Yonder Mountain String Band | 02.24.07

ymsbOn the last legs of their Cabin Fever tour, the "we don't need no stinkin' percussion" quartet brought a mix of old, new, and borrowed bluegrass to a sticky, smoky (and sometimes both) Pageant.

 

The Pageant, St. Louis 

Maybe it was the recent warming trend, the promise of spring around the corner, or the aftermath of a President's Day sale at Sunshine Daydream, but the sold-out crowd at Saturday's Yonder Mountain String Band show was full of excitement and rambunctious energy for Nederland, Colo.'s progressive jammers. On the last legs of their Cabin Fever tour, the "we don't need no stinkin' percussion" quartet brought a mix of old, new, and borrowed bluegrass to a sticky, smoky (and sometimes both) Pageant, focusing primarily on tunes from their self-titled 2006 release.

As the combination of Adam Aijala, Jeff Austin, Dave Johnston, and Ben Kaufmann nears a decade of existence, they seem to be hitting their stride, specifically with their fans (a number of whom scanned the streets in desperation for help in joining the dance-happy crowd). A relentless set of touring in 2007 includes a number of obsession-building festivals, such as Wakarusa, Stagecoach, Jam in the 'Dam, and the 34th Telluride Bluegrass Festival. On this night, however, the crowd held few that needed to be sold. Mandolinist and award-winner for "most distinct YMSB member" Austin noted the great turnout for their early show across the street at Vintage Vinyl, commenting on familiar faces and all of the "sweaty St. Louis Cardinals hats" he had to sign.

The sweat wasn't the only thing that turned over into the evening's magnificent two-sets, as the contemporary crowd's enthusiasm never waned. Beginning with the Todd Snider co-written "East Nashville Easter," YMSB brought it hard and fast, mixing songs from the aforementioned album, such as "Fastball" and "Classic Situation," with Mountain Tracks classics "Snow Pines" and "Left Me in a Hole." As the first set closed with "Death Trip," an antsy audience anticipated the strength of YMSB's fulfilling second half, which was built around the effort of one of the newgrass kings' biggest strengths, their covers. Drawing on the forces of legends John Hartford and J.J. Cale, Johnston's banjo led the charge through "Cuckoo's Nest" and "If You're Ever in Oklahoma." The boys proved they know how to rock as well, with Iron Butterfly's drug-classic "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" paving the way for recent tour favorite "Ooh La La" of the Faces fame.

All that was missing from Yonder Mountain String Band's performance was the element of the outdoors, which all of their rabid fans seemed more than eager to embrace. However, the hairy, dreaded-winter is almost over, and the hairy, dreaded optimists will soon be able to enjoy such great bluegrass in its natural element. Until then, I'm sure few would argue with this weekend's diversion at The Pageant, as upbeat plucking and picking is rarely this good, or this joyful. | Dave Jasmon

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