Yonder Mountain String Band at Revolution, February 4

Yonder Mountain String Band
Revolution, Fort Lauderdale
Friday, February 4, 2011

"[It's been good] over the years to learn that there is a home for this band here," said Ben Kaufmann, bassist for Yonder Mountain String Band. "I heard what kind of music comes out of South Florida... and it wasn't bluegrass." Indeed, it is remarkable to see a packed house for a bluegrass band in South Florida. Granted, Yonder is not a straight-ahead bluegrass band. In fact, they might even freak your banjo-pickin' granddaddy out at times. They are a bluegrass band with Grateful Dead and Phish in its DNA. That would explain the abundance of tie dye, dreadlocks, and heady smoke that filled the room Friday at Revolution. They are, though, a bluegrass band that jams rather than a jam band that plays bluegrass. So, for the most part, granddaddy would probably be tappin' his feet right along with the patchouli-soaked tour kids.

Friday's show at Revolution was nothing short of a SoFla hippie jamboree. The band members stuck primarily to bluegrass numbers, and they played their hearts out. A couple of songs in, mandolin player Jeff Austin was already dripping with sweat, and the mysterious cup he was sipping throughout the night along with the Chloraseptic spray on his amp suggested that he was not in perfect health. Banjo player Dave Johnston too was playing hero-style -- his pickin' hand was broken! But this did not hold him back: "Personal well-being be damned, I'm here to jam!" he said with his hand in a cast. The crowd was appreciative, full of smiles. It was a nice scene.

The band played two sets. Both were solid, offering a good balance of songs and jams. The songs were a mix of originals and covers. The four would each take turns with lead vocal duties and team up for down-home harmonies as well. The first set opened with a bunch of stand-alone bluegrass tunes and didn't really kick into trip-town until the set closing "Snow on the Pines">"King Ebenezer">"Snow on the Pines" sequence, which had the lights flashing and balcony bouncing as Austin hit the pedals and danced with his mandolin in the thick rhythm laid by the other three.

The second set was mostly song-oriented as well, some highlights being "Must've Had Your Reasons," which Kaufmann dedicated to a sad girl named "Sunshine" whom he once met; "Sideshow Blues," during which Austin declared, "I'll tell you what, I love some good freaks. And you are some good freaks, my friends!"; and a very pretty cover of Neil Young's "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere." The set closed with "Keep on Going," which featured a nice bass solo; "After Midnight"; and finally, "Holdin", which went into a big jam with lively playing from all members, and then back into "Keep on Going." The band came back out for a two-song encore, which concluded with a beautiful rendition of Pink Floyd's "Goodbye Blue Sky."

Critics Notebook:

The crowd: Was superfriendly and colorful. Almost everyone in the room was dancing and smiling.

Random detail: Bassist Ben Kaufmann has a tattoo on his left arm of the word "Breathe," and on the top of his bass, in Sharpie marker, is written "Breathe you are alive." Nice reminders.

By the way: It's "cold as balls" in Colorado, according to Jeff Austin. Another nice reminder for us SoFla folks.

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Travis Newbill