Band combines bluegrass with rock

Band combines bluegrass with rock

David Allgood, manager of the Bama Theatre, said he has been looking for ways to increase the student audience at his venue. Last week, the Bama hosted Old Crow Medicine Show and experienced a surge of youthful participation.

“They were rowdy but nonviolent for Old Crow,” Allgood said.  “We were nearly at capacity, and it looks like it will be a similar crowd [tonight].”

Tonight at 8:30, the Bama Theatre will host Yonder Mountain String Band.  The band from Nederland, Colo., consists of banjoist Dave Johnston, mandolinist Jeff Austin, bassist Ben Kaufmann and guitarist Adam Aijala. They have released five studio albums as well as many live recordings.

Rusty Pate of probably said it best: “Trying to pin Yonder Mountain String Band into one musical genre can be a daunting task.”

On paper, the band may seem like any other jam-oriented bluegrass band. After all, their sets are typically riddled with different string instruments and folksy vocals.  But “bluegrass” falls short in providing a truly collective definition.

“In the beginning there was bluegrass,” Kaufmann said. “Then there was a second generation who deviated from the norm. Then a third. We’re in the fourth… maybe ‘new’ grass.”

While Kaufmann does not particularly like the term “new” grass, he does contend that his new sound has many old influences.

“We are incorporating the music we listened to when we were kids, mainly classic rock,” Kaufmann said. “Others would be Grateful Dead, Billy Joel and Tom Petty.”

From their humble beginnings as four musicians in a living room, YMSB has spent the last twelve years building a reputation and fan base. Kaufmann said he believes taking this bluegrass/underground route to fame has been instrumental in maintaining their following.

“I imagine that the experience is different for a band who suddenly has a number one hit,” Kaufmann said. “[After twelve years of hard work] the fans who like us are extremely loyal and will listen to anything new.”

Having experienced the hard road, Kaufmann is quick to dish out advice for aspiring bands and musicians. The bassist said musicians should be prepared to devote their energy to music. It is also important to stay open-minded as music can lead to unexpected places.

“I never could have guessed that I was going to be in a bluegrass band,” Kaufmann said.

If practice isn’t your thing, Kaufmann offers more light-hearted approaches.

“It makes your life a lot easier if you are a hot blonde girl with big tits,” he said. “It helps if you have an Irish accent.  Or you could just cultivate a sense of mystery.”

Yonder Mountain String Band last played in Tuscaloosa in 2007. After more than three years away, the band is looking forward to another night in a college town.

“There’s a unique energy that you only get when you gather experimental young people,” Kaufmann said. “And there’s nothing like being in the South.”

Attendance is $20 at the door or $17.50 before the show at Doors will open at 7:30, and the band will play two different sets.

If You Go

What: Yonder Mountain String Band

Where: Bama Theatre

When: 8:30 p.m.

Cost: $20 at the door, $17.50 at

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