Passion Presents Yonder Mountain String Band with Brown Bird
Wednesday, April 18
Doors at 7:30 PM
Show at 8:30 PM
$30 at the door
$25 advance tickets at The Works (Eureka), Northcoast Horticultural Supply (Arcata Location) and Inticketing.com
21 and over
Passion Presents Yonder Mountain String Band with Brown Bird!
Yonder Mountain String Band has always played music by its own set of rules. Bending bluegrass, rock and countless other influences that the band cites, Yonder has pioneered a sound of their own. With their traditional lineup of instruments, the band may look like a traditional bluegrass band at first glance but they’ve created their own music that transcends any genre. Dave Johnston points out “What could be more pure than making your own music.” Yonder’s sound cannot be classified purely as “bluegrass” or “string music” but rather it’s an original sound created from “looking at music from [their] own experiences and doing the best job possible.” The band continues to play by their own rules on their new record The Show. The Colorado-based foursome has crisscrossed the country over the past eleven years playing such varied settings as festivals, rock clubs, Red Rocks Amphitheater in the band’s home state, and recently the Democratic National Convention in Denver at Mile High Stadium opening for Barack Obama. Their loyal fanbase has been built from this diverse setting of music venues as fans latched on to their genre-defying original sound. The band has long cited such varied influences as the bluegrass of Del McCoury, Johnson Mountain Boys, Jimmy Martin, Bill Monroe, Osborne Brothers as well as the punk rock of Bad Religion, Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys. Somewhere in between these two tent poles are early 20th Century composers and alternative rock bands like Grandaddy and Postal Service. It’s all funneled through the band’s unique chemistry, honed since they first met at an informal club performance in 1998. With band members writing individually, in different pairings and as a collective, the album proves that this group is a collection of creative peers and you can hear it in the rich tapestry of music that makes up The Show.
The band is a regular at bluegrass festivals like the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and the band’s own Northwest String Summit as well as massive multi-stage events like Austin City Limits Festival, Bonnaroo and Rothbury. Fans are no doubt drawn to Yonder’s anything goes attitude, its humor and passion about music, and the band’s ability to stretch out live. “We love that people come to see us,” Johnston points out. “Everyone appreciates good music. Some people want to go to a recital and some people want to party.” But as its fans know, Yonder Mountain String Band does something a little different, more than just a musical party. The Show is the band’s most varied and versatile album to date, and the summation of the journey that these guys are on together. It’s bluegrass for the masses, acoustic tunes filled with dazzling chops, and it’s fun to boot. The humble Johnston sounds as surprised as anyone by the band’s success, but knows that it all boiled down to chemistry, which has never changed. “Somewhere down there we all kind of recognized that we had something unique,” he explains. “But there is no way I could have imagined the amount of success that the band has had.”
Brown Bird is better listened to in a room made of wood. Of course, it is easy to download the code and listen to the band on small computer speakers, but what is the point? You miss the warm layers of guitar, banjo, violin, double bass, cello, and bass drum (wooden rim) which hangs thick over their latest full-length effort, “Salt for Salt”. Recorded live to tape in Pawtucket, RI, “Salt For Salt” is the first album by Brown Bird to capture the intense energy of the duo’s live show, surging in waves that often swell into high-spirited, foot-stomping madness. David Lamb’s lyrics are as well-written as they are emotionally intelligent, thankfully avoiding the pitfalls of the wish-wash known as “modern-folk” or “singer-songwriting”. Lamb and his partner MorganEve Swain write simply, and the record is eerily sparse at times – a tambourine, a bass drum and the cello often the sole accompaniement to Lamb’s (what a name) cracked, wood-smoke voice. Brown Bird are also not afraid to write experimentally – “Ebb and Flow” and “Shiloh” (the latter a longer, entirely instrumental track) each boast melodies worthy of a dervish, the melodic structure reminiscent more of Turkish or Greek rebetika than old-time or bluegrass. Lamb and Swain work beautifully together, with his banjo providing a backbone to a fiddle break, her harmonies a lonesome echo of the melody. But Brown Bird also know too much to be pure romantics; Lamb’s continual reference to ships clearly come from his years spent working at the shipyard in Warren, RI, just as their arrangements well only from a deep knowledge of the American folk tradition. Paring down from five musicians on their last album to the duo of Lamb and Swain on “Salt For Salt” resulted in some necessary instrument changes – Swain, a lifelong violinist, spends most of the album on cello and double bass, instruments she picked up in the past two years. Lamb has a kick drum and woodblock/tambourine rigged to a second pedal in front of him, using his whole body and voice to carry the rhythm and melody simultaneously. This new configuration propels each song forward with a blur of hands, feet and voices. A cantankerous and drafty two-man ship stationed in Providence, RI, Brown Bird plays original, traditional American music in the best sense possible. It is music that comes from a context but is not afraid of the context: a living root with a view towards the leaves. – Professor Charles Booth, July 4th, 2011