Midtown Ballroom - Bend, OR (April 24, 2013)

written by Dorothy St.Claire

I had a couple relaxing days off in Corvallis before hitting the road to Bend with Donuts, Spencer, and Wisco. It was a fun trip, and once we were in Bend the boys dropped me off at Lisa's before getting into their pre-show shenanigans. Lisa and I caught up, ate pizza, and headed down to the Midtown Ballroom nice and early.

I took my time scoping out the venue and chatting with Hines and Mark. Hines was excited about finding the right guy to replace Kevin, causing me to do a double-take. Replace Kevin?! Yep, that's right. Kevin was finally leaving us for String Cheese. It was sad news, but we all knew it was coming. Mark and I talked about our days in the Metallica fan club and our excitement for the new Sim City game, and I realized just how much we really have in common outside of our Yonder bubble. The doors soon opened, I met new people, I saw old friends, and I got to meet my awesome Bend street team. 

This was the last night we had Head for the Hills as Yonder's opening band, and I was sad to see them go. It's always great getting to know new music through Yonder, and in this case I got to know some pretty cool people, too. They played a fun set, but unfortunately Brian spent the whole set trying to get rid of his hiccups while selling merch. I did my part and jumped out at him as much as possible. Even though one of the times I found Donuts watching the merch booth instead.

Yonder opened their show with a strong non-bluegrass "One More", but then got into some bluegrass as they all turned to Dave. "It's got everything. It's got leaves, it's got hearts. It's got underground caverns. Donuts." Ha! We got "Little Lover", and Dave's voice was strong and steady, his banjo loud and precise. 

"Don't blink or you'll miss it!  Adam Aijala on the guitar, everyone!" Jeff introduced Adam, who's first song of the night was Benny Galloway's "Pride of Alabama". You can never go wrong with a Burle tune, and this one hit all the right receptors in our bodies. The crowd was getting into their groove during this one, dancing and smiling together. "So the name of this song, technically, is 'Bloody Mary Morning' and it was written by Willie Nelson." Ben said. "I have not asked him for permission, but I'm gonna change the name of it right now to 'Can You Believe that Donut I Just Had With Maple Syrup on it and the Bacon'. Why yes, I would like something to drink with that." He was of course referring to the amazing donuts that were being sold just outside the venue. Literally. Walk outside, look to your left, grab a donut, come back in and rock. I had been fighting the donut temptations all night, and this mention of the sugary dough almost had me running outside, but "Bloody Mary Morning" started and I was pulled back to the music, my camera, and my dancing feet. This was an especially great "Bloody Mary Morning", as Ben put everything he had into singing those fun lyrics. "Delicious. Thank you very much."

One of my favorite solos in any song is Adam's first solo in "Kentucky Mandolin". I find myself singing it all the time, and I get so excited whenever I get to hear it for real. And then, just as "Kentucky Mandolin" ended, Jeff threw us into "Hill Country Girl". What a pleasant surprise. It was fast, it was crazed, and the crowd loved it. "Finally Saw the Light" came next, followed by a fast and fun "Spanish Harlem Incident". Jeff sang a reflective "Years With Rose", breaking it down at the end with Adam and Dave until taking it into "Up on the Hill Where They do the Boogie". I think we all know what "they" do when "they" do the boogie, and even though we were inside and not on top of a hill, many folks in this crowd were doing just that. And then, while everyone was dancing in a smokey haze, we were hit with a raging "Southern Flavor". Raging. 

I spent my set break at the merch booth, as per usual. I visited with friends, met some Kinfolk, and had an all around great time. And luckily for Brian, his hiccups were finally gone.

As the band came back out for the second set, the crowd started singing "Happy Birthday" to Jeff. The guys looked at each other and laughed, as it was not yet Jeff's birthday. Adam set us straight, "The celebration will begin in 2 hours." He looked at the clock and corrected himself, "Hour and 10 minutes." And then the second set started with "Casualty", giving us no time to ease into the groove, but instead shoving us right into it. 

Dave precluded the next song by saying, "Banjo music: it's better than it sounds." "Irondale" gave us that banjo that we so desperately long to hear, and Adam followed it with and oldie but a goodie, "Idaho". Jeff came through with a whimsical "Southbound", and Adam gave away the next tune with his pre-song plucks… One of my favorite covers, "And Your Bird Can Sing". It was a phenomenal version of the song, with Dave and Adam giving it a little extra punch. We still didn't get any time between songs, as Jeff immediately sang "When it gets dry, and you wanna get high… You gotta clean them seeds (remember when pot had seeds?) just one more time…" "Granny Wontcha Smoke Some" got the crowd jumping with excitement as the song blasted off, "You get the milk, I'll get the cookies, we'll get high and do the boogie." I could sure go for some milk and cookies right about now… or a donut. Stop thinking about donuts! I had to bring myself back to the present moment and out of my munchie haze and dance to this great John Hartford tune that doesn't get played nearly enough anymore.

"No Expectations" slowed us down for a moment. Now, don't take that the wrong way. The tempo might have gone down, but the intensity just kept going up. The crowd swayed along as Ben slowly sawed his bow across the bass, and the room reverberated as the low end bounced off of every surface. 
"Ripcord Blues" came in next and brought some funk with it. Especially in that moment that I love so much - Ben slappin' the bass at the end. So good. A rare "Head of that Woman" came next and put smiles on a lot of faces, and "Steam Powered Aereoplane" only made the smiles bigger. I mean, who doesn't love John Hartford?! "Part 1" gave us some of that Sherif Saga love before we were hit with the big shebang. 

"Peace of Mind" thundered in and brought the energy that only this song can bring. As Jeff sang, "You and I headed straight into the west", I could feel the pulse of the crowd. I could sense the sublime feeling coming off of each person on the floor. There's no way to describe what a live Yonder show does to a person, especially in moments like this. Joy emanated from the crowd as they danced and sang along, pushing on with the song. There was a lot of pedal and frenzied strumming as "Peace of Mind" got ready to go into something… but what would it be? It was a big "Sidewalk Stars", and although I wouldn't have thought to put it inside "POM", it worked. It worked really well. And when the mandolin feedback came in and Ben pounded out those bass notes, we were ready for it. The return to "POM" was a firestorm, starting slow, but quickly picking up strength and bringing the heat. After their first round of "you and I's" Adam announced, "Folks, it's officially Jeff Austin's birthday!" and the crowd went nuts. We all danced and sang together as "POM" finished, feeling the intense joy that can only come from this band. 

"So it really is Jeff's birthday, by the way." Adam told us as they all came back for the encore. "We always have people yelling to us that it's their birthday. Jeff can yell it to us now, if he wants." Jeff had a bashful smile as he said "You folks keep me young." And fittingly, the encore started with "Old Plank Road". With Jeff being over 6 months sober, I thought this was a great song for him to sing on his birthday. And besides that, it's just a kick-ass song. My favorite part being when Jeff and Ben look at each other, give a nod of agreement, and sing "Never never never get drunk no more…" It's awesome. They had time for one more, and they sure didn't disappoint, giving us the old road song, "Rambler's Anthem". It was a perfect encore for a great show in one of my new favorite towns. I can't wait to come back.

Written by Dorothy St.Claire

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