Penn's Peak - Jim Thorpe, PA (August 21, 2014)

written by Dorothy St.Claire

The first night of August Tour. My first time to Penn's Peak. My first post-boot and cane show (stupid broken toe). And most folks in Pennsylvania's first time seeing Yonder 2.0. From the second I walked into this unique venue, I knew it would be a great night. 

After Jeff's departure from the band, Dave, Ben, and Adam have played most of their shows with Jake Jolliff on mandolin and Allie Kral on fiddle. Personally, I love the 5-piece. And I love having a girl in the band. Seriously, it's pretty damn awesome not being the only chic hanging around these days. I walked around the venue during soundcheck, taking in all of the different views and listening to the sweet sounds of tonight's 6-piece YMSB. Oh, did I not mention that Jerry Douglas was sitting in with them tonight? Yep. Jerry freaking Douglas.


The venue filled up pretty slowly, with the majority of early-arrivers pre gaming in the lot. I visited with Jen and Annie who, both using crutches, grabbed some prime Dave-side seats. I visited with both of the Jims down on the rail, and as I talked with more and more folks, I got more and more excited for them and their first Jake and Allie Yonder Mountain show.

"Hey Penn's Peakers!" Dave said with a grin as he plugged in. "It's Thursday night. We're ready to rock." They started the show with "Rambler's Anthem", the addition of the fiddle and dobro creating a rich and thick sound. Afterwards, Ben introduced Dave, "Over here on the banjo, I guess he's over flannel shirts. David Johnston, ladies and gentlemen." Dave sang "Little Lover", and from where I stood, it looked like the people were really enjoying Yonder 2.0. Jake took the first solo in this one, and proved his worth in a few short measures. When the song was over and the applause faded, a faint "I love you!" came from some dude in the crowd. "We love you too, man." Dave responded, "I tell you what, it feels flippin' great in here! What'd you guys do to the place?" There were even more cheers as Ben turned from Dave to Adam, "That's Adam Aijala over there on the guitar, romancing you, stealing your girlfriends and your black t-shirts." I could hear Allie's giggle as Adam said, "It's good to be here." "Pockets" was fun. It's not my favorite song, but I really love that Allie plays the main lick right there with Adam and Dave. 

"I'd like to introduce you to a fella, he's making your acquaintance for the first time and you're probably meeting him for the first time, an extraordinary talent, a great human being, on the mandolin, Mr. Jacob Jolliff. Say hello to the people, Jake!" Jake had the most bashful look on his face as he stepped up to the microphone, "Hello everybody." But that bashful side all but disappeared as he sped through the intro to "Hello City Limits". Jake sings this one, and does a mighty fine job at it. And if "Hello City Limits" didn't convince you, then his performance on "Kentucky Mandolin" most certainly did. And then there was Jerry Douglas. The man really can do no wrong, and the melancholy sounds he brought forth from his dobro made the song complete. And then, without pause, came "Suspicious Minds". 

Ben introduced Allie next. I think it is so cool to have a girl in Yonder Mountain. To have THAT VOICE in Yonder Mountain. I don't know what the guys in Cornmeal were thinking, but if they would've let her really sing, they could've been so much bigger. Tonight's Allie song was Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good". A little more bluegrass came next with "Another Day". Oh how I love this song. Simple, sweet, and fast. Then the heavy bass thumping began and soon gave way to "Sidewalk Stars". I was hanging out in the back, bouncing around between the merch booth and FOH, and thoroughly enjoying the lights as they swept over the crowd and showed the details of the ceiling. A fast "All the Time" ended the set.

I spent the first part of set break at the merch booth, like I always do, and was thrilled to see so many folks walking by with huge smiles on their faces. Jim came and found me and told me that his previous worries about our band were long gone. I met my super awesome top street teamer and visited with some more friends before going backstage to relax before the next set.

The second set started with Ben grinning and pointing at Dave, "Here's Dave Johnston to terrify you with a little 'Dominated Love Slave'". Always a fun song, they've really dusted it off this year, playing it a couple times per tour instead of once a or twice a year (if we were lucky). Ben switched to his electric bass, and as he was tuning, he made a little announcement. "So apparently a guy named John is celebrating his 100th Yonder Mountain String Band show tonight. It seems like a tremendous milestone, and we should probably have a patch or a pin or something in honor of that... but we don't." That was that, and they went into "Hey Bulldog". Funny. "Mother's Only Son" came next and brought with it a whole lot of jams. Like seriously. A lot of jams. Dave took the first solo, then passed it to Allie on the other end of the stage. When Allie was done, she passed it onto Adam, who passed it to Jerry, which left Jake to finish it out. Wow. It was a thrill to see these musicians let go and play for a while. "Nice pickin', fellas... and lady." Adam said to his fellow bandmates.

And now, finally, it was Jerry's turn to take the lead. "How 'bout a little Jimi Hendrix for everybody?" Yes. He ripped through the intro and stepped up to the mic, giving us a perfect "Hey Joe". Really, Jerry can do no wrong. I think Ben said it best: "Isn't it wonderful when the entire world can agree on something? And that's that Jerry Douglas is the best that's ever been." Jake took the lead again with Jim Croce's "I've Got A Name". Awesome. I love the obscure covers Yonder has taken on since they've had Jake and Allie play with them. It's been pretty darn awesome, just like this cover. 

"Winds of Wyoming" came next, and was one of many songs where the solos went round and round in a flurry of notes. I love watching Adam direct everyone's solos, nodding his head to the next person to take it away. "Nothing says 'banjo' like reggae music." Ben said as they prepared for the next song. "I've always said that. I've never said that before in my life until just now, but I'm gonna start saying it always." "Yah mon!" Adam yelled, and I almost died. It's so wonderful to see these guys have so much fun on stage. Adam sang "Harder They Come", and I took this as my chance to sit for a few minutes. It's amazing how my Yonder experience has changed over the years. From fan, to photographer, Kinfolk Coordinator and beyond, I spend my show time much differently these days. I usually try to pick one song per show to just chillax backstage. Drink a bunch of water, sit down for a few minutes, soak in some fresh air. It helps me stay focused. I got back out to the crowd in time to hear the end of the song and to hear Adam say, "Yah mon, it's legal to smoke joints in Boulder now. Legal, mon." So funny.

"My Gal" came up next, with Jake taking that first solo after "Well a rich gal, she drives in an automobile!". It was pretty awesome. And then, would you know it, Adam passed off his "You know a poor gal, she'd love to do the same!" solo over to Jerry. Yes. Then we really got down to it, "My gal's got a private seat in the back of the sheriff's car, and she'll get around just the same." Allie added so much fun and flair to this song, really making the crowd dance and jump and scream together. Ben switched back to the electric bass for the next song, and the whole crowd erupted as those first notes of "Shakedown Street" began. They jammed this one for quite a while, sating all the Deadheads in the room. Out of "Shakedown Street" came a dark "Angel" to finish off the set. It's nice to know these guys can still get dark without Jeff. It seemed as if they all just let loose on this one. Finally, Ben brought everyone back with that catchy bass line, and the song rolled into a close. 

I found my way back to Jen and Annie's awesome seats as the band came back to the stage for their encore. In introducing him for the first song of the encore, Ben referenced Dave's punk rock performance from Northwest String Summit. If you were there, watched the stream, or have since seen the video on YouTube, you know what he's talking about. "Black Sheep" started the encore, with each and every musician on stage stepping forward to sing the tag, "Black Sheep". And then, just as soon as it finished, Adam started playing the song again - this time much faster, with some added distortion from Hines. Dave grabbed the mic and screamed a verse. Only one verse, though. "You see, when Dave did that the last time he blew out his voice and couldn't sing for three days." Adam told us. They sent us off as they brought us in, with some bluegrass music. "Redbird" finished our night and together with "Black Sheep" made for a clever encore. 

Overall, I was thrilled to see how much better Jake and Allie played with the band just since their first show together in June. I can only imagine how much better they will continue to get together. I loved seeing my friends enjoy Yonder 2.0. 

Words and Photos by Dorothy St.Claire

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