Bluegrass is a music steeped in tradition, but over the past decade and a half — much of it spent on the road — Yonder Mountain String Band has spearheaded a renegade movement to rewrite the definition of the genre. Alongside other neo-bluegrass friends such as Leftover Salmon, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, The Travelin’ McCourys, and Railroad Earth, YMSB has thoroughly revitalized and contemporized bluegrass and introduced it to many thousands of new fans. Rolling Stone said that YMSB “liberates bluegrass’ hot-shit riffing and blue-sky harmonies from its hidebound formalism,” while Paste Magazine wrote, “The Yonder Mountain boys have found a formula that works: take rootsy bluegrass influences, add in some rock ‘n’ roll, and seek out an adventurous audience.”
Yonder Mountain String Band is comprised of Adam Aijala (guitar, vocals), Dave Johnston (banjo, vocals) and Ben Kaufmann (bass, vocals). With the band having one of the strongest touring bases in the industry, fans and critics alike have been drawn to both their live shows and singular studio albums. Reporting from the All Good Music Festival (2009), journalist Jarrett Bellini from CNN Showbiz Tonight notes, “The trophy for best musical set goes to Yonder Mountain String Band who, as the sun began to set, left it all on the stage for an hour and a half. The pickers from Colorado had the audience dancing and shaking, kicking up a joyful storm of dust into the cool summer sky.”
YMSB has evolved into something of a phenomenon on the concert and festival circuit. The band has sold out Colorado’s famed Red Rocks several times, and played sold-out shows with famed Grateful Dead and Further bassist Phil Lesh at his Terrapin Crossroads in August 2012. They also host three singular music festivals every year — Northwest String Summit (now in its 13th year and hosted by YMSB every year), Harvest Music Festival (where they will host for the fifth time in October 2014), and Strings & Sol (Yonder hosts for the third year-in-a-row in Mexico in December 2014) — and have consecutively sold out runs of shows at Telluride Bluegrass Festival year after year. Every other year, YMSB also hosts Kinfolk Festival @ Planet Bluegrass. In all, Yonder Mountain logs over 100 live dates per year.
Yonder has always played music by its own design. Bending bluegrass, rock and countless other influences, they’ve come to pioneer a sound that they alone could only champion. With a traditional lineup of instruments, they may appear to be a traditional bluegrass band at first glance but they’ve taken the customary old-timey instrumentation to new heights, transcending any single genre. Yonder has become a regular performer at major music festivals like the iconic Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Summer Camp, and DelFest as well as massive multi-stage events like Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits Festival, and Rothbury.
YMSB heads into the recording studio in summer 2014; fans can expect a new album to be released in winter 2014/2015.