Yonder Mountain String Band brings new look to Planet Bluegrass

Yonder Mountain String Band will headline both nights of the Kinfolk Celebration, planned for Sept. 19-20, at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons. From left, Allie Kral, Jake Jolliff, Ben Kaufmann, Dave Johnston and Adam Aijala. (Tobin Voggesser  / Courtesy photo)

Yonder Mountain String Band will headline both nights of the Kinfolk Celebration, planned for Sept. 19 and 20, at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons. From left, Allie Kral, Jake Jolliff, Ben Kaufmann, Dave Johnston and Adam Aijala. (Tobin Voggesser / Courtesy photo)

By Quentin Young

We’re seeing a different face of Yonder Mountain String Band.

It’s down a founding member, but it’s up two regular guests. It has new songs. Its sound is a little different. When the quartet earlier this year parted ways with its de facto frontman, Jeff Austin, it was not clear what it all meant for the band’s future.

Now the future is coming into focus.

“We’ve come to find out it was something we really needed,” said Adam Aijala, the band’s guitar player.

The changes feel like a rebirth for the band, he said. “The dynamic is awesome right now. I love it.”

The band dynamic nowadays involves the skills of Allie Kral on fiddle and Jake Jolliff on mandolin, and Colorado audiences will get to see what they bring to the Yonder experience when the band performs as part of the Kinfolk Celebration, scheduled for Sept. 19-20 at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons.

Yonder Mountain String Band headlines both nights of music. The lineup also includes Drew Emmitt and Vince Herman, Travelin’ McCourys, Head for the Hills, The Haunted Windchimes and Gipsy Moon. John Bell of Widespread Panic plans to perform with Yonder Mountain on Friday night, and Jason Carter and Ronnie McCoury plan to perform with the band Saturday night.

The Portland-based Kral is the former fiddle player for popular jam band Cornmeal.

“She has really good energy, she’s a great player, and she plays well with others,” Aijala said.

He had similar praise for Jolliff, from the Boston-based string band Joy Kills Sorrow.

Kral and Jolliff have not been named permanent members of Yonder Mountain. But they’ve been working a lot with the band, and they’re even recording new material together. Aijala did not rule out the possibility they’d someday be brought on full time.

The band announced in April it was moving forward without Austin, who now performs with the Jeff Austin Band. The announcement cited “varying career goals and creative pursuits.”

In describing how Austin’s absence has affected Yonder’s sound, Aijala said, “It did lose some of the darker elements.”

Yonder Mountain String Band is one of Colorado’s prized musical products. The band formed in 1998 in Nederland, and, along with The String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon and one or two other acts, have helped establish a certain bluegrass-based sort of rock that’s now an essential feature of the Colorado soundtrack.

Planet Bluegrass and its co-owner Craig Ferguson were instrumental in helping the band find its feet, Aijala said, and Yonder Mountain’s path has often led back to the Planet. The inaugural Kinfolk Celebration was staged at the Planet 12 years ago, and the band is a regular at the Planet-produced Telluride Bluegrass Festival. In December, the band played a benefit show for the flood-damaged Planet and raised $60,000 for seven acres of new sod.

Aijala, who used to go to festivals at Planet Bluegrass in his pre-Yonder days, said that after last September’s flood there was no question Yonder Mountain String Band would do what it could to help.

“Craig has always been there for us,” Aijala said. “For me, it was a no-brainer. Of course we’re going to do something.”

He noted that the Kinfolk Celebration will occur very close to the anniversary of the flood.

“It’s going to have special meaning for us,” he said.

Aijala and Yonder bassist Ben Kaufmann plan to perform in a Mabon Concert on Thursday, Sept. 18, in Planet Bluegrass’ Wildflower Pavilion. The show is open to people who have camping passes for Kinfolk.

The band is recording new songs at Coupe Studios in Boulder and expects to release the material around January, Aijala said.

Contact Quentin Young at 303-684-5319 or qyoung@times-call.com.

If you go

What: Kinfolk Celebration, featuring Yonder Mountain String Band

When: Sept. 19-20.

Where: Planet Bluegrass, 500 W. Main St., Lyons.

TIckets: $50 for one day, $90 for both days.

Info: bluegrass.com.

 
 

Your host

Your host Quentin Young, reporter at the Times-Call (Longmont), and Daily Camera (Boulder) respectively.

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