written by Dorothy St.Claire
Halloween day. It was my 4th week on the road and my last morning waking up at Michael Walker’s house. As I packed my things into my car, I mourned the loss of Michael’s delicious cheese grits and Bub-Ba-Q’s sweet inside meat pork sandwiches before saying my goodbyes to Woodstock, GA and heading to Kelli's in Floyd, VA. When I got to Kelli’s house, she had a steaming pot of chicken noodle soup on the stove and some bomb potato and cheese casserole waiting for me. I sure do love that southern hospitality. We loaded into Kelli’s car for the short drive to Roanoke… but we didn’t make it far. Maybe 10 miles from her house, we hit a deer. It happened so fast and the deer hopped back into the woods, leaving us with a crumpled Subaru and heart rates through the roof. Luckily, Ruby could still drive, so we turned her around and went right back to Kelli’s, where we jumped back into my Subaru, John Redcorn, and cautiously hit the road again.
We made it to The Jefferson Center in Roanoke right about the time The Larry Keel Experience started their set. Kelli went into the auditorium and I walked around in circles for what seemed like forever before I found the dressing rooms. The band was practicing and I quietly found a corner to sit down and take a breather. The last couple hours were pretty stressful and anxiety-ridden, and I was certainly having trouble getting into “show-mode”, let alone “work-mode”.
I caught a little bit of The Larry Keel Experience’s set. It was full of most of the same songs that I had been enjoying for the past week and a half of opening sets, but this time the band was dressed in Star Trek costumes. Awesome. When I went back into the dressing room, the casual Yonder that I know and love was transformed into a group of handsome men sporting black suits and crisp white button-up shirts. And then, of course, there was Allie. Usually the most dressed up person in the room, tonight she was dressed down in a nice white button-up, black pants, flat shoes, black wig… and a big ass syringe sticking out of her chest. Just perfect.
I stood with the band at the side of the stage as we waited for the show to begin. Something was holding us up, so Adam and Jake played Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” (the intro song in Pulp Fiction) as we waited. It was pretty awesome, and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t add this one to the Quentin Tarantino-themed setlist.
The show finally started with Hines playing the Reservoir Dogs intro as the band sauntered onto the stage. “Happy Halloween, everybody” said Ben, moments before he stepped on his distortion pedal and started the show with “Fastball”. “Fastball” ended, well, fast, and before anyone could wonder what would follow, Ben stepped up to the mic and started singing “Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon”. By now, the crowd that’d been milling around the lobby was making its way into the auditorium to the slow strut of the well-known Neil Diamond (covered by Urge Overkill for Pulp Fiction) tune.
The one and only Adam Aijala sang “Another Day” next, which got me feeling really homesick. But I sure love this song, and Allie’s fiddle added so much. Luckily, I moved past the homesickness when Jake’s turn came with “I’ve Got A Name”. Although they’ve been playing this Jim Croce song since almost the beginning of Jake and Allie’s addition to the band, it also fit in with the Tarantino theme of the night, with the song making an appearance in Django Unchained. I absolutely love that Yonder plays this song, and Jake delivered it perfectly.
“And of course, down there on the fiddle, the amazing, the wonderful, they don’t make the words… that’s Mrs. Mia Wallace.” Ben introduced Allie and she swept right in with another new cover, “You Never Can Tell” (also known as "C'est La Vie") by Chuck Berry. I love Allie’s voice, and it really shone on this song. The audience loved it as well, with more than a few of them doing their own Vincent Vega / Mia Wallace dance moves to the rockabilly beat. “Complicated” came next, with some superb shredding courtesy of Mr. Jacob Jolliff.
Larry Keel came out to play on the rest of the set, looking quite the part in his blazer, although I wished he had stayed in his Star Trek costume. The red lights came on and “Angel” kicked off the set-closing sandwich. It was nice and dark and Dave was right on point. It’s a good thing, too, because it looked to be a Davey J. sandwich when they brought “Fingerprint” in out of the massive “Angel” jam. I already knew it was coming, but it was still quite a treat when “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel came next. I had seen Ben and Adam do this song a handful of times on their own, but it sure was nice to hear the whole band play it this time. “Fingerprint” came back in before “Angel” finished with a bang and a roar from the crowd. “Thanks so much for hanging out with us folks…” And just like that, it was time for setbreak, which went by much too fast for my taste.
As the band filled the stage for the second set, Dave stepped up to the mic. “Well we’re still feeling handsome,” Dave looked down at Allie and added “and lovely.” “Northern Song” opened the second set, and each and every one of them slayed their solos. Then came what very well might have been my favorite song of the night, “Tennessee Stud”. With Dave on vocals. Nice. Dave’s voice complemented the cool groove of the song. It was delightfully simple. It was time for some fast bluegrass next, with “Troubled Mind”> “20 Eyes”> “Troubled Mind”, a fan favorite. But the best part was when Adam dropped his pick and Allie slipped it back into his hand as he sang. “Thanks to Allie Kral for the handoff there. It slipped right outta my hand! Maybe I should glue it there.”
They got back to the Tarantino theme with The Meters’ “Cissy Strut”, and then my second favorite song of the night, Billy Joel’s “Travelin’ Prayer”. Allie took the lead on this one and it was AMAZING. Dave gave props to both Jake and Allie after that song, and the crowd couldn’t help but cheer their agreement. Then came an “Al Green rhymes with Halloween” joke before Ben sang “Let’s Stay Together”. Or at least tried to sing it… Unfortunately for us all, someone decided it would be a good idea to go outside through a fire exit and right in the middle of this song the fire alarms started blaring and they had to cut the music while we all excited the building. Super fun. But not really. Jammus interruptus, as Ben would put it. Amazingly enough, once we were all back inside after 30 minutes of waiting, the band picked up right where they left off. Good save.
Adam teased us with some Metallica as Will Lee and Larry Keel came back on stage, plugged in, and tuned up. And then it was “Looking Back Over My Shoulder”. Ah, this song still brings a warm and comforting feeling every time I hear it. It’s just one of those songs. The next song came in and at the first few notes from Adam’s guitar everyone knew what it was. Allie sang and played “Son of a Preacher Man” with everything she had. A huge “Traffic Jam” brought us closer to the end of the show and was sandwiched around the song “WooHoo”, which we all know from The 220.127.116.11.’s in Kill Bill. “Traffic Jam” ended and Ben gave everyone a big thank you from the band before they left the stage.
“I’m gonna put it out there, Ben” Dave said, “It’s the best f@ckin’ Halloween I’ve ever had.” “Hello City Limits” started the encore, and the mood was still lively as they prepared for their final song, “If you’re not all too hopped up on Halloween candy, won’t you please sing along with us during this next number. If you feel like it. Now, Adam, would you kick it one time, would you kick it?” “I’ve had no candy, is that wrong?” Adam responded. “I wasn’t talking to you.” “No but I mean, I’m pointing it out, it’s already past midnight and I haven’t had any candy.” “Didn’t you have some of that shine?” Allie asked. “I love my razor blades covered in chocolate, Adam. Eat it! I mean, kick it!” Ben laughed as Adam did indeed kick it, and “Ooh La La” finished the show.
It was a weird night, but a good night. Lots of fun new covers and the band and crowd had a great time. I wish I could say the same about that deer...
Written by Dorothy St.Claire
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