Having just wrapped up their first leg of the 2013 Winter Tour, Yonder Mountain String Band set their sights set on the western states with a swing through the desert valleys and mountain towns of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Montana, and Colorado. Their journey brought them to Flagstaff, Arizona to play their now annual show at the Orpheus Theater. White peaks, blue sky and a mountain sun greeted the band and bluegrass music-lovers in this picturesque mountain town. As if the weather wasn't adding enough excitement, Yonder Mountain had announced that Jason Carter of the Del McCoury Band would be joining them on fiddle. An old school, mountain jam was brewing.
At 7:00 the doors to the Orpheum opened and Yonder Mountain fans started to head in to get their spot, others raced to enjoy some pre-show drinks, buy merchandise, and listen to the opening band from Boston: The Deadly Gentlemen. As the opening act was coming to a close, the energy was building in anticipation of the Yonder Mountain show. One thing has been clear from previous shows with Yonder Mountain in Flagstaff: energy was never a problem and this show in early 2013 would be no different.
The energy level was set and Yonder took the stage to a chorus of a thousand yells from fans, all anxious to hear the greatest hits of their music. As Dave Johnston, the banjo player, said it best when he greeted the crowd with “Hello Orphomanics!”. That they were. Yonder pulled the trigger on their ever popular instrumental, “Fastball”, and then segued into “Lord Only Knows” also known to Yonder fans as “Part 1” of the Sheriff saga of songs, written by bassist Ben Kaufmann, and a fan favorite. From there other favorites seem to flow like water from their fingertips to keep the energy high in the opening set.
The band played old classics like “End of the Day”, “Polka on the Banjo”, “40 Miles from Denver”, and even covered Frank Zappa's “I am the Slime”. As Yonder flowed in and out of songs, it was easy to see the fun stage banter that was going on with them and their special guest, Jason Carter from the Del McCoury Band. Near the end of the first set, it was time to give special attention to Jason Carter on fiddle for “Ramblin' in the Rambler > No Expectations (Rolling Stones) > Ramblin' in the Rambler”, which left the crowd wanting more.
After a short set break to refresh, relax, and reload, Yonder came out with their guns a blazing in a series of songs that was sure to bring the Flagstaff crowd to their knees. The theme remained the same with the Sheriff Saga songs taking center stage. Ben Kauffmann steered them right into his song, “On the Run” which paints a classic story of life on the run. From there Yonder steered into two newer songs with “New Deal Train”, which has a Neil Young/Mother Nature feel to it, and “Pretty Daughter”, where Jason Carter took the lead and demonstrated his years of playing with Del McCoury and the bluegrass boys. The crowd was stomping during this segment of songs and Yonder didn't let up as they went back into the Sheriff Saga song, “On the Run reprise”.
With a few moments for people to catch their breath, the band huddled up to change directions and play a few newer tunes followed by some classic short old time blue grass numbers like, “If Loving you is killing me”, “Loved You Enough”, and the ever popular story of "trying to quit drinking" and take a trip down “The Old Plank Road”. As smiles were being passed around on this Thursday evening, the band took a couple of moments to refresh themselves before the main highlight of the evening, the fan favorite by JJ Cale, “If You're Ever In Oklahoma”. It quickly became evident that this wasn't your typical version as Yonder started to segue into a new Jeff Austin tune, “Rag Doll”. With Jeff bringing the Orpheum Theater to one last energy-filled moment before going back into the Reprise of “If you're ever in Oklahoma”, the Yonder-faithful gave the band a series of applause and thanks.
As Yonder exited stage left, for a short break and huddle, the feeling in the gallery was that some special treat was coming. Upon returning to the stage, Jeff Austin thanked the Flagstaff kinfolk fans and Yonder went into a version of the Minutemen classic, “Corona”, as everyone blurted out the lyrics “I only had a Corona, 5 cent deposit” to close the show with a loud farewell greeting, and then a short pause after exiting the stage and then Yonder sets their sights on another scene, in another mountain town.03/14/13 (Thu) Orpheum Theater - Flagstaff, AZ,
Set 1: Fastball> Part 1> At The End Of The Day, Night Out, Polka On A Banjo, Troubled Mind, I Am The Slime, Mental Breakdown, 40 Miles From Denver, Ramblin In The Rambler> No Expectations> Ramblin Reprise
Set 2: On The Run> New Deal Train> Pretty Daughter> On The Run, Fingerprint, If Loving You Is Killing Me, Honestly, Romance Blues, Loved You Enough, Old Plank Road, Sometimes I've Won, If You're Ever In Oklahoma> Rag Doll> If You're Ever In Okalhoma E: Corona
Jason Carter on fiddle entire show