YMSB brought the fire to the Barns at Wolf Trap. Words by Dan Rozman and pictures by Mark Raker

Yonder Mountain String Band took the stage Saturday March 18 at The Barns at Wolf Trap and sold out both nights of the Cabin Fever Tour. The night featured; Adam Aijala on guitar, Ben Kaufmann on bass, Dave Johnston on banjo, Nick Piccininni on mandolin and second fiddle, and special guest Jake Simpson of The Lil Smokies on fiddle. Yonder Mountain String Band (YMSB)  is an eclectic American progressive bluegrass band formed in Nederland, Colorado, performing since 1998. 

The band’s music draws on a variety of influences, including traditional bluegrass, country, rock, and jazz. Their energetic live shows and virtuosic musicianship have helped them build a loyal following and establish themselves as a leading band in the jamgrass scene. The showmanship and interplay made for a show that was great to hear and fun to watch.

The general vibe and acoustics at the Barns make it an excellent place to see shows, with the seats removed from the main level the fans were able to dance to the music. The talent and versatility  of YMSB was showcased throughout the night. With a mix of original and cover songs from artists like Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs,The Beatles, Talking Heads, Tom Petty, Guy Clark, and Bill Monroe; the jamgrass band repeatedly changed up the tempo including a ballad, a banjo polka, and even some smooth jazz. There were times when you had to be in awe of how fast fingers and bows were moving. 

YMSB started strong with their very popular song “Traffic Jam”, which felt like an appropriate choice for DC metro fans.  As the jamming continued, they went into Tom Petty’s “I Need To Know.”  When Nick sang “Small House” off their  2022 Grammy nominated  album, Get Yourself Outside, the crowd was enchanted. After an 11 minute version of “Northern Song”, Dave introduced “Suburban Girl”, the autobiographical story of growing up in the suburbs of Chicago.

The lyrics include the line Get Yourself Outside, which became the album title. Ben talked about the feelings they have had playing through the years and then Adam brought out our feelings when he sang “Landfall” from their Black Sheep album. Then YMSB switched it up again with “Broken Records.” Throughout  the evening Jake showed how well he meshed with YMSB, this was especially evident in some of the jams and when he sang “Rain In Durango.” After that we were treated to Nick and Jakes fire of the double fiddle “Wheel Hoss” followed by a very different style of music with Dave and the band playing “Polka On A Banjo.” Many fans were screaming out for “Ramblin’ In The Rambler” and Yonder obliged, Yegemiester (or maybe as they joked Pedialyte) shots and all. 

Check out the gallery of photos from this night here.

John Way from the The VA Way and BayGrass Festival commented,  “I thought the show was a real barnburner and it was so good to see so many true yonder kinfolk bringing such great energy to the band which enabled them to deliver a nonstop show of some of the highest quality Yonder I have seen in a long time! The chemistry between Jake and Nick brings excitement to the fans which really shows how well Jake can play with the Yonder team! Giving them that extra edge!  It was very exciting to see yonder and Nick bringing out some Jeff songs you could  feel the energy in songs especially when Nick would start to sing you could tell he was nervous and excited he would give a glance  back to Ben and Adam almost as if seeking approval or thumbs up in which they just gave the eye nod and then Nick just dove in and was able to let it loose again and bring it home. In my opinion, they are performing at a great level and all Yonder kinfolk fans need to really see the shows on this tour.” 

The band mentioned several times how much fun they were having and the great energy from the audience. Clearly the feeling was mutual. When the show ended with the two song encore of “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” and “Shady Grove” the fans were still euphoric.

The show can be heard on Nugs. Keep an eye out for tour news and other local appearances. 

Setlist provided by the band:
Traffic Jam
I Need to Know
Traffic Jam
Night Out
Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down
Small House
Only A Northern Song
Suburban Girl
Broken Records
Rain In Durango
Wheel Hoss
Polka On A Banjo
Ramblin’ in the Rambler
Sometimes I’ve Won
Ramblin’ in the Rambler
Girlfriend Is Better

Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
Shady Grove

Check out the gallery of photos from this night here.

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