Yonder Mountain String Band at Tarrytown Music Hall

Send to Kindle

We live near Tarrytown Music Hall and we’ve been to six shows there since we discovered it (we were very late to the party). We are on the mailing list, so we get notifications of upcoming shows. A couple of months ago I noticed that Yonder Mountain String Band (YMSB) would be playing there (last night). The name evoked Bluegrass, which we love, and listening to their music (available right on their website) convinced me that we would like them a lot.

This won’t be a typical post for me following a concert. So, I need to get the good out first, before I start my rant.

All four members of YMSB are talented. All are professional musicians and they sing reasonably well (nothing special). The guitarist, Adam Aijala, is the one standout musician (excellent flat-picker, though not in the league of some others that I have covered here). I know that fans of YMSB will argue that Jeff Austin is great on the mandolin. He’s good, perhaps very good at times, but he’s actually not even close to special compared to quite a number of current mandolin stars.

Their music is very good, all around, and I’m sure that owning their CDs would be enjoyable from the first listen, and consistently so thereafter.

OK, time for their fans (very rabid ones indeed) to turn away. The rest of this post will be a train wreck from their perspective (understandably), and they should look away.

Here’s the nicest thing I can say about the show last night:

Live, YMSB is a Bluegrass version of a Grateful Dead Jam Band wannabe.

That’s not meant as an insult to the Grateful Dead (who’ve been near the top of my favorites list for 40 years!), nor of the Jam Band experience. Even the wannabe tag isn’t meant to be an insult (OK, it was definitely a shot), because they’re very good, and their fans adore them (in fact, exactly like many Dead Heads love the Dead!).

But, context matters (at least to me), and Tarrytown Music Hall isn’t exactly known for being an indoors Woodstock. You wouldn’t have known that last night.

The one thing that is all too typical of Tarrytown Music Hall (TTM) events (and I’ve made this complaint a number of times) is that they never start on time. The show was called for 8pm. I had no doubt it would not start then. At 7:50, there were perhaps 50 people in the hall (it can seat 840!). At 8:05 there were about 150 people there. At 8:18, when the band wandered on the stage, there were probably 400+, and shortly thereafter, there were over 600, I’m reasonably sure.

The point is that TTM couldn’t start the shows on time if they wanted to, because the majority of the regulars know that it’s stupid to show up on time, since the seats are assigned (no advantage to being early), and you’ll just end up sitting and waiting… It’s really rude to people who might have plans later on, or long drives home, etc. TTM needs to figure out a way to spread the word that shows will start on time, even if the audience is empty!

The vast majority of the audience last night were giant fans of YMSB and knew exactly what to expect. The couple in the row in front of us (to our left) were about to see them for the 18th time!

So, what did they know that we didn’t? First, that 90% of the audience would stand for the entire concert, and sway (not really dance), like people do at Grateful Dead concerts. This wasn’t an outdoor festival. Not only are specific seats assigned, the ones that are closer to the stage cost more. We paid for fifth row dead-center seats, but we might as well have paid for last row balcony seats.

Immediately in front of us were two couples that were in their 70’s or 80’s, and had no idea what they were in for either. They stood for roughly 1/2 of the show (at least the part we stayed for), and were clearly extremely uncomfortable for having to do so, just to get a glimpse of the action on stage.

All of that would be somewhat acceptable, if this was an adoring crowd who was mesmerized by the music. Nope, this was a party (and not the kind I’ve covered for a Kenny Chesney or Keith Urban concert). This was a literal party. In fact, here’s a direct quote from the YMSB website (that I wish I had read more carefully before buying the tickets):

“We love that people come to see us,” Johnston points out. “Everyone appreciates good music. Some people want to go to a recital and some people want to party.”

Too bad if you are in the want to go to a recital category. There’s no way that this could ever be the case for a YMSB concert, so the above quote should have been slightly different.

Still, I said above it would be OK if the crowd were adoring. Instead, the four people immediately behind us talked at the top of their lungs, all night long, about their friends who were dating each other, not about the band. And yet, the men (we think not their dates) were fans, as on occasion, they sang along, so they clearly knew the words to some of the songs. The girls’ voices were grating, and made it very hard to hear the words to many of the songs.

Next, the two leaders of the band, Jeff Austin (on mandolin) and Ben Kaufmann (on bass) have a great rapport with the crowd, and are very comfortable bantering and telling stories. Are any of them good? Who knows.

The second either of them opens their mouth, a few dozen morons start shouting, whistling, and generally whooping it up (in an apparent drunk/drugged stupor), and the voices on stage are instantly drowned out. That’s a shame, as I like banter and connecting with the performers in addition to just enjoying the music.

Even if that didn’t happen, there was another problem preventing the clear understanding of the voices on stage last night. Typically, the sound system and acoustics at TTM are top notch. Last night was beyond awful. I’m not even sure that the band was using the TTM speakers, possibly only using their own amps (even for the voices) on stage.

The biggest problem (by far) was the volume on all of the microphones. The vocals were at 50-66% the volume of the instruments. When they sang, making out the words was difficult, and harmonies might have been there, but you would never know that.

The banjo, guitar and mandolin were clear and at good volume levels. The bass was disgustingly loud (and regular readers here know that I love a good bass, so it’s not that I don’t appreciate the instrument). Aside from shaking the floor on every strum of the bass, it was so loud that it hummed (as in feedback) and overwhelmed the voices and other instruments all too often.

I have no idea whether this was because YMSB’s own sound person was just one of the worst (we’ve experienced a few bad sound engineers) or whether this was the fault of TTM (which normally nails sound!).

The audience didn’t seem to notice, let alone care. Like I noted above, they were there for a party. I was thinking to myself that if the band slipped off the stage, and put on a live CD in the background, few would have noticed.

Could there be an explanation? Perhaps. One of their songs is about smoking marijuana, and while they sang it, a bunch of people near the stage were clearly smoking it. That’s not so unexpected outdoors, or when seeing an Allman Brothers concert at the Beacon Theater, but at TTM, for a somewhat Bluegrass type show? Totally unexpected. No, I’m not a prude when it comes to this kind of stuff, just surprised at the context.

I must be running out of complaints, no? No. I’ll probably lose interest in typing before I’m actually done complaining. 😉

Next up, for the first time (reminder: this was our seventh show at TTM), no one came out to introduce the band. They just wandered on stage, and after talking for three minutes, started playing. No problem, but after the fact, it made us think that TTM wanted to distance themselves from the band. But, if that’s true, why invite them to begin with?

You might think I’m joking about TTM wanting to distance themselves, but I’m not. Ben Kaufmann made a big deal about that very fact. He told a story (that I strained to hear) that they played a theater the night before and would likely not be invited back, and he predicted the same would be true for TTM. I hope he’s right. Actually, I don’t care, as I know better than to go again…

Why did he think they wouldn’t be invited back? First, he said “They had no idea what they were getting themselves into!”. Ha ha, that’s a good one on them (the theater owners/bookers)! But, he was more specific. He said that at the theater, there was a special section called Gold Circle Seating, where he believed rich people with season’s tickets sat (the implication, never said, is that these idiots came because they owned the seats, not because they had any interest in the show).

He made fun of a gentleman who was wearing an ascot, and who left the show in disgust, complaining to management that he had no view from his special seat. Ben thought it was hysterical that he expected a normal show from YMSB. Lest you think I don’t have a sense of humor, or that I actually believe that there was a person wearing an ascot, you should know that I took the story figuratively.

I think it’s wonderful that they are successful, and have such a huge and loyal fan base. What I don’t understand is the joy Ben takes in alienating potential fans. People who buy season’s tickets (or people like us, who specifically bought tickets for this show!), need to be included, drawn in, not made fun of. I’m gonna guess that the rich guy is less likely to download an illegal copy of their music (should he become a fan), but perhaps YMSB eschews money as well.

I’m running out of steam, so I’ll just add one additional rant, aimed both at YMSB and TTM, equally.

Tickets at TTM are expensive in general. The same exact group costs dramatically more at TTM than they do just 30 miles south when they play in NYC. One example: we’re seeing Dave Mason at TTM tonight. We paid $126 for two tickets (including fees). When we saw him at BB King in NYC last year, it cost us $80, and a few months earlier, in NJ, cost us $60 to see Dave.

Well, TTM is a non-profit, and doesn’t have a show every night, so I guess that they charge a premium to keep up this beautiful and historic theater. We aren’t too annoyed to support that. Especially, if it means a bigger cut for the performers. Of course, at 840 seats, it also has a significantly larger capacity than many of the clubs we frequent in NYC, so there’s a double effect of potentially putting a lot more money in the artist’s hands. Good.

Except when the artist shoves it in the face of the patrons, making fun of people who can actually afford to pay for a ticket, and have some expectation of what it means to have a certain seat reserved for them.

Last night, we paid $86 for two tickets. I’ll bet that there are few shows a year where YMSB commands this high a ticket price, especially in a venue this large.

When intermission came (75 minutes into the show), we were thrilled to have the ability (and the excuse) to get up, without having to push and shove through the crowd, and we happily went home. I applaud YMSB for putting on a very long show (many shows are only 75 minutes in total), and clearly, they were going to give at least another hour, but we’d had enough.

Summary: they have talent, and the music is good. The sound was beyond awful, they were smug and obnoxious and the crowd was mostly there to feel good about themselves, rather than enjoy the actual performance.

Comments

40 responses to “Yonder Mountain String Band at Tarrytown Music Hall”

  1. Michael Avatar

    I'll bet your neighbors really appreciated the extra dancing room when you left. Yonder fans need lots of dancing room and venues with seats aren't very good for that. So by leaving, you made it possible for some very lucky people to dance like wild monkeys during the Traffic Jam > Pockets > Girlfriend is Better > Traffic Jam sandwich that ended second set.

    Without the extra room, they'd have had to stick to swaying.

    I wasn't at that show, but your review makes me wish I were! Sounds like a blast.

  2. hadar Avatar

    I'll bet you're right, and if so, I'm glad I could help out a bit! I listened to them all morning while writing this post, so I still like the music a lot. It would have been nice to actually hear it last night as well. 🙂

    Your site looks cool. I'll keep an eye on it!

  3. h Avatar
    h

    you're right yonder is not everyone….but to call them names (wannabe's–which they are clearly not headlinig HSMF, Red Rocks, Telluride, NWSS, ..should I go on) is clearly ignorant. Bluegrass version of the GD??? Are you that idiotic?No comparison whatsoever. Maybe New Riders, but not YMSB. Oh I see..they played Ruben and Cherise last night. You should feel lucky instead of blasting them for it. Yes their fans are rabid (great descriptor too) but so are Buffets, GD, zepp, poison, bon jovi, Springsteen, WSP, phish, OAR, STS9, and every other GREAT band…It was your first show and sometimes babies cry when they dont get what they want. Go find your peace at kenny chesney and make sure the door doesnt slam you in the ass when you leave the PARTY…you will not be missed by those of us that like to have fun…actually A LOT OF FUN!!…bye bye hater

  4. hadar Avatar

    You're funny, thanks for educating me!

    The wannabe portion was meant to explain that they _seek_ the adulation of the crowd. I've been to many GD concerts. The adulation is natural, and the Dead are almost blissfully unaware of it (in their actions). YMSB _encourages_ the crowd to behave in a certain way, that's the difference.

    Other than that “name”, the rest of my post clearly pointed out that they are talented, and that I like their music. If only I could have actually heard it last night…

  5. matthoff Avatar
    matthoff

    you are basically blasting every thing you cant control in a concert. i guess when i go to a show i dont sit their (god forbid stand their) and find stuff that bothers me. i know your a journalist and this is what you do but i think i could go to any concert in the world and find things that irritate me. btw adam aijala can hang with some of the best flatpickers in the world–larry keel said adam was in the top 5 flatpickers in the world –learn about it

  6. hadar Avatar

    Actually, I'm not a journalist. I'm a music lover who attends more live shows than most people. I do write about each and every one, not for journalism sake, but to create my own personal memory of the event, while it's fresh in my mind. People (myself at the head of the class!) tend to rewrite history (their own memories) over time.

    The vast majority of my reviews are raves. A very few are rants. The rants obviously touch a nerve with fans of that band (naturally, and obviously).

    Not to keep losing the point, if the show were billed as come to a mosh pit and talk all night while a band we all like happens to be playing the background with horrible sound engineering (but hey, they're awesome and music would be great if you could hear and didn't already know it by heart in your head!), then by all means, last night would have been a great success.

    As for Adam, I went out of my way to call out his superb playing, noting that he was a standout. I'm sorry if I personally think that people like Cody Kilby, Guthrie Trapp, Bill Cooley, etc., are better. That doesn't take away _anything_ from Adam, who clearly is “one of the best”.

  7. Name Avatar
    Name

    Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy your evening. I suggest you try them again sometime at a different venue. I think now that you know a little more about what to expect, you might enjoy yourself more.

    The sound issue is something of a puzzler; I've seen them about 30 times, and have only had that issue in rooms that no one gets right (except Phil Lesh somehow).Their soundman, Ben Hines, almost always has it right.

    Now, about the “smug & obnoxious”: I certainly haven't found them to be that way either onstage or in the brief interactions I've had with them personally at shows. They generally tend more toward “self-effacing”. Again, maybe the venue wasn't the perfect match, and maybe they had an off day.

    On the crowd being there more for the party – I've certainly seen people at shows that fit that description, just like at the Dead, and plenty of other bands. I don't think it's all that uncommon or even a jamband phenomenon – Vassar Clements used to talk about his time playing with John Hartford and Old & In The Way as a revelation because the audience actually listened to the music. He said that before that he played to people who seemed indifferent, except they'd “give you a hand if you played something they knew”. And, speaking of John Hartford, I believe he wrote all the marijuana songs Yonder plays on a regular basis.

    Anyway, if you like the music, try 'em again sometime, somewhere. They may not be bluegrass, exactly, but they can be an enjoyable show. Go over to the live music archive (archive.org) and stream some of their shows. You seem as though you want to like them.

  8. hadar Avatar

    Thank you for the very thoughtful and detailed comment! I actually agree with most of what you say. It seemed extremely unusual that the sound was so off, and obviously, not everyone in the crowd was rude, but enough were (unfortunately so close to us) that it couldn't help by color my experience.

    I suspect that I would like them a ton more in an outdoor setting.

    I don't know if you saw my response to some of the comments earlier, but I did spend the entire morning (a couple of hours) listening to them, so I have no doubt that I like their music. It was _this particular show_ that just didn't work for me (unfortunately, at all!)…

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  9. grsullivan_0324 Avatar
    grsullivan_0324

    No offense, but you sound like you are bit of 'old and in the way' in this review.

    Just like the uninitiated who go to Dead shows, it takes some adjustment if you do not know what you are getting into. Yonder shows are for getting out, shaking your bones, and having a good time to their brand of bluegrass/newgrass. A casual, 'corporate like' night of sitting in your seat, being quiet, and clapping between songs it is not.

    Sounds to me that the promoter picked the wrong place for the band to play in Westchester. Give them another shot when you can sit on a blanket outside and have more space to do your thing. FWIW, my wife will only see them outside so I know where you are coming from.

    Best regards,

    Gary

  10. grsullivan_0324 Avatar
    grsullivan_0324

    By the way, you can watch them in the comfort of your own home at the All Good Festival. They go on at 6:30 PM EST at iClips. The broadcast is free.

    http://www.iclips.net/allgood2009.php

    Gary

  11. hadar Avatar

    No offense taken. I think you're correct, this should could and should have been promoted somewhat differently.

    Even so, I think there were two problems that were fundamental last night:

    1) The sound just sucked, regardless of all of the other distractions, and that made it hard to overcome anything else (for me)

    2) When people scream to each other (in conversation) through the entire length of the songs, I find it hard to count them as “fans”, no matter how much they “groove to the music”

    Live I've said a number of times above in the other comments, I did listen to them more this morning, and I will continue to do so. I think they make excellent music.

  12. hadar Avatar

    Excellent, thanks for the link!

  13. Sally Avatar
    Sally

    I made it through your entire post! Sounds like it was a painful experience. Snce you're usually so positive, this must have been truly awful. Hope tonight's concert is better.

  14. hadar Avatar

    As for tonight, we've seen Dave Mason twice in the past year, and loved both shows. There's no way that he or his band will disappoint us. The two variables that I mentioned in a comment above will obviously be in play:

    1) The sound at the venue
    2) The crowd (if they're very different from the last two shows)

    I'm betting and hoping that both will be great! 🙂

  15. grsullivan_0324 Avatar
    grsullivan_0324

    Usually they have great sound, so I can't talk to that but I hear ya. Bad sound is…bad. 😉

    People who go to shows to socialize should go to a bar, enough said. There are plenty of people who go to concerts to talk, I can't stand it and it baffles me. If possible, I move away from them. Unfortunately, you had seats.

  16. Bjorn Olsson Avatar

    Hadar,
    I am sorry you and Lois had a bad experience at the Music Hall. We have tried lately to bring in some bands with a younger demographic than our regular patrons, and we are evaluating the results. I thought the band was excellent musically, which is of course why we wanted them there in the first place, just like with Keller Williams a couple of weeks back. However, if we wish to continue to invite these kinds of bands, we'll have to adjust how we deal with an audience that prefers to stand throughout the show and expects to party as much as listen to music. We might decide that this is simply not what The Music Hall should be about, but the jury is still out on that one. For one thing: having already intoxicated people smoking anything in an old wooden building freaks me out, and we have a zero-tolerance with anyone who gets caught lighting up, no second chances. The problem is catching them in the act. Some lessons to be learned for sure, but I can't say I enjoy the thought of having to police our patrons.

    I agree that patrons who purchase the best seats should have the best view. Maybe younger shows should simply be general seating instead.

    Few comments/replies:

    Starting times- Since parking can be tricky in Tarrytown, we try to allow some flexibility, up to about 15 minutes as a rule of thumb so that most people get a chance to get inside, especially if the headliner comes on right away. When there's an opener we usually go closer to showtime. Also, since we're desperately short on ladies' room stalls, we try to hold the show a few minutes if there are a lot of women stuck in line.
    I do get your point, though and will keep a closer eye on the clock.

    Ticket Prices:
    Comparing a full-service “dinner theater” place like BB Kings with a traditional theater is apples and oranges. At BB Kings, most people spend significantly more money than just the ticket price. For most Music Hall concerts, we do not break even until we sell some 550-600 seats or so. Sometimes a busy bar will make up for lackluster ticket sales, but there are very few windfalls in this game.
    For most acts ticket prices are usually a fairly straightforward equation between Artist Fees, Production and marketing costs and the number of seats in the theater (843) If you wish to compare ticket prices for the same artist, I would propose to make a comparison between different size theaters. The same artist you come to see at The Music Hall will usually cost more at The Ridgefield Playhouse (a lot fewer seats) and slightly less at The Paramount in Peekskill, which has about 150 or so more seats than we do. I wish I could say we were raking in the big bucks, but as evidenced by some of the wear and tear apparent at The Music Hall this is not the case…

    Band comments, etc.
    I will not answer for what was said by the band from the stage, I'll leave that up to the band members in question. If they really made fun of patrons who had paid good money to listen to them, I would be disgusted for sure. Since I wasn't there for the first part of the show I didn't hear anything myself. Maybe, in a backwards kind of way, they felt sorry for people they knew would soon find themselves in the middle of a party they would probably not enjoy.

    By the way: I mentioned I was late getting to the theater. This was for reasons unrelated to the concert, so my not doing my usual (dreary) pre-show speech was in no way meant to put any distance between us and Yonder. I still stand by the choice of bringing them to the Music Hall for their musical qualities. My favorite part of the show were the unamplified encores, where the acoustics of the theater carried the sound beautifully.

    In conclusion: when we invite a certain artist, we always invite their fans by extension. I would never begrudge Yonder fans to enjoy these shows the way they want to, and at the same time, I want our regular patrons to get a chance to discover new music. It is always terrible when you realize that on a given night, the two groups cannot both have a great experience and that there is very little you can do about it. Maybe “party shows” are not what The Music Hall is best suited for, maybe we could even open a second venue someplace that would lend itself better to a standing crowd.
    Eventually, when the younger fans turn 40, they will want to sit down too, and maybe that's when these bands should start playing The Music Hall and other seated venues.

    Sorry for the long post… I REALLY appreciate feedback from patrons, whether it is raves or constructive criticism. We are very serious about being a welcoming and relaxed venue for great music in Westchester and every unhappy patron is a cause of concern, especially if they are regulars. I hope you enjoyed the Dave Mason concert tonight better and that we get to see you back soon.

    PS-Hadar, can you contact me at feedback@tarrytownmusichall.org ? I have something I would like to discuss with you.

  17. Michael Avatar

    “Eventually, when the younger fans turn 40, they will want to sit down too, and maybe that's when these bands should start playing The Music Hall and other seated venues.”

    I can't speak for all the other Yonder fans who are over 40 (there are *lots* of us), but I certainly don't want to attend any sit-down show.

    Ever.

    Music is, in my humble opinion, a full-contact sport.

  18. hadar Avatar

    Bjorn, thank you so much for taking the time to share your response with me and with anyone who might stumble on this post. It is always refreshing when a businessperson seeks out feedback and deals with potential problems head on.

    I apologize for the delay in responding myself. I was offline for 24 hours, including 3 wonderful hours spent at Tarrytown Music Hall last night enjoying Dave Mason (the subject of another post, coming in a couple of hours)…

    I will answer each of your points, and attempt to be brief (so difficult for me, I know):

    1) Stand vs Sit: All I ask is to _know_ in advance. I might make one choice, others (like Michael, who responded below), may make another. The last thing I would want is for you to _not_ schedule shows that give fans access to great acts!

    2) GA is great (though it should also be pointed out that people will likely be standing all around you). That said, one idea is to reserve the balcony for seating only, where people will be asked to sit if they're standing. Then a single show can serve both audiences adequately.

    3) I understand the parking situation, having suffered it myself, a number of times. That said, I don't see how it eases up at 8pm, so I still believe that people just know it's OK to come late.

    4) Ticket Prices: I take your point. Unfortunately, I don't completely agree. At BB King, there is a $10 minimum. It's true that statistically, most people spend more (lord knows I do!), but it's not a requirement. When we saw Dave in NJ (for $25/ticket), there was no cover, and no dining option, so that was our total cost. But, there is a cost to deliver the food and service, that you don't bear. And, because of the tables, less people can sit there. So, it's not as simple as “other revenue opportunities” for the clubs.

    My point was simply that as a patron of music, it feels like I pay a premium to see a show at TTM (or do you prefer TMH?). I continue to be willing to pay that premium, but I felt it should be noted.

    5) Band comments: I think you're right. They can't possibly like the fact that a good number of people in the audience have just been “shocked”. They certainly seem like nice people, who didn't necessarily handle the situation with aplomb…

    6) Conclusion: I would feel very badly if in the end, you considered this type of show a failure, and discontinued it. Many more people (overwhelmingly) enjoyed the show than didn't. All I want is a clear description of what will happen. To me, it boils down to _expectation management_, nothing more. If I know what to expect, I can make an informed choice, and live with the consequences either way.

    Again, my deepest appreciation for the time and care involved in your response!

    Thanks Bjorn!

  19. hadar Avatar

    Michael, I respect and appreciate your position, and as you will note in my response to Bjorn below, it would sadden me if TTM stopped offering these kinds of shows.

    That said, I have an honest question for you (please don't think I'm being cheeky, this is a sincere question!):

    Do you listen to YMSB at home? Meaning, do you enjoy their music (for the sake of the music) when you aren't dancing to it, and when you're not sharing the experience with others?

    For me, the answer is yes. I listened to them _before_ buying tickets, and have listened afterward as well, and both times, have found them to be excellent.

  20. Michael Avatar

    Oh, absolutely! I absolutely love the music and play it almost constantly — and even when I'm listening to it all alone, I usually find myself dancing. That's the thing about Yonder's music — it *moves* you.

    If Yonder's music weren't so good, this planet's best dance party wouldn't naturally spring up whenever it happens. But it *is* that good — so the world's best dance party *does* spring up whenever they play!

    I think your idea of having a dance-free zone in the balcony is excellent! If that idea were combined with general admission, people would naturally and easily gravitate towards like-minded people. Assigned seating, more often than not, causes me to be surrounded by people I'd rather not be surrounded by — and causes me to be separated from my friends (and somehow I always end up centered behind three very tall people).

  21. hadar Avatar

    Cool! I appreciate all of your comments, and I will look forward to catching them in a less confined venue, and try to let the spirit move me as well!

    You've inspired me! 🙂

  22. Bjorn Olsson Avatar

    1-I agree that it would have been the way to go-If WE had known. We haven't done enough of these kinds of shows to know.

    2-Also good.

    3-It's not that it eases up, it's more the fact that at 8pm we still have a lobby of people trying to get in. For us, it's kind of a “get yelled at either way” type of situation…

    4-All I know, is that we do not make a lot of profit from most shows. I would be shocked to learn that BB Kings does not make most of its profit from food and beverages. I realize that you CAN enjoy an evening there for less if you do not order anything, but I will wager a guess that most of their patrons do, or else there is no way their business model could work.

    Here's a brief outline of a typical Music Hall show budget:
    Artist fees can range from $6K to $40K, let's use $15,000 for this example.
    Production costs (sound rentals, crew etc) $5,000. Marketing $4,000 Box Office costs/credit card fees $2,500 Additional labor, security, booker's fees etc $3,000.
    Total expenses almost 30,000
    Our average ticket price might be about $45 or so for a show like that, which means we would be in the red until we sell almost 700 tickets. If we sell out, we'll make a profit large enough to pay our monthly $6,000 utility bill…

    We do make good money occasionally, but it is often the other way around, if we can't sell enough tickets, we lose money.

    So, there is no premium charged for the pleasure of visiting TMH. Even if we tried, we could not MAKE enough money to restore this place from putting on shows, we have to raise it from our community.

  23. hadar Avatar

    Thanks Bjorn, I have nothing to add, except that we'll continue to support you via tickets, as often as we can, and if we were around more often (a big prayer of ours, which hasn't yet been answered), we'll become members as well.

    We did throw some money in the jars for Work Vessels for Veterans, after Dave spoke about their organization on stage. We also took home a brochure to make a larger donation online. One of our top priorities for the past eight years has been directly supporting Vets, and current enlisted troops, as well as their families, whenever and wherever we can!

  24. andrewrk Avatar
    andrewrk

    First off, maybe you should do more research before you see a band. I flew in from South Dakota just to see Yonder. I know what I'm expecting, I plan on getting dirty drunk, and I plan on dancing my butt off. It's weird that I'm not the only one who thinks this, as apparnt to the show Friday night. 90% of the people were getting sloopy drunk and dancing and having a great time. You shouldn't complain if your 1 out of the 700 who didn't have a good time. If they hurt one persons feelings, then maybe that person just needs to change their tampon, and go to a Celion Dion show. It's not a bad thing that a band has the power to make a whole room get up and dance. I hope you have the chance to enjoy a Yonder show the way many of us do. I'm not saying you have to get wasted but if your just going to complain then don't go and don't write a novel about it. You now know what to expect and maybe you can come down in front and smoke a Jay with me or not thats your choice!! I LOVE YONDER and will support anything they do!

  25. hadar Avatar

    I don't know if you had a chance to catch up on some of the other comments, and my replies to them.

    Basically, you are 100% correct, caveat emptor. I did do research, in the sense that I listened to the band, and decided I liked their music a lot! What I didn't do was read enough to get a sense of what the audience is like.

    Even so, I might not have believed that this particular venue would turn into the same kind of party, given that I had been there six times already, and no show was like that.

    My hat's off to the hardy fans of YMSB who could turn an old staid theater into that kind of party. My basic complaint was that the show could have been billed differently.

    C'est la vie. I still listened to the band the next day, and still liked it. I'm a big boy, and now that I've gotten it off my chest, I'm moving on. 🙂

    Perhaps I will see you at a future show, hopefully an outdoors one!

  26. andrewrk Avatar
    andrewrk

    Easy enough.  ANyway, I hope you have a nice day, and I really do hope you enjoy YMSB, they bring great joy into my life, as I hope they can do the same.
    I don't mean to sound like an asshole sometimes, it just happens.
    Bye,
    Andrew

  27. thingles Avatar

    Wow — I read this post in Google Reader and specifically came back to the website to leave a comment like this:

    1) do all bands that have the word “String” in their title become (or start as) weed bands? String Cheese Incident is my 2nd data point.

    2) sometimes I like to have a “party” time at a show, other times I want to listen in my chair. I'm equally annoyed when I expect one and get the other. Totally get it.

    But, having come out of my reader I was amazed at the volume of comments. Wow!!

  28. thingles Avatar

    Wow — I read this post in Google Reader and specifically came back to the website to leave a comment like this:

    1) do all bands that have the word “String” in their title become (or start as) weed bands? String Cheese Incident is my 2nd data point.

    2) sometimes I like to have a “party” time at a show, other times I want to listen in my chair. I'm equally annoyed when I expect one and get the other. Totally get it.

    But, having come out of my reader I was amazed at the volume of comments. Wow!!

  29. thingles Avatar

    Bjorn,

    Per your goal of getting some different kind of music in your venue with a slightly different target audience. One suggestion would be to create a “series” that you can align concerts with. You are right that you invite the fans of any artist, but concert goers do rely on a venue as a form of editor in it's selection. When you, as editor, choose a different target you should let your customers (particularly regulars) know that.

    A common version of this is doing children's concerts. In addition to being in the morning, they often have a series name. For example sake, Tarry Town Music Hall Children's Series. You see where this goes.

    Just a thought…

  30. thingles Avatar

    I have no idea why this comment appeared twice, other than Disqus took a LONG time to complete the posting process for it. Perhaps it errored but not really and retried in the javascript loop. :-

  31. hadar Avatar

    Basically, #2 is my only real complaint. I intend to be much more careful personally in the future, so I'll really only have myself to blame. 🙂

  32. hadar Avatar

    I really like this idea!

    We're regulars at the CMA Songwriters Series at Joe's Pub. (CMA == Country Music Association).

    Just seeing the word SERIES in the title, makes you realize that you can find out details about the point of the show, especially if there has already been one.

  33. Michael Schocket Avatar
    Michael Schocket

    Hadar,

    I'm sorry that you didn't enjoy your first (but hopefully not your last) YMSB experience. I stumbled across your post via google, and after reading it, I thought I would offer some comments.

    I saw Yonder for the first time in February of 2005. Last night in Pittsburgh was my 39th show. I drove 5 hours to the show, danced (and yes, I mean -dance- ) for 3 hours, and then drove 5 hours back, because I had responsibilities on Wednesday. Thursday I will do the same thing with a 3 hour drive to and from Philadelphia. Friday I get to see them at home in DC, and Saturday I will take the train to and from Baltimore for my 42nd show. By year's end I will have seen YMSB 48 times. Yonder is, by far, my favorite band ever. And as someone who has seen members of the Grateful Dead perform 70-something times at 28 years old, I don't make that statement lightly. There is probably nothing in this world I love more than the music of Yonder Mountain, besides a few select few living beings. Even amongst the rabid fans of YMSB, I can be fairly described as unusually zealous, even obsessed. And if you met me at a show, this might be your sole impression of me.

    I am also a law student at Georgetown. I clerk for one of the largest non-profit organizations in the world. I do volunteer work for a second non-profit run by a former professor of mine. In this manner, I am everything that society would deem thoroughly respectable. If you met me in every day life, you'd know nothing about my entertainment preferences. The same can be said of most of my closest friends that see Yonder as often as I do. One is a chemist and environmental engineer. Another is a senior engineer of energy efficiency at one of the nation's major power companies. A third teaches kindergarten. The couple I know with the highest times Yonder seen (120-something) are a nurse and a translator at a major hospital. If you met us at a Yonder show, you might make similar conclusions about us as you made about some of the people in the crowd the night you attended. Those judgments would have been incorrect about us, and they may well have been incorrect about some of the people in the crowd at your show.

    There certainly can be a strong element of people who came just to party, drink, and smoke at a Yonder show, but I would suggest that these our the outliers who got drawn in because of Yonder's association with the jamband scene. It's a fair association, and it has its side effects, both positive and negative. Having experienced a fair bit of the scene in my day, I feel confident in saying that there is actually less of this at Yonder than other jambands. There is certainly less of it than at Grateful Dead shows. And that's not even a fair standard if our basis is who knows the words to how many songs – the Dead have 40 years of history behind song retention. If you think about your Dead shows, the average experience is that the whole crowd knows the words to 20-30 very popular songs, and only the real die-hards know the words to everything. That's true at a Yonder show too. Except the die-hards make up a greater proportion of the overall crowd. Along the same line, a far greater portion of the Grateful Dead audience is in a drug and alcohol induced haze than at a Yonder show. This is especially true if we limit the conversation to drugs.

    Amongst those die-hards. Yes, we like to party. Yes, we like to get wild at a Yonder show. This is vacation for us. Some people go lay on a beach for six days. We drive across greater geographical regions to go see Yonder, and we get down partying with the best of them when we do. You can't write a biography with a chapter about how a person spends their leisure time.

    Nor can you use a single experience with limited viewpoints to judge how much a fan base is into the music. I hate people who talk all show as much as you do. It drives me especially crazy because I usually seek out a spot in the back with the most dancing room, and this is where the talkers usually are. But the fact is, there is not much to be done about it. These people come to party and socialize, not to listen to music and boogie their asses off. Much as I wish it were different, it's not. The only thing to do is avoid them. I get that this wasn't the case at your show, with slotted seats. That's one of many, many reasons why a venue should never sell a show like this with slotted seats. 999/1000 Yonder shows are GA. It's unfortunate that you got stuck in a bad situation in one of the very very few that wasn't. Just bad luck.

    In general however, the vast majority of a Yonder crowd loves the band, and are very much there to see the music. The fact that a lot of them like to party hard also isn't an indication otherwise. the two activities go hand in hand for them.

    As for the band, I think you also have an incorrect perception. Having interacted in the jamband scene for about half of my life, I can tell you that Yonder offers more genuine appreciation for their fans, and the love we show, then any other band I have ever been around. They offer that thanks in their words and actions regularly. They regularly talk about it onstage. They respond to polite requests for songs if you catch them outside before a show (I'm six for six). They put together travel packages to make it simple and economically efficient for fans to get to major events like multi-night New Year's Eve bookings, and Jam in the Damn (Europe). They throw an intimate 3 day festival in the same forest hide-a-way every summer, North West String Summit, lovingly dubbed “the family gathering”.

    Sure, they seek the adulation of the crowd. Most musicians do. The fact that Jeff Austin, in particular, is very good at doing this, is part of the reason the band is successful, and more people have come to enjoy their music. It allows them to keep doing what they do. Again, let's use the Dead as a comparison. You say with seeming respect that the Dead often seemed blissfully unaware of the crowd adulation. Um, which members are we talking about? Largely when we talk about band image and interaction with crowd, we are talking about the “front-men” – those whoa ctually do that interacting. For the Dead, the front-men were Jerry and Bobby. Even serious Dead-heads make fun of how much Bob Weir revels in the rock star role, and tries to live up to it on stage, often to ridiculous levels. Ya, Jerry was often blissfully unaware of the crowd adulation, but that is because Jerry was usually so high that he was blissfully unaware of everything, and at times that included the quality of his music. If we count the rise of Phil & Friends to prominence in the post-Jerry era (for the record, if you are interested in seeing Dead music at it's musical peak in the post-Jerry world, Phil & Friends is the way to do it, not “The Dead”)… Well, I've seen Phil & Friends 31 times. Phil is far from blissfully unaware. He often seems like a deer in headlights staring out at the adoring crowd. He remarks on his awe and appreciation of it regularly, and he cultivates it toward blood drives (and of course, good for him, for doing so). If we want to talk about the more holistic interaction of the band? The Grateful Dead were famous for passing out high grade, high dose acid to their early crowds.

    I wasn't at your show, so I can't offer comment on Ben's joke that night, but I suspect that's all it was. Yonder knows the fan base that they attract, and to most of that people it's worth a giggle if someone comes to a Yonder show expecting a sit-down, tap your foot type of bluegrass experience. Having met Ben Kaufmann multiple times, and having shared over an hour of conversation with him once, I can tell you he's an incredibly nice man. And he has a deep appreciation of an extraordinarily wide array of music. That leads me to believe that, even taking his words at face value, they were intended as a light joke, and not an insult at the occasional unsuspecting older types who wander in. Further, Yonder does not control seating. The venue does. If a venue invites Yonder to play, and charges more for closer, or center-view seats, it is them who are doing the crowd wrong, not the band. The man from TTM who posted in the comments section seems quite nice, and I can only believe him when he says they didn't know what to expect. Their mistake, and I am sure they will correct it if they invite Yonder back. My point is that if a venue invites a band, particularly a venue with regulars that is inviting a band not necessarily in tune with those regulars, it is the venue's responsibility to market it properly to its customers, and to sell tickets in a system that is fair based on the typical crowds of the band. The band has neither the responsibility to oversee this, nor the ability to affect it.

    This can be a challenge with YMSB. They appeal primarily to young people from the jamband scene. However, they have far more links with more traditional music of the folk and bluegrass form. Much like the Dead, this is a great part of their appeal. But also like the Dead (I once went to a Phil Lesh show with Willie Nelson, and a lot of Willie fans left in disgust once Phil's half of the show started), this bridge between generations can create occasional conflict. Unfortunately there is no easy way to settle this happily for everyone, unless both patrons and venue are well aware in advance, and plan accordingly. That simply isn't the case in most situations. And a lot of the older crowd wind up with a bad experience in small indoor venues, which is what Yonder plays in all non-summer seasons. The boisterous take over, and those who would like to enjoy a calm evening of blueegrass-ish music get trampled and squeezed and annoyed.

    I would suggest that the answer for you is what you have already come up with. Go see Yonder at an outdoor venue. But in particular, I can recommend two. Go see Yonder at the Telluride bluegrass festival, or even better, at the Northwest String Summit. At Telluride you will enjoy an entire weekend of the finest that American bluegrass has to offer, both traditional and revolutionary. unfortunately, you will only get 1 Yonder set of the sort you want. Their other appearances at Telluride are a late night show at the Sheridan Opera House (one of the real ragers of the year for Yonder regulars, name of the venue aside) and another indoor show at the Convention Center. At the Northwest String Summit is where people who want to see Yonder in calm and peace, and people who want to party can really co-exist and everyone can get their fill of Yonder. As I mentioned above, it is a 3 day festival in the forest. It is held 25 minutes west of Portland Oregon in late July. There is a campground where you can stay on site. Most of it is dominated by people who want to party, but even in 95% of those sections, you can enjoy a quiet night's sleep, or quiet conversation with friends. The people who really want to party tend to congregate to certain sites where other campers have set up whole sites devoted to such activities. And if you really want to be in the campground but not party, there are designated areas for quiet camping and people with young children and the like. Yet another option – there are hotels 10 minutes down the road into town.

    As for the performance itself, there is a stage built into the bottom of a natural hill, with a big dancing bowl carved into the base. People who want to party take their own little spot of the hill, or crowd into the front by the stage. People who want to drink can go into the roped off “beer garden”. People, like me, who just want to dance till they drip sweat, take the back of the bowl. People who want to watch in peace and enjoy the music can spread out on the spacious hill at their leisure, and not be bothered by anyone.

    This is the one event all year where Yonder -are- responsible for making sure that fans and venue mesh (their festival, from top to bottom), and where they -can- affect such things (through their close relationship with the people who run the site), and I promise you, if you come to the NWSS, you will quickly see that both band and venue go out of their away to assure a perfect experience for every single person who attends. One year (out of the many), family and quiet camp were moved to a more remote portion of the grounds. The idea was to make them even more isolated, and give it even more assurance of totally peaceful, hassle free camping. People complained that it left the older, and the young children, farther away from the venue, making getting around, and getting to and from camp quickly (there is music all day, every day, from various bands, with only short intermissions in between – Yonder plays 2 headline sets each night). ) more difficult, for those who were a)slowest and b)needed easy access the most. The next year family camp was moved back to a close-in, but still protected spot, and there it has remained.

    I may have more to say, but I need to get some other things accomplished, so that will do it for now.

  34. hadar Avatar

    Michael, I totally appreciate the time and effort it took to share your thoughts with me, and for the overwhelming majority of your points, I completely agree.

    I only took the venue to task for booking them, clearly, not YMSB's fault!

    I realized that he was joking about the ascot, but it came across as a way to egg the crowd on to be themselves, as if there was nothing different about this venue or audience. In other words, the band didn't do anything (including just staying out of it) to find a workable blend once the mis-match of band and venue occurred.

    A few days later, they played an outdoor festival. I bothered to listen to the entire thing on archive.org. It was excellent (musically), but even there, the band was nasty about the IBMA's, and about the audience that just “didn't know what they were getting themselves into”. Again, they wear it like a badge of honor. I can live with it, and it's working for them (commercially), but it's certainly not inclusive.

    I really hope I didn't come across as judging people in their “real lives” by their behavior at the show. If I did, I apologize, as that wasn't my intent, or my normal style. The fact that people are good and decent in their normal lives still doesn't excuse them from being rude while “on vacation”. 🙂

    I'm definitely willing to check them out in a different venue, I really do like their sound!

    Finally, I was impressed that even the few fans who started off quite harshly in their comments to me, presumably wanting to dish out to me to same medicine they thought I was dishing, became extremely civil, helpful and informative, when we actually engaged in dialogue. That says more to me about YMSB's fans than just seeing them as a group in the audience.

    Thanks again Michael, perhaps we'll cross paths at a future show! 🙂

  35. hadar Avatar

    Michael, I totally appreciate the time and effort it took to share your thoughts with me, and for the overwhelming majority of your points, I completely agree.

    I only took the venue to task for booking them, clearly, not YMSB's fault!

    I realized that he was joking about the ascot, but it came across as a way to egg the crowd on to be themselves, as if there was nothing different about this venue or audience. In other words, the band didn't do anything (including just staying out of it) to find a workable blend once the mis-match of band and venue occurred.

    A few days later, they played an outdoor festival. I bothered to listen to the entire thing on archive.org. It was excellent (musically), but even there, the band was nasty about the IBMA's, and about the audience that just “didn't know what they were getting themselves into”. Again, they wear it like a badge of honor. I can live with it, and it's working for them (commercially), but it's certainly not inclusive.

    I really hope I didn't come across as judging people in their “real lives” by their behavior at the show. If I did, I apologize, as that wasn't my intent, or my normal style. The fact that people are good and decent in their normal lives still doesn't excuse them from being rude while “on vacation”. 🙂

    I'm definitely willing to check them out in a different venue, I really do like their sound!

    Finally, I was impressed that even the few fans who started off quite harshly in their comments to me, presumably wanting to dish out to me to same medicine they thought I was dishing, became extremely civil, helpful and informative, when we actually engaged in dialogue. That says more to me about YMSB's fans than just seeing them as a group in the audience.

    Thanks again Michael, perhaps we'll cross paths at a future show! 🙂

  36. jen Avatar
    jen

     you “may have more to say but need to get other things accomplished”? ….47 ymsb shows in one year?!…how ever you managed to graduate from Georgetown is beyond me michael schocket…also your writing style is extremely self indulgent….

  37. Seth Avatar
    Seth

    i dont know how you managed to interpret him as saying 47 shows in one year. he clearly stated that he first saw them in 2005 and continued to do so until the above date. by year’s end he will have achieved 48 shows (total since 2005). no where does he claim that many in one year.

  38. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus Avatar
    Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

    You sir, sound like the smug and obnoxious one. Ok we get it you have Money to spend & the typical 18-30 yr old that goes to a YMSB concert does not. When He told his anecdote about the previous concert it was probably not an attack on anyone who is wealthy but rather mocking a very specific archetype. NOT any person who is rich. But – The rich egotistical, arrogant, snob who thinks he above everyone else & the world should cater to him – that goes to a concert and complains and expresses his disgust toward the band, their fans & the vibe of their show because it’s not what he wanted/expected rather than broadening your horizons & making the best out of a concert-(fans & music) that may be unusual to you & have a good time listening to live music. — That is what he was probably was “making fun of”. Instead it sounds like you let some fans that were making “too much” noise at a concert & catching a buzz in a way that you don’t approve of & had to smell get you all pissy (probably much like the “ascot snob”) & then took a joke out of context so you could justify to yourself why you are so much better than the pot smoking hippies & college kids who listen to YSMB & make fun of the Ascot Snob that acts like an egotistical narcissist when he buys tickets to a band that doesn’t quite align with his elegant taste & is not classy enough to play at the historic theatre maintained for people like him to see concerts matching their taste.

    A. If you are that narrow of a person – research the band & do not buy tickets to their concert.

    B. Go to the concert without expectations & walk away from it & say huh, that wasn’t quite what I expected I probably wouldn’t pay to see them again but at least it live music & interesting. All in all not a bad night.

    C. If you have season tickets & do not like that band – sell your tickets or give them to a friend or anyone who may like YMSB or anyone capable a having a good time

    D. WHICH YOU CHOSE – Write a novel about how you didn’t like them because their fans weren’t quiet enough in between songs, they smoked the devil’s lettuce in a classy historic theatre & they mad fun of someone who happened to sound like he was probably a wealthy individual. I would bet you weren’t the only person with money in the concert, but you probably were a in very small handful of people (or the only individual) who had a fuss over the joke.

    * Summary – “you the alienated potential fan” as well as Ascot Snob sound like the type of assholes that nobody can have a good time with & that is why the fans, the band & about 90% of humanity does not give a shit if you do not buy a ticket to them again. We would rather you save your 80 $ & keep your negativity at your home where you don’t have to worry about experiencing anything that involves people that are beneath you

    Have a good day sir

  39. hadar Avatar

    Nice to know that four years after I wrote this, you come here to lecture me on negativity. Nice touch. Bitter much?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *