It has been a nice month for bluegrass in New Orleans, as we had Greensky Bluegrass stop into Chickie Wah Wah in March and last night brought Colorado’s Yonder Mountain String Band to the House of Blues for a packed Maundy Thursday gig in the French Quarter. Judging by the rowdiness of the crowd, I could tell many of those in attendance would be taking Good Friday off for a day for rest and relaxation, and Yonder took the hint and did their damnedest to deliver two excellent sets of inspired party music for us.

The first set opened with “Pretty Daughter” and veered into couple songs off of the last album – “Criminal” and “Rain Still Falls” being the two that stood out. Yonder touched on some classic tunes, notably on “Bloody Mary Morning”, where bassist Ben Kaufmann channels his inner
Willie Nelson (who graced the very same stage in mid-January). As with many Yonder shows, the highlight of the first set often falls in the set closing segues that the band throws together, last night it was “Freeborn Man -> Death Trip -> Freeborn Man“. “Death Trip” is one of my favorite covers that Yonder does, the original is a strange, lingering song that found its way into the bluegrass repertoire of the mega-talented Colorado group and completely took on a life of it’s
own on Thursday night.

Yonder Mountain String Band @ House of Blues NOLA – 4/5/12 || Photo © Lon Marchand

Set Two kicked off with some slower tunes (including their fantastic take on the traditional “Rag Mama”) before finding it’s groove with “Honestly” (another great track from their 2009 album The Show), and the upbeat anthem “One More“). After a toast to Jim Marshall, the founder of Marshall Amplifiers who passed away yesterday, the band launched into a hair-raising cover of Frank Zappa’s “I Am The Slime” – using the bright yellow strobes to light up the House of Blues as they masterfully maneuvered through the whiplash key changes that most Zappa tunes bring. When Jeff Austin stomps down on those effects pedals to bring that electric punch to the mix, it’s like getting hit by a right hook from one of Jesco White’s kinfolk. Two songs later, their smooth version of “Althea” rang out (my other favorite Yonder cover), before closing the set with the quintessential YMSB tune, “Boatman’s Dance”. All in all, a great show from the jam-grass titans and as long as these New Orleans crowds keep filling up bluegrass shows bands like Yonder will keep on rollin’ through town – SO DO YOUR PART!

Yonder Mountain String Band
2012.04.05 @ The House of Blues
New Orleans, LA

Set I: Pretty Daughter, Criminal, Loved You Enough, Rain Still Falls,
Illinois Rain, Bloody Mary Morning, Don’t You Lean on Me, Just Like
Old Times, Finally saw the Light, Freeborn Man > Death Trip > Freeborn

Set II: Angel, Rag Mamma, Honestly, I’d Like Off, One More, Strophe,
Another Day, I Am The Slime, Casualty, Althea, Winds Over Wyoming,
Ten, Boatman’s Dance

E: 40 Miles From Denver, Hill Country Girl