YMSB @ The Landing 8.16.11
I had the privilege of seeing Yonder Mountain String Band, one of my favorites, on August 16th in Peoria on the banks of the Illinois River. Before arriving at the venue, Jay Miller (photographer) and I stopped at Richardâ€™s for a quick bite to eat. We stepped outside for some fresh air before our food arrived and were treated to the sight of Jeff Austin, Yonderâ€™s mandolin player, walking by on a jaunt through downtown Peoria. We hollered hello and he waved and continued on his way as cool as a cucumber. That was definitely a highlight of our night and really pumped us up for the show.
After a delicious dinner we made our way down to the CEFCU Center Stage at the Landing on the riverfront. Iâ€™ve seen shows at this venue a few times and always enjoyed myself; the stage is set up right in front of the river, so the audience gets a great view as the band plays. The weather was perfect and the breeze coming off the river felt wonderful as the band started gearing up.
Austin, Dave Johnston (banjo), Ben Kaufmann (bass), and Adam Aijala (guitar) started their first set right on time with â€œSteep Grades, Sharp Curves,â€ which had the crowd singing along and starting to dance. The band rocked it from the start, but the crowd took their time warming up and getting into the dancing frenzy,which I expect from fans at a Yonder show. But as soon as they moved into the popular â€œCasualtyâ€ about halfway through the first set, the crowd started stomping and moving and didnâ€™t stop for the rest of the night.
I took the opportunity at their set break to talk to a few people about their experiences at the show. Keith, who hails from Urbana-Champaign, IL, where band members Austin and Johnston first met, said, â€œIâ€™ve been a fan of these guys since the early days, and itâ€™s been awesome growing up with them and watching them get better and better.â€ Butler from Springfield, IL said that his favorite thing about YMSB is the diversity of their song styles.
The band definitely showed off this diversity in their second set. This set included more progressive jams, allowing the members to show off their musical chops and really feed off each otherâ€™s performances. They continued to sprinkle in their popular sing-along tunes throughout the night, including a fantastic cover of Facesâ€™ â€œOoh La Laâ€ that had the audience smiling and throwing their arms around each other.
One of my favorite things about YMSB is the energy that gets thrown from the musicians to the crowd and back again. Thereâ€™s just something special about a band that obviously loves playing together, and the appreciation that YMSB shows for their fans is genuine and beautiful. One fan, Colin, was attending his 100th Yonder show that night, and when the band found out, they dedicated songs to him and thanked him several times. Yonder always shows appreciation for their audience, and the crowd gives it right back in waves of positive energy.
The band closed their encore with the crowd favorite â€œTwo Hits and the Joint Turned Brown,â€ a special request from Colin. The progressive nature of the second set built up an almost suspenseful feeling in the crowd, and this closing tune allowed the audience to work off that energy by joining their voices together and joyfully dancing with each other like old friends. I saw a smile on every face I passed as I walked out of the venue, which isnâ€™t unusual for a Yonder show. These four musicians bring their best game to every performance and always leave the crowd satisfied. I asked Sarah from Ottawa, IL her thoughts on the show, and she laughed and said, â€œI didnâ€™t think I liked bluegrassâ€”but WOW, I fucking LOVE bluegrass!â€
written by Courtney Lee & photos by Jay Miller