Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Show Review: Yonder Mountain String Band @ Somerville Theatre

The grass was bluer on the Somerville side on Thursday night when Yonder Mountain String Band took the stage of the Somerville Theatre to entertain a sold-out crowd with their fast-paced and energetic bluegrass.

Comprised of Jeff Austin on mandolin, Adam Aljala on guitar, Dave Johnston on banjo and Ben Kaufmann on bass, the band began the first of their two sets at eight o’clock and didn’t stop playing until well after eleven, with Austin even telling the crowd “if they opened up the parking lot across the street, we’d play until 2 tonight.”

With Massachusetts-born Aljala’s parents in the crowd and a positive atmosphere emanating throughout the theater, Yonder opened the night with a series of quick songs that showcased each member’s individual abilities. “Keep On Going,” a song from the first volume of their five-part Mountain Tracks live album series, saw the band switch tempos and genres, from folk to reggae and back again, numerous times and had the entire audience on their feet dancing and singing along.

All four members shared singing duties, with each having at least one song on which they took lead vocals and everyone chipping in with harmonies.

The Somerville Theatre, with its 900 capacity crowd, had a welcoming and informal atmosphere, prompting Austin to encourage everyone to feel comfortable, commenting, “in a place as intimate as this, we’re all in this together.”

The band was able to form a close relationship with the audience, often pointing out individual members of the crowd (one person wearing a New York Stock Exchange shirt caused Austin to refer to him as an optimistic soul) and even taking some song requests, accepting a challenge to play “Troubled Mind” from their self-titled album as their encore.

The second set was significantly more adventurous than the first. Johnston took the microphone for the Bob Dylan song “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry,” and the band worked their way through originals such as “Half Moon Rising” from their debut album Elevation as well as a series of covers. Towards the end, a twenty-minute extended jam came out on the other side as the rollicking set-closer “Peace Of Mind.”

Throughout the night, Yonder was continuously grateful and looked to be having a great time on stage. “The last time we played the Somerville Theater there were about nine people here over in the corner,” Austin told the crowd. “We thought you hated us back then, so it’s nice to see a balcony full of people this time around.”

“Next year we’ll come back and lock all the doors, serve pancakes and play for two nights, how about that.”

- Dan Rys

No comments: