Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Yonder Mountain Band Works Hard at Offering Something New

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Yonder Mountain Band Works Hard at Offering Something New

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Faulkner, Shorelines correspondent

The Yonder Mountain String Band doesn't have much love for the drums.

"We don't have drums, we never will. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, never, never, never," said mandolin player Jeff Austin. "It's not that we hate drums, it's that that's not the sound we envisioned. . . . The whole idea is how can we get these 1,000, 2,000, 4,000 or how-ever-many people moving? A lot of people have set it in their internal metronomes that drums set off their dancing switch, you know? Our goal has always been to make people freak out just as hard to us as they do to a band fully loaded with drums and all that [stuff]."

For the past four years, Yonder Mountain has made steady progress toward that goal. The band just kicked off its first 2003 tour, which stops tomorrow at the Freebird Cafe in Jacksonville Beach. This time, the musicians -- Austin, guitarist Adam Aijala, banjo player Dave Johnston and upright bassist Ben Kaufmann -- are stepping up to 500- to 2,500-seat venues. A year ago, they were playing halls half that size.

Yonder Mountain's bio called 2002 its most successful year so far. Roots music magazine Dirty Linen described the band as "one of the most dynamic and versatile ensembles in bluegrass" and fans are starting to follow the group from town to town. Music distributor Ryko picked up the band's four CDs, which have sold a combined 100,000 copies in a little more than four years.

Austin is happy the records are selling, the critics are praising and the audiences are dancing. But what he's most excited about on this tour is being in the larger halls without age restrictions and the opportunities to play night after night to audiences that know the songs.

"We're starting to get more freedom to start playing some slower stuff, that sort of business," he said. "We're just interested in playing music and seeing who comes out. More than three-quarters of our show is very upbeat stuff with fast tempos, up-tempo kind of stuff. It keeps people moving. We're from the TV generation; you know, you get bored real quick."

If there's one thing Austin really hates, it is bands that refuse to take chances with their music. …

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