the Mishawaka Amphitheater is a mystical place that sits somewhere between a national highway and a river in northern Colorado. It’s one of those places that most have heard of, even seen pictures, but surprisingly many in the area still note that they haven’t set foot on its historic grounds. For others, this is a dynamic they would like to maintain lest secrecy leaks out and future events and tickets will be more difficult to secure than they often already are. For more than 100 years, The Mish, as it is affectionately known, has withstood the tests of fire and flood and has been widely regarded as a place where magic occurs regularly, hosting many acts for decades that have been since become too important to play. on its wooden river stage. Last weekend was no different.
Saturday and Sunday received the musical treatment from community favorite jamgrass Group of mountain ropes there and the boy made these players deliver. Playing sold out back to back, the band tossed three unforgettable sets to a sea of ââecstatic fans. Backed by the high energy of Buffalo Commons on the first night and the eclectic sounds of The Sweet Lillies plus wildmen Tuttle, Pool and Greul on the second night, the group made sure everyone left the venue at the end of the week. -end had more than a handful of souvenirs to take with them.
As often great things are born from the drama, Friday was marked by uncertainty. With the epic fires of last summer in the north of the country grappling with the unusual amount of rain recently recorded in the region, both of these dynamics had left the breeding ground for landslides. With two landslides a few days before the scheduled dates and more rain on the horizon, the Ministry of Forests had already put the site under surveillance and by Friday morning, it seemed likely that the place would have to be changed, the shows rescheduled, or the entire event canceled. With the deepest desire to see the show continue, Yonder’s amazing management team and the dynamic production team at Mishawaka stepped up a gear and made call after call trying to find another venue that could handle it. support 1000 fans for two nights. at the last minute. At the close of each call, option after option had the potential open, but due to the late hour staff and supplies seemed to be the biggest hurdles, and at the end of Friday both teams failed and he still there was no exit plan. Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. was to be the last phone call from the Forestry Ministry and at 10 a.m. the powers that be gave the green light to the venue and the show was to continue.
Born in Colorado, the Yonder Mountain String Band and their support Kinfolk have a deep connection to the Rocky Mountains and this part of the country and the return to the small stage of The Mish has certainly been a touching and historic moment for many at inside its walls. Throughout the weekend, the group made numerous references to the love they had for the venue, not only as players with their own stories from their early years, but as members of the audience as well. themselves, seeing many others performing there who would contribute to their own development. . As this was also the group’s first return to the venue since 2004, it was easy to detect that this weekend gave them a break, not only in nostalgia, but as a reflection of how far they have come to deliver their point. a personal perspective on the musical experience that so many have cherished for nearly three decades.
At one point, the group quizzed the audience, questioning participants with a show of hands, about how many people had been present 17 years earlier during their last performance on the banks of the Poudre River. Surprisingly and yet not so much, there were at least 30 pairs of hands raised and counted as witnesses to the group’s journey, including one that on Friday celebrated its 200th Yonder show. Having such a close relationship with their fans and always showing the deepest appreciation for their support, the group took the time to note this fan’s milestone and asked everyone in the house to help them celebrate the trip to his sides, with the patronage doing it in kind bursting into applause as the band and lone fan got it all with smiles as wide as the riverbank itself.
For many fans, the weekend experience was akin to stepping back in time, seeing their favorite band again in such an intimate environment under Colorado skies, and with as many like-minded people as they did. themselves. This feeling seemed to be reciprocated in the group as well, as members were often seen sitting listening to the first groups and exchanging real conversations, unhurried and naturally, with those who were nearby. In the end, for many people involved, whether players or listeners, this weekend was a kind of homecoming and unfolded with awe and beauty on many levels. From the natural environment to the surreal isolation of the place to connecting with so many familiar faces, this emotional concoction has certainly played a role in the next level of play shown by the group. At the end of the weekend some in the audience said that the magic of the weekend had actually reinvigorated that love of music and the band that had drawn them all those years ago and were already trying to figure out when and where would their next show be.
For those not in the know, the band is made up of Ben Kaufmann on electric and acoustic bass, Dave Johnston on banjo, Adam Aijala on acoustic guitar, Allie Kral on violin and Nick Piccininni on mandolin. The chemistry that this group is currently producing on stage is something not to be missed. Whether fueled by COVID or the band’s upcoming new album, the band are currently performing an excellent combination of mastery and precision alongside improvisation, surprise, and explosive moments that draw crowds night after night. Kaufman continues to set the band’s unwavering timing and does so without the aid of the drums, a feat in itself, while also bringing significant vocal range to the band’s performance.
Allie Kral is a fireball of electricity, often coming somewhere between a kid in a candy store and a mad banshee as she weaved her way through heart-wrenching solos, delivering notes with such fury that it is astonishing that his instrument did not catch fire, while being a significant contributor vocally.
Dave Johnston plays his banjo lines effortlessly and constantly listens with open ears for the opportunity to accentuate the theme without ever being afraid to take charge and lead. He is often the instigator of stage jokes and flattering comedies, which makes what he does on the banjo even more noticeable with his stark contrast to his low-key character on stage.
Adam Aijala is a flat picker through and through and delivers the craft with a focused facial expression and lightning fast fingers. His string skills match his voice and the two together make him a distinct sound and integral to the band’s identity.
New member Nick Piccininni has infused a lot into the group. Not only does he play the mandolin, but he also plays banjo and violin very well. The multi-instrumentalist dynamic is certainly not lost in this group, as Piccininni is often drawn into duels with his counterparts depending on the instrument he wears. Nick operates with a confidence on stage that no one would guess he was new to the group and what he delivers makes everyone’s energy soar at eleven. Overall, the Yonder Mountain String Band are on the road, continuing to live up to their tried and true name and once again upping their playing with the infusion of new material and tour dates across the country.
Check out more photos from the shows.