The boys from Nederland, Colorado came to the sunny woods of northern Florida to play two days of the Magnolia Festival at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak on Oct. 19 and 20.

Yonder Mountain String Band, consisting of Jeff Austin (mandolin), Adam Ajala (guitar), Ben Kauffman (bass) and Dave Johnston (banjo), brought out a high-energy hour and a half set each day of its own brand of bluegrass that has traditional roots with an experimental edge.

Friday night, the Dance Tent was completely full as YMSB took the stage. This was a surprise considering it was the band’s first time playing in Florida. The eager crowd would not be disappointed. The set pushed many tracks from the recently released album Town by Town including the traditional grassy Ajala original "Idaho" and an extended "Peace of Mind" that segued into the crowd pleasing "Boatman." The band also showcased an old fan favorite with the Kauffman narrative "On the Run." This song is one in a series that Kauffman wrote about a young man’s trouble after finding his way into the bed of his town sheriff’s wife. It contains a thumping bluegrass beat that eventually drifts into a slow middle section with sweet melodic notes from Austin’s mandolin before abruptly finding its way back to the song’s last verse and chorus. "On the Run" was definitely the crowd favorite of Friday night.

Saturday YMSB took the main stage at 11:30 a.m. New friends made from the previous night’s stellar performance strolled in with hangovers and coffee cups to enjoy the band under the oak tree canopy that encompasses the stage area. The early set would not be disappointing. Selections from the band’s arsenal that highlighted Saturday included the inspiring Austin original "New Horizon" and the ripping banjo instrumental "Easy as Pie." More old favorites in the set included Kauffman’s "40 Miles from Denver" and Ajala’s lost love number "Left Me in a Hole." The set concluded with the bluegrass traditional "If I Lose" that left everyone in an early afternoon frenzy.

YMSB left no one unhappy after giving Florida its first taste of "Colorado’s nakedest bluegrass."

Jedd Ferris
JamBase | Florida
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[Published on: 10/26/01]

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