The Yonder Mountain String Band performs at Pisgah Brewing on Sunday, July 28.

The Yonder Mountain String Band performs at Pisgah Brewing on Sunday, July 28.

by James Cassara

In anticipation of the upcoming release of a still untitled EP (due later this year), The Yonder Mountain String Band will appear at venues and music festivals across the country, including a July 27 performances at Floyd Fest (just north of Greensboro), and at Pisgah Brewery in Black Mountain. On select festival performances the band will be joined by their friends Danny Barnes, Railroad Earth, and The Devil Makes Three. This is part of what has been a busy and productive year for the Colorado based quartet.

The genesis of YMSB goes back to Urbana, IL, where college student and banjo player Dave Johnston met mandolin player, Jeff Austin. After graduation Austin settled in Nederland, Colorado, but the pair stayed in touch and Johnston eventually joined him there. Soon after, the two met bass player Ben Kaufmann and guitarist Adam Aijala at the Verve Club, a local watering hole known as a breeding ground for new bands.

Right out of the gate the four landed a prestigious gig at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, casting their fate as a legitimate band. They quickly developed a following among bluegrass fans, but were equally embraced by the then emerging “jam band” scene.

Touring constantly, they worked their way up the bar and club circuit and eventually made plans to record. In the fall of 1999, they released their debut album, Elevation, on their own Frog Pad Records label.

By the fall of 2000, they were playing in larger venues, including the fabled Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, and began attracting the attention of larger companies. But the band resisted, preferring to instead release an ongoing series of live albums (five so far), with the occasional studio effort, including Old Hands (2003) and The Show (2009).

Like many independent minded groups, YMSB would rather control their careers. Nonstop touring, live albums punctuated by the occasional studio release, and a steady stream of merchandizing has proven to be both prudent and profitable.

In mid-December, and for the second year in a row, YMSB will host “Strings & Sol” at the Now Sapphire Resort in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. Performing alongside them will be Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams with The Travelin’ McCourys, and Greensky Bluegrass. The upcoming gigs will showcase newly written material, slated for the EP, as well as material from their back catalog, and their extensive assortment of cover songs.

Anyone who has attended a Yonder Mountain String Band show knows they are not your stereotypical jam band. They are consummate players who, while eager to stretch out and go with the groove, know that song structure and musicianship are first and foremost. It’s all about a great time but it’s also about superb craftsmanship and a desire to please not just the audience, although they certainly do so, but themselves.

If You Go: Yonder Mountain String Band (with Devil Makes Three) at The Pisgah Brewing Company in Black Mountain on Sunday, July 28. Gates open at 5 p.m. for this 6 p.m. show. Tickets are priced at $25 in advance, $30 day of show, and $55 for the “Hopster” VIP special. For more information go online to www.pisgahbrewing.com