This year’s Kinfolk Celebration was a celebration indeed, roughly marking the one-year anniversary of the devastating flooding that took place in the Front Range in September of 2013. Thus, we were gathered at the swiftly and very tastefully rebuilt Planet Bluegrass, only 12 months after the venue was wiped out completely, for Yonder Mountain String Band’s biannual (at least recently) event in Lyons. Naturally, there was high anticipation for this return to a beloved venue for so many, in a beloved town for so many, and the energy in the air was brimming with both excitement and nostalgia.
We were fortunate enough to have warm temperatures and blue skies overhead for the weekend that would welcome autumn of 2014. With no menacing weather on the horizon, tents were erected and grills were fired up as preparations were made for the weekend that would bring our summer to a close. As folks shuffled in straight from a five-day work week, it was The Haunted Windchimes that were first up on stage to kick off the music.
After settling into our campsites, everyone headed towards the stage to hear Head for the Hills. Running through favorites like “Poor Boy’s Melody,” this Fort Collins-based foursome brought their genre of “Newgrass” to the Kinfolk crowd and it was a fitting appetizer for what would come next and totally on par for the theme of the evening’s music.
As the sun slowly began to set, large groups migrated towards the stage to catch a glimpse of Widespread Panic’s John Bell. His acoustic solo set was a rare treat for all as Bell’s haunting yet smooth vocals accompanied his impeccable skills on the guitar on favorites like “Tickle The Truth” and “Quarter Tank of Gasoline.” Though the solo set was an incredible thing to witness, it was only natural for Bell to be later joined by a band, as it is his natural place to be fronting a group.
As Bell finished “Old Joe,” the newly recreated Yonder Mountain String Band took their places on the stage alongside the Panic frontman. These days, YMSB includes original members Ben Kaufmann, Adam Aijala and Dave Johnston, and consistently features recent newcomers, and unofficial band members, Allie Kral and Jake Jolliff. The five members currently recognized as Yonder Mountain String Band collaborated with Bell for a number of Bluegrass renditions of WSP staples, including “Climb To Safety” and “Ain’t Life Grand.” The Panic frontman also sat in on the evening’s encore, which brought us versions of the Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie,” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.”
Many YMSB classics such as “Loved You Enough,” “All The Time,” “Black Sheep” and a “Casualty > Pockets > Casualty” jam to finish off the second set were performed between the collaborative renditions. However, the newest fan favorite on the YMSB repertoire is indeed when Allie Kral’s vocals boom through the microphone on Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Though an unofficial member for just this past tour, Kral has made quite the awesome impression upon us Yonder Kinfolk.
The next day morning boasted more bright skies and high temperatures, making it a perfect afternoon for wading in the river. Folks of all ages emerged from their tents in bathing suits, with beer on hand to take in the last remaining rays of summer. With music not beginning until the later afternoon, the river provided an excellent opportunity for activity. Friends from the Tenth Mountain Division played an impromptu set for the river-waders as we awaited the resumption of the music on the main stage.
Gipsy Moon has graced stages all over Colorado this festival season, and the group brought yet another set of Mackenzie Page’s soulful, captivating vocals, not to mention the exquisite sounds of Andrew Conley’s cello and Silas Herman’s mandolin, to Planet Bluegrass. This first performance of the day set the tone for the remainder of the afternoon which brought another set from the Haunted Windchimes and a performance by The Travelin’ McCourys.
Lead by Ronnie McCoury and including Jason Carter, the McCourys showered Kinfolk audiences with their legendary Bluegrass sound…a sound so legendary that more collaborations would take place with McCoury and Carter later in the evening.
Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt took the stage in the late afternoon, singing a tune dedicated to Boulder’s own Alfalfa’s market, fitting for the localized and intimate festival setting that is Kinfolk Celebration.
YMSB brought the summer of 2014 to its end with another two unparalleled sets of original tunes, impressive covers, and one-of-a-kind collaborations. Kicking off the first set with the classic “Troubled Mind > 20 Eyes > Troubled Mind” jam; the band arrived in full force. Other YMSB favorites of the night were “Red Bird,” “Mother’s Only Son” and “Angel.” The trusty rendition of the Stones‘ “No Expectations” was to be expected, but very unexpected was a cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good” which featured the whole crew teaming up on vocals for one bad-ass sing-along.
McCoury and Carter joined YMSB for much of the night, which included McCoury leading on a version of the Dead’s “I Know Your Rider.” Towards the end of the second set, Vince Herman joined the crew for “Steamboat Whistle Blues” before Yonder took the setlist back into their own hands for the fast-pickin’ “Traffic Jam” and the even faster talkin’ “Damned If the Right One Didn’t Go Wrong.”
This summer, Kauffman, Aijala and Johnston have joined forces with nearly everyone – from Tim Carbone, John Skehan and Andy Goessling, to Vince Herman, Andy Thorn and Drew Emmitt, to members of SCI, to the McCourys, to whomever graces the stage during a Wicked Messenger set, to Kral and mandolin prodigy Jake Jolliff – there doesn’t seem to be anything that the boys of YMSB aren’t down for. This year’s Kinfolk Celebration only solidified this notion, and brought in the fall season with a BANG.