Nordic Combined: Yonder joins forces with the Travelin’ McCourys at the Orpheum Theater

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Yonder Mountain String Band is back at the Orpheum Theater this weekend, with their familiar blend of acoustic Bluegrass jams, but without their most recognizable face, energetic lead singer and mandolin player Jeff Austin. Austin is currently at home with his newborn baby and has taken a short leave from touring.

Don’t think this show is one to sleep on without Austin’s showmanship; the band has written 15 new songs with their special guests Jason Carter, and Ronnie and Robbie McCoury of the Travelin’ McCourys, ready to rock Saturday night.

The three guests who are known for their work in the Del McCoury band will join Yonder onstage for combined sets of new material this month that adds a southern fried flavor to the dynamic mountain jam sound.

Kentucky natives, the Travelin’ McCourys sound like they were picked off the Appalachian Trail or found in a 1930’s juke box catalogue, with reminiscent country harmonies and knee slapping dance tunes.

Their musical energy onstage is like a shot of whiskey to get your night started and transports the listener instantly back to scenes of blooming Magnolia and apple trees, along the rolling hills of America’s Heartland.

The father Del McCoury is a Bluegrass Hall of famer, but his sons Ronnie and Robbie show no signs of living in the shadow of their father’s success.

The brothers are both regulars on the Grand Ole Opry circuit in Nashville, and Ronnie is well known for his songwriting ability and virtuoso mandolin skills, the latter earned him the title of Mandolin player of the year for the last 8 years.

The McCoury boys will duke it out onstage together with banjo player Jason Carter, and the rest of the Yonder Mountain band for who has the faster and more soulful bluegrass chops.  But, it’s a friendly competition between two bands that have a mutual respect for each others musical vision.

Yonder’s rise to success continues to inspire musicians around the country as they’ve expanded their reach without losing sight of their roots.  They’ve evolved from coffee shop and local bars to selling out jam band festivals and theaters, while still remembering why they picked up their instruments in the first place: for the love of the music.

Both bands push their sound in organic, and tried and true ways by focusing on creating new music and bluegrass covers each night.  But Yonder’s used more of a modern jam band formula to keep its audiences engaged and interested, by making live bootlegs from setlists available for download each night.

This technology has allowed them to expand their identity as a force to be reckoned with on the jam band scene.

They are now a band that is able to host their own festivals along with notable bluegrass bands like Darkstar Orchestra and Grammy winning artist, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, moving them into the top tier of jam bands around the country.

So, just like the rest of the Yonder faithful I have no idea what’s in store for the night to come, but I’m excited to see a night of Rocky mountain meets old school Appalachian jamming. Not just because I know it will be an impossible task to keep me off the dance floor, but nothing will have sounded quite like it before.

-Patrick Berthiaume