Saturday, April 6, 2019

Yonder Mountain String Band at Troubadour, 4-5-19 Concert Review

Yonder Mountain String Band performing "Bananas And Blow"
Yonder Mountain String Band is one of the best bands going these days, and that has been true for something like two decades. They are nearing the end of their spring tour, and last night they put on a fantastic show at Troubadour in West Hollywood. I was concerned that traffic might be a problem (even more so than usual), because Troubadour is located right at the edge of Beverly Hills, and that scum Donald Trump was getting together with some other rich racists in that area in order to take their money, causing street closures and general hassle. But as it turned out, though several roads were closed, traffic moved fairly quickly, and I arrived quite early for a good night of music.

After a fun set from Dangermuffin, the opening act from South Carolina, Yonder Mountain String Band took the stage at 9:22 p.m. Ben immediately informed the audience that the band’s name had been changed, and they were now to be known as David Johnston And The Sexy Beasts. He welcomed the crowd to the band’s first show, which then got off to a wonderful start with “Hey Day,” a fun tune. The band wasted no time getting to the jamming. That song ended on some sweet harmonies. Ben then continued the Sexy Beasts line, “We’d like to introduce you to the first of the Sexy Beasts, Jacob Joliff on the mandolin.” Jacob led the group in a nice rendition of King Harvest’s “Dancing In The Moonlight.” That was followed by “The Bolton Stretch.” Before starting that song, Ben mentioned that he once had awesome hair and this song reminds him of it. “The Bolton Stretch” moved at a great fast pace. Adam then led the band in “Landfall,” a song from the band’s Black Sheep album. His guitar lead was particularly wonderful on this one, and the crowd showed its appreciation. This song also featured some fantastic work by Allie on fiddle, which was also cheered by the audience. Dave then sang lead on a cool rendition of “Don’t Worry, Happy Birthday,” a song I love. That was followed by a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Need To Know,” with Jacob on lead vocals.

The band took things up a few notches with “Kentucky Mandolin,” an absolutely delicious jam. Partway into it, Johnny Calamari, the bass player from Dangermuffin, joined Ben on a great bass solo. Two players, one instrument, with them taking turns on it, never missing a note. Very cool, very fluid. That was followed by a good mandolin solo. The band then did a couple of tunes from Elevation, the 1999 debut full-length album: “High On A Hilltop” and “Left Me In A Hole.” “Left Me In A Hole” is still one of my absolute favorite Yonder Mountain String Band songs, and it was great hearing it last night. That was followed by “Nowhere Next,” a seriously cool tune with a good groove and some excellent lyrics, another highlight of the show. Ben then whipped the band through “Troubled Mind,” which flew past at a glorious pace and was a lot of fun. “Short and sweet,” he commented afterward. They eased into a really nice version of “New Dusty Miller,” featuring a nice lead on bass early on. The tune became a groovy, kind of spacey jam, and it was time reach into those outer regions or inner regions, depending on your personal direction. I went inner. This one built until we emerged into “Casualty,” an excellent transition. The set then concluded with a cover of Metallica’s “Fade To Black.” Yeah, Yonder Mountain String Band takes bluegrass into all sorts of unusual places in its choices of covers. This version began as a rather pretty and serious-sounding instrumental, before becoming intense with its dark lyrics.  Ben played electric bass on this one. The song grew to become a wild, loud jam. An interesting choice to end the set.

But of course the show wasn’t over. When the band came back out for the encore, Ben teased: “You liked bluegrass when you walked in the door, but do you still like it now?” Dave then led the band in “Little Lover.” That was followed by a fun rendition of Ween’s “Bananas And Blow,” then Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein.” The show concluded with a delightful version of “My Gal,” which featured mandolin and guitar solos at the beginning. “I’ll see you in the morning if I live (if I live)/I will see you in the morning if I don’t get killed (don’t get killed).” The show ended at 11:33 p.m.

Set List
  1. Hey Day
  2. Dancing In The Moonlight
  3. The Bolton Stretch
  4. Landfall
  5. Don’t Worry, Happy Birthday
  6. I Need To Know
  7. Kentucky Mandolin
  8. High On A Hilltop
  9. Left Me A Hole
  10. Nowhere Next
  11. Troubled Mind
  12. New Dusty Miller >
  13. Casualty
  14. Fade To Black
  1. Little Lover
  2. Bananas And Blow
  3. Frankenstein
  4. My Gal
Here are a few photos from the show:

"Hey Day"
"The Bolton Stretch"
"Kentucky Mandolin"
"High On A Hilltop"
"Little Lover"
"Bananas And Blow"
Troubadour is located at 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., in West Hollywood, California.

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