Yonder Mountain String Band :: 10.07.04 :: McDonald Theatre :: Eugene, OR
The fall live music season in Eugene, Oregon was off to a good start with Yonder Mountain String Band's performance Thursday night at the McDonald Theatre.
Things have been a little slow around town in terms of music, but the next couple of months will certainly put an end to the slump. In addition to the incredible lineup at the McDonald Theatre, other bands including Particle and Umphrey's McGee have booked some more intimate venues such as The WOW Hall.
Adam Aijala & Jeff Austin :: 10.15.04
The McDonald Theatre, which is in the heart of downtown Eugene, is owned and operated by descendants of the author and Merry Prankster Ken Kesey. It is a recently remodeled historic movie theatre that dates back to the early 1900s. You can feel the unique energy throughout the venue. The security staff are all huge fans of live music themselves, and their goal actually seems to be that everyone has a positive experience and enjoyable show.
Opener Danny Barnes took the stage around 9:00 p.m. and was welcomed by an attentive crowd of a few hundred people in the Theatre's concert hall. Many were still arriving or spending time prepping themselves in the theater's adjacent lounge, but those who were lucky enough to arrive early were treated to a wonderful performance by Barnes. Danny's warm stage presence and story telling ability leant itself to a campfire vibe washing over the crowd. The audience was very appreciative of his set, and were clearly amped up for the intense YMSB show to follow.
YMSB :: 10.15.04
Yonder Mountain is no stranger to these parts. Having headlined the Northwest String Summit in North Plains, Oregon for a few years, they play here to a crowd of familiar faces. The boys took the stage right around 10:00 as a sea of people came rushing to the floor. They dug right in with "Too Late Now," followed by a crowd favorite, "Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown." Unofficial fifth member of the band; Darol Anger was added to the bill and played the entire show with Yonder, clearly adding the final element to fill out the sound of this well-rounded string band.
Darol Anger :: 10.15.04
It was hard to not be blown away by how authentic YMSB is in their traditional bluegrass style. You could take these guys back to the early days of bluegrass jamming and they would easily pass for the real deal. True to their roots, their jams are always tight and concentrated. At the same time, with a song like "Country Boy Rock and Roll," they demonstrate they also can take it to the edge and delve into the modern world of this jam band phenomenon. At one point I pondered how a string band such as YMSB might sound with just a hint of percussion. At other times I was completely amazed how powerfully rhythmic they sounded without it.
They brought Danny Barnes back onstage for the last three songs of the first set, adding even more opportunities for some passionate musical exchanges. The set ended with "Where They Do Not Know My Name," and the crowd, sweaty, enthusiastic, and smiling, headed outdoors for some fresh air or back into the lounge for a fresh cocktail.
YMSB & Anger :: 10.15.04
The second set was much like the first--high energy, commanding, and at times frantic. The blender came out somewhere in the segue between "Train 'Bound for Gloryland," and Frank Zappa's "I am the Slime." Danny Barnes was brought back to the stage, as was Brynn Bright and Mike Marshall. Hello! What followed was a little nutty, and honestly, was almost overwhelming to the senses. Trying to keep it all together, the interplay between musicians and solos was enough to make you dizzy (regardless of how much time you spent in the lounge.)
As always, many were curious to see what non-bluegrass song they would "countrify," as Yonder so often does. The answer came when they closed the set with The Beatles' "Come Together." Proving their ability to always stab at wit, the first encore was "Old Dangerfield" (comic legend Rodney Dangerfield sadly passed away the day before the show), followed by the classic and popular "Shady Grove," which gave the band one more chance to throw out a flurry of notes organized into melodic chaos.
YMSB & Anger :: 10.15.04
The crowd applause was deafening. Exiting the theater as the curtain closed at 1:30 a.m., everyone looked exhausted; physically from dancing and mentally from trying to keep up with the action on stage. Like trying to follow the plot of a movie with copious twists and sub-plots, one was left wondering, "What just happened?"
Words by: Andy Bracco
Images by: Adam George
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