Yonder Mountain, Greensky Bluegrass & Fruition
Live at Red Rocks – August 21, 2015
Concert Review & Photos
By Nate Etter • Photos by Wanderlust Photography
Friday night the Colorado bluegrass faithful ascended on Red Rocks Amphitheatre for the hoedown of the summer at the historic venue. The night brought an inviting lighting production that complemented impassioned sets from Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass and Fruition.
The middle-aged crowd filled in early for an evening set from Portland-based Fruition, an up-in-coming quintet led by the animated mandolin playing and vocals of Mimi Naja. Fruition brought a distinctive rock aesthetic to their tight-knit picking—the only band of the night to feature both a standard electric bass and drummer. Though their opening set was short-lived, catchy originals and undeniable energy had hundreds of new fans nodding in approval.
Next up was Greensky Bluegrass, the pride and joy of the Midwest picking scene. The band has two secret weapons that have led to their rapid rise in popularity over the last few years: the incredible voice and songwriting of mandolin player Paul Hoffman coupled with the tasteful dobro work of Anders Beck. Both were in full force on Friday.
Though the band is well-known for creative interpretations of classic covers, their set stayed almost exclusively true to original material. They burned through cuts like “Worried About the Weather” and the catchy dobro riffs of “The Four” while Hoffman shined on ballads “Forget About Everything” and “Windshield.” An extended “Wings for Wheels” slipped into a tease of Chuck Brown’s “Bustin Loose” as the sun finally set and the full effect of the movers spiraling designs onto the red rock behind the stage was finally achieved. The set ended with the fan favorite “Leap Year,” which drifted into space as the crowd joined in on a backing harmony that echoed off the rocks.
Closing out the night with two lengthy sets was Colorado’s own headliners, Yonder Mountain String Band. Now a full year and a full-length album removed from the departure of mandolin player Jeff Austin, the band looked rejuvenated and fully integrated with their two newest all-star additions, Allie Kral on fiddle and Jacob Joliff on mandolin.
The first set let a little bit of everyone get in on the action as, in typical bluegrass style, the band was apt to trade solos on hoedowns like “Only A Northern Song” and “Another Day.” The modest Joliff let loose on vocals for Jim Croce’s “I’ve Got A Name” while the title track off their newest album, “Black Sheep,” played out with the album artwork (a scribbled image of a sheep) dancing across the lights.
Bassist Ben Kauffman finally got his shot on lead vocals for a funky “Criminal” to kick off the second set, climaxing with a mindblowing solo from Joliff (or as Kauffman would put it, the band’s very own Samarai warrior). Other second set highlights included Springsteen’s “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In the City” and a show-stopping vocal and fiddle performance by Allie Kral on an extended take of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” that earned her a thunderous ovation.
Those loyal enough to stick around through the marathon were rewarded with a lively encore. Yonder invited Greensky Bluegrass back to the stage in their entirety and both bands cooked through “Traffic Jam” with Greensky’s hit “Jaywalking” sandwiched in the middle.
Both Yonder and Greensky left their Colorado fans plenty to look forward to. Greensky Bluegrass announced they will return to the state for a three-night run November 19-21 at Denver’s Ogden Theater while Yonder announced the dates for their annual New Year’s celebration at the Boulder Theater, December 30-31 and January 1-2.