Yonder Mountain String Band is outward bound, ready for Sumtur show

Yonder Mountain String Band is, from left: Adam Aijala, Jeff Austin, Dave Johnston and Ben Kaufmann. The neo-bluegrass band based out of Nederland, Colo., will play at Sumtur Amphitheater Friday, Aug. 9 at 6:30 p.m., in its second-to-last national summer tour date.


Of the 12 shows Yonder Mountain String Band will play during its whirlwind national tour this summer, only one is in an indoor venue.

That suits this four-piece neo-bluegrass band based out of Nederland, Colo., just fine.

“Inside, the emotion and the energy feel trapped and that's not always a bad thing,” said Jeff Austin, Yonder's mandolinist and the group's ostensible frontman. “Outside though, we're all sharing in the experience. If we take the stage and it's 100 degrees or the thunderstorms and the great clouds of death are gathering, that affects all of us. There's this feeling that we're all in this together. Especially in that oppressive heat. There's a feeling there that's: let's do this. Personally, it's something for me to play off of.”

The band may just have the opportunity to join in raising such a collective will when it comes to Sumtur Amphitheater Aug. 9 for the second-to-last stop on a tour that began July 18 in Ohio.

Speaking from the tour's second stop at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Va., on July 26, Austin said Yonder's summer tour is off to a great start and the band is looking forward to its gradual westward drift which will end up at the renowned Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colo. — the group's backyard.

But before they get there, Austin said, he's anxious to make the Papillion stop.

“It's a place we've been wanting to play for awhile now,” he said. “We've heard a lot of good things about Sumtur. It's one of those venues where we've had some high hopes of playing and we're glad to finally be there.”

Playing one of the nation's original musical genres and following a sort of folkway from bluegrass' Appalachian roots west to the Rocky Mountains on this particular tour, Austin said what he and Yonder are still connected with the music's roots but also pushing it forward for new generations of listeners.

“We go out on the road trying to tell stories,” he said. “That's the great tradition of the American songwriter. In America, you've got blues, jazz and bluegrass as the styles that are uniquely American, they are us. Yes, they have been influenced by different styles, but their true paths have led from here. And what those styles do is to tell a story. That's the aspect of all this that I dig.”

With the incorporation of Ben Kaufmann's upright bass, Dave Johnston's banjo, Adam Aijala's guitar and Austin's own mandolin, Austin said the lyricism and musicianship meld to create what he hopes is an alluring sound and story for the audience. Austin is known for riffing and scatting on frenetic jags with his instrument, but he said he also enjoys the measures when he's just keeping time and pushing that story forward to the rhythm of the other instruments.

Slippery as genres can be, Austin held off on fully defining Yonder's music as bluegrass, neo-bluegrass or progressive bluegrass, preferring to give it something of an idiolectic bent.

“People are always asking you, 'What kind of music do you play?'” he said. “I'm uncomfortable making that definition. I usually say, 'Hey, I play Yonder music.' Our stuff is just different like that and I think that's the way we like to keep it going.”

Yonder Mountain String Band will take the Sumtur Amphitheater stage at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 9. Advance tickets are still available at $20. Day-of-show tickets are $25. To buy tickets, visit sumtur.org.

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