By Derrick Weisbrod
Yonder Mountain String Band (YMSB) is a grass band that has been plying their craft of what many call Jamgrass for the last 22 years. My experience of catching music started in the early 2000’s with a series of New Year’s Eve shows in St. Louis, MO. As we started to learn about bluegrass / jamgrass in the late 00’s we ventured out for a festival at Mulberry Mountain called Wakarusa. The following year we attended Yonder Mountain Harvest Festival. What a wonderful experience, they headlined a couple nights and we were introduced to a wide range of new regional artists and national touring artists alike. We attended every Yonder Harvest Festival thereafter with so many memories made. Until that point, YMSB was the band I had saw the most frequently by a long shot. So when we had the chance to add YMSB as one of the headliners to the Pickin’ On Picknic 2022 we jumped on it. Fortunately for me they had a show somewhat near St. Louis March 23rd.
We loaded up the car on March 22nd and got on the road for Fayetteville, Arkansas bright and early. Colleen Matlock, the VIP Liaison for Pickin’ On Picknic joined in the fun for this excursion. We had lined up an interview with Ben Kaufmann and Nick Piccininni. Ben is the bassist and a founding member of YMSB, while Nick is the newest member and plays mandolin, banjo and fiddle.
After driving the 350 miles straight through we hit up a nearby restaurant to grab some lunch before the interview. Then we walked across the parking lot back to George’s Majestic Lounge to get set up. Colleen posed for the shots so we ensured we framed everything in well and could pick up reasonable quality audio. Fortunately for us we missed the various sound checks the audio engineers were doing ahead of the band sound checks. Ben and Nick joined us right on time and we chatted a bit before getting started on the interview. Here is a link to the full interview for your viewing at your leisure. It was quite easy talking with Ben and Nick, both gentlemen were very laid back and made my job so simple. After the interview wrapped up we headed back to the AirBNB located a few short blocks away to chill out ahead of the show.
We got to the show plenty early to get the tripod setup to capture some of the sets. Arkansauce opened things up with a very YMSB style set. They really nailed the opening artist role so smoothly! Arkansauce is certainly one of my favorite regional bands to see whenever I can. The music is catchy and easy to sing along with. Their sound has a range of sounds influencing their music and the lyrics are quite identifiable. They are based in Fayetteville so there were a lot of fans of Arkansauce there and the opening set was well attended. We went ahead and captured some of their tunes on live stream … it is hard not to when the tripod is setup. They played a ripping 50 minute set that raised our energy level ahead of set break. During set break Colleen worked on sharing handbills with attendees outside while I focused on chatting the inside audience up about Pickin’ On Music Festivals’ 2022 event. We felt pretty good about the reach we were able to capture during the set break.
Having finished our intermission work we got beer refills and worked our way towards the much less crowded back of the. It seemed like George’s had to be close to capacity as the main room was quite packed thirty minutes into the show. Really pleased to see a very robust attendance for a Wednesday night. The crowd really seemed to lose their minds when YMSB covered “Jolene” by Dolly Parton. They weaved a few songs in the middle of the Jolene presentation and finished up the medley probably 25 minutes later. It was amazing and very reminiscent of some of the Yonder Harvest Festival shows I had seen and kept me hooked on Yonder. After “Jolene”, Nick pulled out the banjo for some dueling banjos. Adams Collins from the Arkansauce also sat in to add more dueling banjo action as well. As the show progressed towards the end Nick pulled out the fiddle and paired up with Allie Kral to shred dueling fiddles to send us off to a euphoric finish. Here is a link to the live stream for the back half of the set from YMSB including the solid encore they served up! This was by far my favorite YMSB set in the last few years and am so pumped to see what they deliver during Pickin’ On Picknic 2022!