The long-awaited induction of Yonder Mountain String Band, the final member of “The Flatirons Sessions,” the pandemic-delayed 2021 Induction Class, was held at the 50th Telluride Bluegrass Festival on June 16,, 2023. Festival producer Craig Ferguson, along with Colorado Music Hall of Famer Tim O’Brien, presented Yonder with their formal induction at the sold-out Festival.
Since forming in Nederland, Colorado in 1998, Yonder Mountain String Band has brought their high-energy acoustic sound into rock and roll settings with tremendous success, proving it was possible for a bluegrass band to not only exist but excel in a rock world, without drums. The inroads they made created opportunities for like-minded acoustic bands to perform at festivals, rock clubs, theaters and stadiums previously considered off-limits for string bands. Yonder Mountain’s high-energy sound and anything goes attitude cultivated a spirit of collaborative improvisation that continues to fuel today’s progressive bluegrass and jamgrass scenes.
Band members Adam Aijala, Ben Kaufmann and Dave Johnston comment on the honor of being named Hall of Famers: “It seems so distinctly perfect that our induction into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame is beside three bands and a venue [Hot Rize, Leftover Salmon, The String Cheese Incident and Fox Theatre] that inspired and supported us as musical heroes, guides, friends, and inspirations. In the same way, there could be no better place to celebrate this honor than at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Craig Ferguson gave us our first festival opportunity in the earliest days of Yonder. There is not another individual who has shown such unwavering support through all the highs and lows, shifts and changes that have been a part of Yonder Mountain’s history. Musicians talk about the Colorado music scene as being particularly welcoming, open and informed. It’s our belief that the audience at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival is the purest representation of what that means and feels like.”
“Yonder celebrates our 25th anniversary as a band this year. For 23 of those years, we’ve spent a week in June celebrating in Telluride with our fellow Festivarians. Having a ‘good show’ is always a joy. Having a good show on the stage in Telluride is transcendent. We share this honor and take a moment to remember co-founding member and brother, Jeff Austin, who we lost in 2019. There will never be another like him. We thank former band-members Allie Kral and Jacob Jolliff, who contributed their talent to YMSB for many years. And finally, we celebrate this honor with our newest member, Nick Piccininni, whose musical gifts and energy are so instrumental in helping us carry the Yonder Mountain flame into our second quarter-century. It is with the deepest gratitude that we thank the Colorado Music Hall of Fame for this honor. We hope we have represented well the sound and spirit of Colorado,” continues the band.
Colorado Music Hall of Fame’s Board Co-Chair Paul Epstein remarks on Yonder’s deserving induction: “Similar to walking along the Continental Divide–that giddy ‘at altitude’ feeling one gets halfway between ecstasy and passing out, that fine line is where Colorado’s Yonder Mountain String Band dwell. Constantly finding that edge where traditional music meets modern sensibilities and making it danceable to a current audience seems like a magic trick. But it is a feat Yonder pulls off with each album and every concert—reinventing folk and bluegrass for a new generation and reminding all generations of its value. Whether we should view Yonder Mountain String Band as a jamband selling out festivals, or as a public service preserving evergreen traditions, is unclear, but in all ways the band shines, we welcome them into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.”