In their almost two decades of electrifying live shows, singular studio work and relentless drive to explore the frontiers of the bluegrass sound, the only thing Yonder Mountain String Band can't seem to do is stop. Their most recent studio recording, 2015's stellar Black Sheep, has added to an already impressive collection of the band’s original compositions and is easily their most sonically varied and accessible release to date. Their true magic, however, lies onstage, as the interplay between their unique take on the traditional bluegrass instrumentation with the white hot edge of their playing styles has melded into an unmistakable blend that delights fans around the world. Never content to rest on their laurels, Yonder takes every concert, ever song, every breath with the intent of making it more powerful than their last.
Since the release of Black Sheep in June 2015, Yonder Mountain has garnered a slew of accolades: glowing national press reviews, the album hit #3 on the Billboard Bluegrass Charts, #22 on the Americana Airplay Chart (Black Sheep was on the charts for 10 weeks), its acquired 25 adds at AAA radio, and upwards of 150,000 streams on Spotify (in just 60 days). Yonder is scheduled for a live-streaming event with Yahoo at the House of Blues (Chicago, IL: Nov. 7), and their show at the 9:30 Club (Washington, DC: Nov. 14) will be taped for an upcoming PBS program due out in 2016.
Coinciding with Black Sheep, the band eagerly takes their new material to the streets, continuing their vigorous march to venerable stages, much to the delight of their rabid fans. This community of fans, a dedicated army that self identifies as the family unit "Kinfolk," wait impatiently for each tour announcement, each gig, each and every note to be played. That intensity of devotion has been earned through countless hair-raising, spine-chilling moments of musical connection that YMSB evokes from their listeners. Wise enough to know that perfection is an impossible goal; the band instead dares to push the envelope of punk sensibilities intertwined with their love of stringed instrument styles as old as the mountains themselves. This choice is coupled with a dedication to giving their fans the best show possible in every aspect, from crisp sound, brilliant lighting design and a playful attitude that's made them an undeniable source of joy for fans of all ages.
Bassist/vocalist Ben Kaufmann comments, "I'll admit that I get a big thrill when I see that a band without drums can move an audience as much as any rock band." Guitarist/vocalist Adam Aijala adds, "Making music with Ben, Dave, Allie and Jake continues to be fresh and exciting."
Yonder Mountain is a sum truly greater than the elements. The foundation is set in stone by Ben Kaufmann, born with music in his blood, who brings a fascination with all forms of music to the mix, always mindful to keep the back beat steady even while taking the lead on vocals. As Kaufmann's deep bass notes thunder, mandolinist Jake Jolliff picks out lines with a speed and precision that strike like lightning, yet never fail to express the passion he feels for the art. Counterpointing the runaway train that are Jolliff's leads, Adam Aijala's calm demeanor and airy acoustic fretboard style belie the intensity of his playing, as if the act of unleashing his talents requires an absolute focus to protect us from the unleashed. While Aijala provides a dreamy tone to the sound, banjo player Dave Johnston brings a wry sense of humor, a rolling, rollicking flow to his picking style that fades back and forth as needed and a jester-like twinkle in his eye that hints at an element of madness under the sonic surface. Johnston's playfulness is easy to see thanks to the light that radiates from the fiery fiddle playing of Allie Kral, whose beautifully sustained notes seem to come from the moments when her high-speed shredding threaten to saw the instrument in twain. Like the fundamental building blocks of nature, they combine into a force capable of bringing something to life, and creating a sense of elation capable of echoing long past the final note.
Five players, combined with a lack of ego and precise cohesion that is a high testament to their mutual trust and the spirit of unity, work towards one simple goal...TO ROCK THE HOUSE! In the studio, they've grown comfortable enough in their own musical skin to produce the tracks themselves, all following a shared vision. Live, Yonder freely trades vocal duties on their own material and covers alike, to amazing effect. Vocally, the sheer variety of Kaufmann's soulful tones, Johnston's deadpan stylings, Aijala's tranquility and the blasts of pure passion from Allie Kral contrast with the traditional tenor work of Jake Jolliff, each song finds an identity all its own. In the band's earliest days, fans of a more traditional sound weren't sure how to react to this driving, modern take on their beloved songbook. No song too sacred, or silly, for these five players, the emotional range that can be felt through a single performance coupled with the dynamism of these five craftspeople leaves fans and band alike exhausted, but invigorated all at once. It's easy to imagine that playing such impassioned shows, night after night, would take a toll on anyone, no matter how much love and inspiration they were receiving from audiences. Yet, after thousands of shows, millions of miles and countless smiles, Yonder Mountain String Band shows no signs of stopping, much less slowing down, any time soon.
"I feel like we have a world of positive potential ahead of us," notes Dave Johnston. "Allie, Jake, Ben, and Adam all bring a new and renewed spirit of collaboration and I can't wait to be a part of what's happening."
Following Yonder's much-anticipated Fall Tour 2015 that kicks off this evening at the Visulite Theatre (Charlotte, NC: Oct. 28), the band will head back to their hometown for a four-night NYE run at the Boulder Theater (Boulder, CO: Dec. 30 - Jan. 2) with special guests Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, and Stanley Jordan. For details regarding the band's #TakeMeYonder Photo Contest in connection with the NYE shows, please visit yondermountain.com.
YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND FALL 2015 TOUR DATES
10/28 - Charlotte, NC - Visulite Theatre
10/29 - Morgantown, WV - Metropolitan Theatre
10/30 - Louisville, KY - Headliners Music Hall
10/31 - Columbus, OH - LC Pavilion
11/1 - Rochester, NY - Anthology
11/4 - Grand Rapids, MI - The Intersection
11/5 Milwaukee, WI Potawatomi Hotel and Casino
11/6 - Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue
11/7 - Chicago, IL - House of Blues
11/8 - Millvale, PA - Mr. Small's Theatre
11/11 Woodstock, NY Bearsville Theater
11/12 - Boston, MA - Paradise Rock Club
11/13 - Philadelphia, PA - Theatre of Living Arts
11/14 - Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
11/15 - Charlottesville, VA - Jefferson Theater
12/10 - 12/14 - Qroo, Mexico - Strings & Sol
12/30 - 1/2 - Boulder, CO - Boulder Theater