Tag Archives: bluegrass

Yonder Mountain String Band in Ridgefield, CT 10-23-2011


I always try my hardest to be objective about Yonder Mountain String Band shows, but the music they make never fails to make my heart flutter and in that way, it becomes difficult. And as long as that disclosure is out of the way, I hope that you can trust me when I say this was a great show. Set at the quaint and beautiful Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, CT, the band hardly filled the theater and walked out to polite clapping and seated rows.

Adam Aijala

They started with “Blue Collar Blues,” “At the End of the Day,” and “This Lonesome Heart,” a calm trio of songs that complimented their instrumental skill and voices, and introduced the idea of getting up and dancing a bit. By “If Loving You is Killing Me,” there were finally more people standing than sitting, and it seemed that YMSB was settled enough to make this a comfortable and intimate show. The set stayed fairly mellow, with the guys walking all over the stage to play with one another and coming right up to the front to interact with the mass gathering in the isles. “Natchez Whistles” into “What the Night Brings” brought the it to a close, echoing the roller coster of style from the whole set. Jeff Austin seemed to truly be feeling the “Natchez Whistles” and the band follow suit with beautiful harmonies and decadent chords. The set closer amped the crowd up for what was to come, as the name might imply, topping the first half of the evening with a perfectly bluegrass, energetic tune.

Jeff Austin

Yonder Mountain really got worked up for second set, opening with a banjo-driven, dirt-kickin’ “Jesus on the Mainline > Shenandoah Breakdown > Jesus on the Mainline” sandwich. They kept the energy high and were flowing seamlessly from super fast jaunts to slower melodies, like “Mother’s Only Son.” They took the opportunity here to get into a few nice jams and interplay back and forth between exciting solos, but it was “Bloody Mary Morning” that seemed to decide the remainer of the set. Loud cheers and hoe-down clapping could be heard in the usually tame theater, and the crowd seemed to call for more dance tunes. They boys sure delivered, starting the beginning of the end with a strong “Whipping Post” that the audience loved. Almost unrecognizable first, when the tempo picked up, people started wailing and jumping about, and YMSB were all smiles and laughs. Austin’s passion just seeps through his vocal chords and when they cover songs he loves, you can all but tell. It was especially moving when they went back into it after “Only a Northern Sun” to end the set.

Yonder Mountain String Band

The enthused crowd was not going to let that be the end of this special, personal show, so the band came back on for an encore even though their sound guy began unplugging everything. After an attempt at the microphone, Jeff said a word to the audience and, speaking of covers he loves, started strumming the chords of “They Love Each Other.” Whether it was for the people begging for it during the show, or because then genuinely felt like playing it, or maybe both, but they wobbled their way to the front of the stage and took real advantage of the theaters acoustics, no pun intended. He wailed out the first verse and when the chorus came around, the crowd couldn’t help but sing along. It turned into a big family carol and was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had with Yonder Mountain String Band.

Another review coming after the NYC show on Saturday!! Oh how I love fall tours in the northeast!

Hot Day at the Zoo!


Here’s an article I wrote for BreakThru Radio back in January, introducing the listenership to my absolutely favorite zoograss band, Hot Day at the Zoo. If you don’t know who they are, listen to this, watch this and this, and enjoy the article below! More from guitarist Michael Dion coming up next!

It’s a hot Thursday morning in Bridgeport, CT and people are flooding in to Sea Side Park for day one of Gathering of the Vibes. Campers are pitching their tents, neighbors are setting up shaded chill-out spots, and suddenly, music comes floating across the bay. A banjo rings out, acoustic guitar, a distinct stand-up bass, and delightful mandolin- the perfect lineup for a great bluegrass band.

This four-piece string band is Hot Day At The Zoo, and their unique northern zoograss is a force to be reckoned with. With the release of their first full-length album a whole year behind them, they have gained the attention they deserve and the fan base to support them on their climb to the top of the jam scene.

You may be saying to yourself, “jam scene? I thought you said they were a bluegrass band?” But that is where HDATZ gets the wonderful name for their sound, and the name of their album, Zoograss.

Zoograss is our interpretation of bluegrass,” says stand-up bass player Jed Rosen of their original sound. “We have the makeup of a traditional bluegrass band, but we’re more rock ‘n’ roll and blues fused together with elements of jazz and a bit of jamming.”

 Hot Day At The Zoo comes to us from the Boston, MA area, where they have been building a following throughout the greater region for years. Through two line-up changes and countless experimental shows, people have followed HDATZ from one monumental show to the next.

 Jon Cumming, banjo player and one of the band’s songwriters, recalls a show they did at Snoe.down Festival in 2007 as being one of the first where he really knew Hot Day at the Zoo was a force to be reckoned with. “It was only five or six in the evening and man, I couldn’t believe how many people showed up and were groovin’ all over the place. I realized then, wow the word is getting out, people are responding to what we’re doing and reacting in a genuine way.”

Rosen agreed that the great response from their audience was almost immediate. “When we started playing in Lowell (MA), we were already more than a bar band. Even shy of a year, we were all feeling the positive energy not only from us, but from the audience as well.”

Hot Day At The Zoo is comprised of four extremely talented, high energy guys: Cumming on banjo, vocals, and a unique type of guitar called a dobro. Rosen takes on duties of bass and vocals. Michael Dion writes most of the songs for the band and plays guitar and harmonica. The final member is the multitalented JT Lawrence on mandolin and vocals (and sometimes drums, keys, guitar, or flute).

Dion’s beautiful, image-driven lyrical skills bring another personality to many of the songs he composes, as opposed to those from Cumming, which feature straight-to-the-point, moving poetry. Combine the poignant words they master with the arranging and technical skills of Lawrence and Rosen, and you have zoograss, a fascinanting, moving, and wildy fun new type of music from the fellas of Hot Day At The Zoo.

When these four guys get on stage, the energy they bring is electric, and the sound they create is engulfing. Different music experts like Relix Magazine and Jambase.com have compared them to artists like Phish, the Grateful Dead, Sam Bush, Yonder Mountain String Band, and the Avett Brothers- “good company to be in,” admits Cumming. Whether they are headlining a show or playing alongside music greats like Levon Helm (The Band), David Grisman, or moe., they always rouse the crowd and kick up some dust, so to speak.

In 2011, Hot Day At The Zoo expects to gain a lot more popularity and expand their fan base beyond the Northeast. They plan on doing more shows, extending their touring boarders into the south, and being heavy on the festival circuit. Expect to see a lot from HDATZ this summer, perhaps even a new album with all the new material they’ve been working on during their time off.

There’s no need to wait for the creative process to come full circle; you can download their phenomenal New Year’s Eve show here, which features 30+ great, original songs and a few killer covers from Hendrix to the Beatles. There’s something for everybody to love from Hot Day At The Zoo.