Yonder Mountain String Band
Thu., July 19, 7:05 p.m. Gathering of the Vibes, Seaside Park, 1 Barnum Dyke, Bridgeport. (203) 908-3030, gatheringofthevibes.com.
Yonder Mountain String Band is playing Vibes on opening night, Thursday at 7:05 p.m., a time when most campers will have firmly rooted their tents and E-Z ups into the soil of Seaside Park and are ready to finally let loose. The Colorado-based progressive bluegrass band has been at it since 1998, but guitarist Adam Aijala thinks it's just now hitting its stride.
"For some reason, I feel like we're making good steps musically on stage, as a band and individually," he says. "I feel like we're improving and I don't really know why. We're not rehearsing more or anything like that. I did get some new in-ear monitors, so I guess I could give props to the technology. But we're just getting into a better groove, I don't know what it is."
The band's last album The Show is now three years old, and though there are currently talks about getting in gear to record another, there's no longer the need or the pressure there once was to put out something new. Now that band members have children, and one of them has even moved to California, it's not as easy to throw down tracks as it used to be. But it's not for a lack of material.
"We're not really touring in support of any record, I don't know that we ever do," says Aijala. "We just always tour. Sometimes there just happens to be a record at the same time. More bands are probably going to start having that mentality because most bands don't make their money selling records anymore. … We have new stuff in the works. We have old stuff that was never finished. We have tons of old material we've been playing for years that isn't on any record. Then we have fairly new material we've been playing for the last year and a half or so. "
Yonder Mountain's sound isn't pure bluegrass by any means, it's just composed of what naturally comes out when its members get together and pick, which sometimes is more straight rock than bluegrass. But the band definitely has benefited from the nationwide renewed interest in folk and bluegrass that Aijala noticed when the Cohen Brother's Oh Brother Where Art Thou and its beloved soundtrack came out in 2000.
"That was a period where all of a sudden acoustic-based Americana music was becoming a bit more recognizable," he says. "You'd see those types of band more at festivals and whatnot. I'm starting to see it even more, with bands out of Berkeley, like The Deadly Gentlemen and Joy Kills Sorrow."
Here in the Northeast where folk events like the Newport Folk Festival have come full circle (a massive event in the early '60s that fell on hard times and went dark for most of the '70 and '80s but has now undergone a complete renaissance with large crowds eager for a blend of acoustic music and roots rock), Yonder Mountain String Band has been warmly received. Back home, nestled in and around the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the ebb and flow of the public's tastes have been more consistent.
"There's kind of always been an acoustic folk scene out towards Denver," says Aijala. "Theres a Celtic scene between Denver and Boulder. And there's always been a little bluegrass in and around Boulder, which includes a lot of people I met when I first moved here. I don't get out much anymore to pick and whatnot. I still have a pick with friends here and there, but I get invited a lot to come down when I'm gone. They'll be like, 'pick on Saturday,' come on down, but I'm on a bus like I am right now. But there's still a community for sure."