Telluride Bluegrass: Yonder Mountain – In Part At FirstGrass & Celebrating #20

Telluride Bluegrass: Yonder Mountain – In Part At FirstGrass & Celebrating #20

The 46th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival takes place June 2o-June 23. The event is sold out, except for a few single-day tickets on Thursday. But tune in to the live Festival stream at And learn more about other Planet Bluegrass festivals at

Telluride Bluegrass opens with FirstGrass, a free concert in Mountain Village on Wednesday, June 19, 5- 8 p.m. And this year Planet Bluegrass asked Ben Kaufmann and Adam Aijala of the Yonder Mountain String Band to put together a supergroup for the show. 

Yonder jams on the Main Stage at Telluride Bluegrass on Saturday, June 22, 3:30 p.m.

Yonder Mountain String Band, by Emily Butler.

Please scroll down to listen to a podcast with Ben Kaufmann. 

Ben Kaufmann of Yonder Mountain. He and guitarist Adam Aijala put together a supergroup for FirstGrass.

Know the name Ben Kaufmann?

Hint: He plays upright bass very very well and for a very well-known band, namely the Yonder Mountain String Band, which celebrates 20 years jamming at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival on the Main Stage in Telluride’s Town Park. (That set takes place on Saturday, June 22, 3:30 p.m.)

And because of that anniversary, Planet Bluegrass asked Ben and his colleague Adam Aijala to put together a very special FirstGrass set with a few non-Yonder friends. To whit, on Wednesday, June 19, 5 – 8 p.m. in Mountain Village, Ben and Adam join Andy Thorn of Leftover Salmon and Stephen “Mojo” Mougin of the Sam Bush Band for once-in-a-lifetime, only-in-Telluride jamgrass event. The annual free concert in Mountain Village is the official opener of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, a keystone weekend on Telluride’s robust summer festival calendar.

Yes, Telluride has lots to crow about – but Nederland gives us a run for our money with its signature event: Frozen Dead Guy Days. ( No kidding, the happening is celebrated annually, Friday – Sunday the first full weekend of March.)

A centerpiece of Frozen Guy Days is a screening of the film “Grandpa’s in the Tuff Shed,” a magnum opus which premiered at Mountainfilm in Telluride in 1998. A centerpiece of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival is another Nederland import. You guessed it: Telluride regulars (and favorite sons) Yonder.

Yonder today is banjoist Dave Johnston; mandolinist Jacob Jolliff; fiddler/vocalist Allie Kral; bassist Ben; and guitarist Adam.

Yonder by Emily Butler.

For the past 20 years, the fiery ensemble has played by its own set of rules. Blending bluegrass, rock and countless other influences, the band pioneered a sound of its own. Its lineup of instruments suggests Yonder may be a traditional bluegrass ensemble, but the music performed by the Fab Five transcends traditional genres. It’s bluegrass for the masses, acoustic tunes filled with dazzling chops – and fun to boot as the set inevtiably pushes the envelope into the realm of hot improvs.

Yonder officially became a band in December 1998. Since then, the group developed both a devoted bluegrass and jam band fan base by crisscrossing the country and playing such varied settings as festivals, rock clubs, Red Rocks Amphitheater in the band’s home state, and once even the Democratic National Convention in Denver at Mile High Stadium – opening for Barack Obama. (Oh for those Camelot days.)

Yonder’s Telluride Bluegrass set should include both early and recent originals, with covers that cover the waterfront from classic rock to heavy metal.

“More than most of their jam band-scene counterparts, Yonder Mountain String Band grows more polished, more dynamic, more adventurous and more commanding every year. This gift is even more noticeable since Yonder’s two newest members — mandolinist/vocalist Jacob Jolliff and fiddler/vocalist Allie Kral — joined four years ago, following the 2014 departure of founding member and lead vocalist Jeff Austin,” wrote the Dallas Observer following an April 2019 concert in the Red Dirt State.

For more, check out Ben Kaufmann’s podcast:

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