Remembering Jeff Austin: Watch Blue Ox Festival 2018 Set

The acclaimed mandolin player died on this date two years ago.

By Andy Kahn Jun 24, 2021 7:47 am PDT

Today marks two years since the tragic death of mandolin player Jeff Austin, who was 45 when he died in Seattle on June 24, 2019. For two decades, on stage and in the studio, Austin’s nimble picking and passionate singing style made him a central figure in the jam-bluegrass scene.

A native of Illinois, Austin moved to Colorado and in 1998 he co-founded Yonder Mountain String Band. He was a prominent member of the group, writing many of their best-known songs, through 2014 when he left to pursue a solo career.

Both during his time with YMSB and after, Austin participated in several other projects, such as Grateful Grass with Keller Williams and The String Cheese Incident’s Keith Moseley, 30db with Umphrey’s McGee’s Brendan Bayliss, The Here And Now with Danny Barnes, Larry Keel and Jenny Keel and “Grateful Ball” bluegrass tributes to the Grateful Dead with The Travelin McCourys. Austin’s primary post-YMSB outlet was the Jeff Austin Band whose often changing lineup saw Jeff joined by a number of talented musicians.

When the Jeff Austin Band performed at the 2018 Blue Ox Festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Austin was joined by banjoist Kyle Tuttle, bassist Jean-Luc Davis and guitarist Mike Robinson. Official video footage of the set was shared by the festival to mark the first anniversary of Austin’s passing.

The performance at Whispering Pines Campground began with Austin’s signature, John Hartford-inspired cover of The Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations.” The quartet then played the Austin original “Underground” that appeared on the band’s 2016 EP. The set continued with “Rag Doll” from Austin’s time with YMSB, wrapping around a cover of Hartford’s “Boogie.” Tuttle then shined on the instrumental “Red Haired Boy.” Todd Snider’s frequently covered “Side Show Blues” closed out the Jeff Austin Band’s 2018 Blue Ox Festival set.

Prior to the final song, Austin spoke to the audience, sharing these thoughts that seem more poignant than ever:

Before we go, I want to say one more thing: gathering like this is a beautiful thing. And with all the crazy stuff happening with this and with that … I’m so grateful, not only to stand in front of you, but I genuinely care about each and every one of you. And if you ever need anything, if you’re ever really sad or this or that …

I’m on my phone a lot, and I’m all over the internet thing, so don’t ever hesitate to reach out to somebody in case you ever need anything at any point ever. Me. Mike. Each other. Shit, one of them phone number things.

But don’t ever hesitate, because with all of you here, this is how this happens … Speaking from personal experience — let’s keep it going friends.

The Jeff Austin Family Fund was established to support Austin’s three children and widow. Viisit https://sweetrelief.org/jeff-austin-fund/ to make a contribution.

Watch the Jeff Austin Band performing live at the Blue Ox Festival on June 16, 2018 below:


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Blue Ox Music Festival (See 10 videos)
Jeff Austin Band (See 30 videos)
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