And just like that, Jeff, Ben, and Adam were singing one of the best Yonder songs out there. "Keep On Going" puts that good feeling into your heart. I know I felt it as I stood in the photo pit, watching the energy flow between the band and the fans. And then Dave got us with a simple yet extraordinarily catchy solo as they threw the song into double-time before dropping us into that heady bassline and "2 Hits and the Joint Turned Brown". "This is the audience participation part of the show." Jeff told us as Ben kept that groove flowing. "Feel free to add to the atmosphere in any way you deem necessary." The crowd took that suggestion to heart, quickly fighting with Ted's smoke machines for control of the room. Jeff took this one on a nice long scat before that bassline changed (just a little) to bring us back to "Keep On Going". It was so good and was the best way to bring the first set to a close.

It was a hot one in there tonight, so I spent a good deal of my setbreak outside in the fresh Oregon air. Peggy joined me out there for a while, but we soon had to duck back in so we wouldn't miss the start of the second set. Peggy had a VIP wristband, so I took her to the side of the stage, right next to Dave as the set started with "Good Hearted Woman". This is one of my favorite places to be, and the smile I saw on Peggy's face as the two of us boogied back there behind the curtain showed me that she felt that same joy. We didn't stay long, choosing instead to dance through the crowd and find Kristin, Aaron, and baby Viola. We had plenty of room to dance... and dance, we did. "Elzic's Farewell" started softly but soon fell into that super-danceable beat. Jeff's mandolin filled the room with its haunting tones, and Ted's lights filled the air above us with beautiful colors that captivated little Viola. "Sideshow Blues" sped things up, and as Jeff called out for all the freaks, I could swear that every person in there screamed as loud as they could. 

"Another Day" started, and I wished Colin was there with me to enjoy it. Someone in the crowd was obviously not taking the time to enjoy it, instead deciding to scream "Boatman" at the top of his lungs, over and over. Finally, when "Another Day" was finished, Adam had to break the bad news. "'Boatman', we played it last night, man. Sorry. You missed it." I hoped that would put an end to this guy's screaming, and luckily "Winds of Wyoming" went on without any interruptions. "How's everybody doing?" Ben asked. The crowd screamed and he started singing "Part 1". I love this song. So much. And one Sherif Saga song wasn't enough - "Mother's Only Son" came right up behind it. We all jammed out on this one for a while, happy as could be, and then we were swept away by "Half Moon Rising". 

"It's a fine time to be from Eugene, isn't it?" Ben said to the crowd. "Successful sports teams in the area... high time. What compliments high times? I dunno, how about bluegrass music?" You could barely hear Dave say "Let's smash it!" over the screams of the crowd. And then Adam was singing "Big Spike Hammer". What a treat! "Country Boy Rock and Roll" followed and brought with it the perfect bounce and perfect harmonies, and "Shake Me Up" made sure no one stopped dancing. 

As I tried to take in the last few songs, we were hit. With "Ten". It came out of nowhere and hit us hard. The guys were giving us everything they had, pulling even more out of the audience than before. And when "Ten" built itself up and then came back down towards the end, it all changed. It got dark. It got distorted. It got creepy as "Riverside" pushed in and took over and brought us all over the edge. Jeff's 'breakdown' in this "Riverside" was unreal. It was angry and fast, and full of revenge. It was one of the best versions of "Riverside" I had heard in a long time, and when it went back into the end of "Ten", I took a few seconds to take a deep breath. "I was ten steps from my front door..." Jeff softly sang. "I was ready to stop, now I'm not quite sure..." The end of "Ten" was short but intense, and then Jeff was saying "Thank you, goodnight." 

"Sincerely, we play a lot of places, we play a lot of shows, but there's something special going on here." Jeff spoke to a happy and musically satisfied crowd as the band got ready for their encore. Nothing beats a good two-night run. You get the chance to get settled in somewhere, get to know a new town and venue, and you get to watch the band stretch out as they get comfortable and play a crapload of songs. They busted out a fiery "Little Rabbit" before ending the night with, "Well a rich gal, she drives in an automobile!". Yep. They weren't messing around. A nice long "My Gal" brought us to an energetic close. 

"Thank you guys so much again. Happy 4/20. Thank you."

Written by Dorothy St.Claire

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