I began the drive from San Francisco to North Lake Tahoe with eager anticipation since I had not had a chance to see Yonder Mountain String Band perform since North West String Summit last summer. The fact that a snow storm was brewing on the horizon did nothing to dampen my spirits. That was until I got stuck behind slow moving trucks and cars in the snow laced mountain pass. The 200 mile trip that usually takes 3 hours, ended up dragging out over 6 hours. Still, by the time I crossed the boarder between California and Nevada on the north shore of lake Tahoe, and could see the Crystal Bay Club just up the road, all my frustration disappeared.
With just over an hour before the doors opened for the show, I pulled into the Biltmore hotel and checked in. I could already see that the area was chocked full with Yonder fans. After getting settled, I ran across the street to the Crystal Bay Club and to my surprise saw signs all over the casino that tonight’s show was sold out. I don’t think any of the shows I have seen in this wonderful venue have ever been sold out, and defiantly not on a weekday. This only added to my growing excitement. Dave, Jeff, Adam, and Ben finally came out on stage after what felt like an eternity and got the packed house dancing with Ten. The joy on people faces and they pounded their feet and threw their hands up in the air was a beautiful sight to behold. Sharecropper’s Son is a personal favorite of mine and they performed it perfectly. I was glad to see Dave Johnston step it up with Mental Breakdown, watching him and Jeff Austin battle it out between the mandolin and banjo always brings a smile to my face. Another YMSB favorite of mine is Crow Black Chicken as it always turns into an audience sing along and gets everyone dancing. Closing out the first set was Sidewalk Stars into Out of the Blue. By this point I was drenched in sweat from dancing so hard.
As the first set ended, 650 plus people exited the venue and descended upon the casino. I could see the pit boss’s eyes get big with unease. Here was a loud, sweaty crowd taking over the casino floor that they where not prepared to deal with. I think they visibly relaxed after awhile when they saw that we were harmless and simply wanted to gamble. There where cries of success and moans of pain as hippies won big and lost hard during the set break. A quick peek outside the casino showed me that the snow storm had increased in it’s intensity, with several new inches of fresh snow on the ground.
The second set started with a bang, Boatman’s Dance led off with new sweat forming on my body by the time they moved seamlessly into Dawns Early Light. The second set clearly showed the skill of Jeff Austin’s mandolin playing. I have yet to see anyone look as animated while playing such a small instrument. Finally Ben Kaufmann stepped up and performed an oldie but a goodie in the form of 40 Miles to Denver, which really got the crowd in an uproar. To close out the second set we where treated to sandwich of On The Run into Looking Back Over My Shoulder back into On The Run. With the crowd begging and cheering for more, Yonder did not make us wait long as they came out and treated us to a two song encore consisting of Half Moon Rising and Troubled Mind. So ended the first night of tour. Exhausted but satisfied, I crawled my way through the snow drifts, fighting against the wind to get across the street to my hotel and my warm bed.
Set 1 Ten Night Out Sharecropper’s Son Pride Of Alabama Rag Doll Mental Breakdown Honestly I Had to Leave My Boots Behind Crow Black Chicken I’ll Never Love Anybody 100 Years Sidewalk Stars Out of the Blue
Set 2 Boatman’s Dance Dawns Early Light Cuckoo’s Nest River Deep Pockets Loved You Enough Illinois Rain 40 Miles to Denver Sideshow Blues Crazy Train Part 1 On The Run Looking Back Over My Shoulder On The Run