written by Dorothy St.Claire
Another year, another Summercamp. It's been crazy seeing this festival change and grow over the years, and honestly, it has grown bigger than what Colin and I are comfortable with. But it's only four hours away, and with Yonder on the bill, we really can't miss it. We got in late Thursday night and found our super duper VIP parking spot and a place to throw our tent, only a couple hundred feet from the car. Hell yes.
Friday started off slow and easy. We walked around the festival a little. We ran into Rex... whose car was parked almost right next to ours. We checked out a little moe., and did some people watching. When we ran into Ben and Adam, and then Vince, Ted and Mark, I started to feel those pre-Yonder-show jitters. We lucked out this year and managed to find ourselves in the middle a beautiful Illinois summer day. We even managed to avoid the rain... for now.
We got to the main stage just as the crew was setting up for Yonder, and who did we see? Kevin! We thought his last show was the Mountain of Strings festival at the end of Spring Tour, but here he was, training Zach, or "New Kevin", as I had planned on calling him. Colin and I mingled around backstage and then at the rail, chatting with folks and getting ready for Yonder's set.
Pretty soon it was time, and Adam, Ben, Dave, and Jeff emerged from their RV dressing room and made their way to the stage. They warmed up the crowd with "If You're Ever In Oklahoma", throwing out the notion that the crowd might need to be eased into the set. The energy was high, the people danced, and the dust started to fill the air.
"Thank you folks!" Jeff hollered out into the crowd right before stomping on a pedal and sending feedback and distortion into the air to mix with the dust. "East Nashville Easter" pounded through us all with its driving beat and I could almost see the pulse of the crowd bouncing along.
"Thank you, friends! It's so nice to stand here before you again and start out our summer the way we've been so lucky to start it for so many years." Jeff's smile shone as he greeted everyone and as Adam turned our attention to Ben, we could see they were all mirroring the same big smile. "Folks, that was Jeff Austin on the mandolin singing those last couple songs for ya. And on the bass here is Mr. Ben Kaufmann. He'd like to sing an oldie". "I was thinking about changing the title of this next song, but everybody knows it as '40 Miles From Denver', so I figured, why screw it up. Something like '40 Miles From Sizzler'..." Ben sang with gusto and had some more words for the crowd as the song finished, "Thank you very much everybody, I just have to say how thrilled we all are that today isn't 114 freakin' degrees outside. Cause I remember last year... and by remember I mean I got heat stroke and don't remember a thing."
Adam sang The Misfits' "classic bluegrass" tune "20 Eyes" before passing the lead onto Dave for "Irondale". Then Jeff dedicated "Pretty Daughter" to Allie Kral, which got a huge response from the audience.
Ben was in a pretty fun mood, taking a moment before the next song to say, "Well, talking backstage and we realized that your love is like bad medicine, folks. But it turns out that bad medicine is what we need." He could barely suppress his laugh as he added, "Thank you for that" and finally went on to sing "Casualty".
They welcomed Roosevelt Collier to the stage to add some pedal steel to the mix. And as "Kentucky Mandolin" rolled in and Roosevelt started picking those strings, my mouth hung open in surprise. This was good. Like, really good. I feel bad saying this, but "Kentucky Mandolin" has become one of my least favorite instrumentals... but Roosevelt brought it, and I loved this song again. And as the song finished, they all noodled around until Adam led us into "Dear Prudence". Roosevelt added a rock and roll flavor, and the intensity of his sound wasn't lost on anyone.
Time was winding down and Yonder was getting close to the end of their time slot... so what did they do? Busted out a fast and rowdy "Raleigh and Spencer", that's what. They rocked that shiz and when they left the stage, they were actually told to go out and play one more. Awesome.
"Thanks again everybody." Adam said as he plugged back in. "Enjoy the rest of the night. Maybe we'll see you later at, uh, really late. I don't know what time, but it's really late." "If I learned anything from the Spin Doctors, Adam, it's that it's not late, it's early." Ben said before laying down that familiar "2 Hits and the Joint Turned Brown" bassline. It was a fun end to a wonderful afternoon set, and luckily for all of us, we had a late night show to look forward to.
Colin and I spent our extremely long set break checking out more music, hanging with the crew as they set up in the red barn ("I love working twice in one day!" -Kevin), and eating some delicious chicken and noodles. We finally headed down to the red barn at around 12:30am. Once inside, we met up with Rex, who was facing quite a serious conundrum. The first late night band was moe., Rex's favorite. But right outside the barn, on the campfire stage, at the exact same time, was Allie Kral and friends. And Rex is basically obsessed with Allie (who isn't, really?). So he had to split his time between the two shows, but luckily, they were right next to each other.
Rex and I both started out shooting the first 3 songs of moe., then made our way outside for a little Allie Kral and Friends, which also included Jeff Austin. We stayed for a couple songs, and it was fun, but they were basically bathed in blue light the entire time. Not great for photos. I made my way back into the barn to enjoy the rest of moe.'s set.
"Well hi everybody, thanks for staying up with us. You got a little bit more in ya? All righty." And BAM! "New Horizons". I couldn't believe how many photographers were shooting this set, and I figured I'd let them get their shots before I made my way into the photo pit. I hung out next to the stage for the opening sandwich of "New Horizons"> "Blue Collar Blues"> "New Horizons", and right from the start, I had more fun than I did at the daytime set. There's just something about Yonder in a hot cramped room that breeds high energy. And I love it.
After "New Horizons" ended, the other photographers were all ushered out of the photo pit, and once it was empty I made my way in - just in time for "Left Me in a Hole". The banter was minimal as they leapt from Adam's "Left Me in a Hole" into Dave's "Fingerprint", but Ben spoke up as they prepared for the next tune, "This next number is, to me, I've always thought of it as such an innocent song, it reminds me of a time way back when before any of us saw a naked picture on the internet. A better time, a more innocent time, a time of jug band music. When basses were made out of broomsticks and big round washtubs and only had one string." Ha! It could really only be one song, "My Gal". They played it so fast and so tight, and followed it with a crowd-pleasing "Steep Grade Sharp Curves".
Devo's "Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy" roared in next, with Hines adding some depth to Jeff's voice as he sang "I've had just about all I can take, you know I can't take anymore!" Jeff screamed and screamed "I've got a gut feeling!" and the song raged on and on until it broke free into the fast bluegrass "Slap Your Mammy". I never think about this song as a whole as one that I want to hear, but then as soon as they jump into the second half I remember that I love it. LOVE IT. "New Deal Train" came next and slowed some folks down. Jeff gave us a little intro to the next song, "So, at this hour it seems appropriate that fast bluegrass is gonna motivate us straight to the dawn." And Adam kicked it into "Another Day". Good choice.
"I suppose this next song should come with a little bit of a warning, folks. Assume the position. Bend over and spread em, get ready... for the banjo!" And Ben wins the prize for the best introduction of the night. "Little Lover" was perfect, like always. But seriously, this is one of my all-time favorites, and they rocked it. Unfortunately, it was about time to start wrapping it up, but they did it right by blasting into "Ten".
"We'll play one more for you, if that's okay." Um, let me think... Yes, Jeff, we would like one more. "A little lullaby to send you all to bed (yeah right)." Before they could start their encore, Dave told us all, "I want you guys to talk about this all day tomorrow." "It's already been forgotten, Dave." Adam said, right before kicking off "Southern Flavor".
We had so much fun seeing Yonder twice in one day. We went to sleep with smiles on our faces... but woke to a very dreary Saturday. As the day and then the rest of the weekend went on, we realized we probably should have just followed Yonder's bus right on outta there. Rain, mud, more rain, more mud, wind, and more rain. We saw a little more music, but not really very much. It was a pretty crummy rest of the weekend, resulting in the destruction of our tent and air mattress and mud finding its way into everything. Everything.
Written by Dorothy St.Claire
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