"This doesn't suck at all." - Ben Kaufmann
For years, I've had to endure lectures about how awesome Yonder Mountain String Band shows at Penn's Peak are, from my friends Chris & Heidi, who go every Summer. Listening to the recordings only twists the knife. When Yonder played there in 2009, I had already bought tickets to see Cracker at the Highline. Last year when they played, I was sooo close to going, and ended up stuck at work until 4AM that night. Sitting in a cube, staring at a blue screen, surrounded by fluorescent lights, and cursing the name of J-Hud with all my might, as Chris texted me pictures taken from the first row. Most of my friends are assholes.
*THIS YEAR*, nothing was going to stop me from being at that show. NOTHING. Do you think I'm fucking kidding? My dog spent the week leading up to this show in the ICU. Shit was up and down, but generally, looking really bad. A lesser human may have thrown in the towel and hidden under a table instead of going to a show, but not I! I actually swam through approximately 1 million metric Tons of (figurative) toxic shit (Jersey?) in order to just step out of my car and pour myself a giant pink solo cup of Don Julio Blanco in the Penn's Peak parking lot. I had no choice, you see? What I'm getting at, is that I needed this show. It was the only reason I was still standing. Yonderland, as they call it, is very real, very magical, and it was about to make all the difference in the world.
The tequila was doing a bang-up job numbing my brain and body. Soon, I was laying stomach-down on the pavement in order to line up the bean-bag toss boxes (I prefer to say "sack toss boxes" but it sounds so dirty when taken out of context) and measuring wind direction with my thumb-- there was none. Blue skies, warm weather. Perfect conditions to toss handfuls of sacks into two decent sized boxes. Ha ha, bean bags!
Pregame featured Chris, Heidi, A Boy Named Lynn (not Mr. Belvedere!), Lisbeth & Dave and their Karp'lings Zoe (donning a YMSB shirt) & Ty. Also, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies. I already mentioned the Tequila. There was more of that. We were freakin' ready, already! LET'S DO THIS!
Chris mentioned that typical of Penn's Peak, many people stay in the lot til after the show starts and gradually meander in, 3-4 songs late, so they can finish their beers. Completely unnecessary if you're already drunk. We were inside and positioned in the Front Ben Vicinity-- ready to go the second Yonder started strumming the dark intro bars to the fantastic mood setter, Angel. I finally made it to a Yonder Penn's Peak show. It felt fucking great. It was a beautiful first set. Super tight. Tons of positive pounding energy. Naughty Sweetie to keep the room moving, a beautiful Maid of the Canyon, triumphant Lay It On The Line, a bouncy Natchez Whistle -> a gorgeous Years w/ Rose that hit in the gut -> Whiskey Before Breakfast annnnnnnnd breathe. Dave got all romantical with the tender Dominated Love Slave. They were clearly having a shit-ton of fun. Some "anti-romance" in the form of Must've Had Your Reasons. Then a positively sick, twisted, mind-bendingly awesome In the Seam, Shake Me Up, Raleigh & Spencer EPIC MASTER COMBO to tie a bow on the first set! Sweet baby Jesus! Yonder at Penn's Peak!!! I BELIEVE.
Set two started with Polka On a Banjo & featured Ty rockin'/stompin' the Dave/Ben rail! It was a great way to re-focus the room. Althea was deep, dark, bouncing. All The Time, Pt. 1, Criminal, total Yonder awesomeness. Free To Run was intense and spectacular. Finally Saw The Light calmed down the room in order for the guys to set up their Slurve: Girlfriend Is Better, which was a dark and twisted adventure through Yonderland, led by your delightfully insane Willy-Wonka-like Ringleader, Jeff Austin. -> a ridiculously tasty, high energy, good vibes, sing-a-long, rockin', Dave Johnston ON FIIIIIIIIIYAAAAAH (*all night*), super playful… *breathes* FUCKING AWESOME Traffic Jam -> Keep On Goin' -> Mother's Only Son -> Keep On Goin' -> Traffic Jam MOTHERFUCKING SAMMICH! It happened, folks. I was there. Where were you? Watching footage of J-Hud? Dude in back of us who was screaming for Mother's Only Son all night actually melted all over the floor. Like bacon creme anglaise on warm chocolate bread pudding from the Dessert Truck. That was it for him. Done.
Crazy was a sweet goodnight to the Penn's Peak audience. Troubled Mind gave us one last frenzied fix til they return. The room was oozing with love. That shit was all over the rafters. Joe Esposito's Karate Kid anthem You're the Best Around played as we walked out. Nice touch.
I've loved Yonder for years-- and they've always sounded great--- but right now--- they sound REALLY. FUCKING. GREAT. They are fresh, happy, playful, having tons of fun, and as always, able to transform shows into fantastically magical live music experiences like no other band. But they've elevated. As far as Penn's Peak goes, the love and energy in that room that night-- the synergy between the band and crowd, was beyond any other Yonder show I've seen. Was it the band? The room? The crowd? Or some perfect mix of these elements? Maybe it's something in the PA air. In my info-taining State of Mind Conversation Feature with Jeff Austin, he shares the lesson that one should "never miss a Merriweather" Phish show. After getting my ass kicked in the best possible way by that guy's band, lemme try and learn YOU the lesson: Never miss a Yonder Penn's Peak show. Just don't. Fucking Yonderland!
The post show buzz was fantastic. A glow emanated from Penn's Peak and from out of nowhere, a dinosaur sized Luna Moth appeared in the parking lot-- which I suppose marks the closing of Yonderland 2011. I'll just assume that happens every year too. It was also our signal to go watch cartoons in the hotel. We woke up in the AM to Chris, whistling Polka On a Banjo in the shower. I love my friends.
I needed this show like no other and it fucking delivered. It pulled me through a truly shiteous week and gave me the energy needed to finish it. Now, I'm not saying that Yonder Mountain String Band killed my dog. I'm saying that Yonder Mountain String Band helped me set her free. For that I will be eternally grateful. Milligan always loved Yonder (she walked out on moe., but shh!! don't tell moe.). During car-rides, thunderstorms, fireworks, plain old hanging out, and even when she got really sick and needed to rest, YMSB would always bring a smile to her face (also, Yonder are conducive to great belly rubs, but I'm sure you already knew that). I was thinking about her throughout the night, always with a smile on my face, and attempted to livestream the show to her USING MY BRAIN (fuck you, it totally worked). It is incredibly appropriate that YMSB ultimately helped me say goodbye. Her spirit will forever be with me every time I hear Yonder, and her smile, in my heart & soul.
Yonder Mountain String Band, 7/14/11, Penn's Peak, PA-- YONDERLAND: 10 FUCKING HUZZAHS!!! Never miss a Yonder Penn's Peak show. Special thanks to Chris & Heidi for their educational outreach. Is it next year yet?
Maid of the Canyon
Lay it On the Line
Natchez Whistle ->
Years with Rose ->
Whiskey Before Breakfast
Dominated Love Slave
Must've Had Your Reasons
In the Seam
Shake Me Up
Raleigh & Spencer
Polka On a Banjo
All the Time
God Only Knows (pt 1) ->
Free To Run
Finally Saw the Light
GIrlfriend Is Better ->
Traffic Jam ->
Keep On Goin' ->
Mother's Only Son ->
Keep On Goin' ->
DOWNLOAD THE SHOW! http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=yonder%20penn%27s%20peak%202011
I actually grabbed a sbd off of YonderMountainLive.com. It is sweet like honey.