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Bluegrass in Snowmass

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Courtesy photo
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SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colorado ” This labor day weekend, some people will be grilling burgers. Some will be hanging with the family. And some will be listening to the likes of Bob Dylan, Dwight Yoakam and Widespread Panic.

It’s Labor Day Festival time again, and Jazz Aspen is putting on quite the musical spread. The last act on tap will be Colorado’s own Yonder Mountain String Band.

On Monday afternoon, they’ll be playing their happy, acoustic mix of banjo, mandolin, bass and vocals. It’s upbeat stuff, the kind it’s much easier to tap your toes and dance to than describe.



Still, a few days ago, guitarist and singer Dave Johnston put his Yonder experience to words.

“I like that it, for me, it’s kind of, there’s a lot of things going on with it. I like the words, and I like the sound of good music, and I like the lyricality of a well-played instrument. And so I like that something that’s apparently so mathematical or inhuman is very capable of being more human than most people (chuckling).”



“I really liked the sincerity of it, and I really enjoyed the sentiment, in particular, of bluegrass, because it just seemed really down-to-earth and, like, it got right to the point. I had a big thing for punk rock when I was in high school and stuff, and I think that’s kind of the same thing. They’re both kind of related to each other. I think I like that particular way of doing things, you know, especially in a musical form, or any kind of form, really ” painting or writing or whatever. Something that kind of cuts to the chase. And I have a wacky side, too. They’re both involved, too.”

“I think our music is kind of, it’s very, very personable and very us. We kind of just want to go up there ” we don’t really have anything set down in stone too far, too far down. We don’t like to do the same thing twice. And I don’t think any musician really does do the same thing twice, but I think we like to think of our music more as a conversation between us and the audience. And, you know, one that may be filled with really off-centered jokes, or one that isn’t, you know. Or one where everything’s kind of firing on all cylinders and stuff, to mix metaphors, anyway.”

“We want to give them a good vibe, and we want to send them out of there feeling like they really saw something that was unique and something that might never happen again. It’s just one of those things, where you just want to kind of go up there and be yourself, and hopefully that’s good enough to keep people interested. And so far, so good (laughing). I guess we’re kind of laid back about it. We’re there to do our thing, and we want people to walk away feeling like they can do their thing as well. And if they somehow dovetail or fit in with each other really well, and for a moment, maybe, you know, work or the world’s situation or the presidential race, or anything stupid like that seems to be very far away.”

“I would always be surprised if we were ever popular (laughing).”

“Yeah, no, I know, it’s a pleasant surprise, too, if I can qualify that. I think that ” it’s just pretty remarkable and pretty awesome. We happen to be, like, very fortunate and part of that good fortune is that people know who we are and stuff. And it’s great, it’s a great living, and it’s really fun to play music.”

“Yeah, you know, playing Red Rocks last month was really cool. … Getting to know people like Bela Fleck and Sam Bush and Danny Barnes and Pete Warnick, getting to know people like that who are always kind of very inspirational to me. Getting to hang out with them is pretty awesome. And you know, another cool thing is being around the guys and having everyone working toward an amorphous, if common goal (Laughing). That’s pretty fun.”

“Not really, no. It’s hard to really even call music a career path. It seems like, it’s something me and the guys wanted to do, were willing to work hard for, but I don’t think we ever thought of it, as I guess the word ‘career.’ … I don’t think we ever thought it as, ‘Hey, let’s be an upwardly mobile bluegrass band.’ I don’t think that was ever something that crossed our minds. We just kind of tackled it with a good intent, and we worked really hard and continue to work really hard at it.”

“I have to answer my wife and my friends and, you know ” my wife and my friends. So that includes the band and my wife and my wife’s friends, my sister. I have a twin sister who lives out here with her family. Family’s very important. I guess I kind of look at the band as part family as well. I include them in that umbrella.”


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