Amidst the 93 degree weather Thursday night was the booming, jolly echo of a familiar band playing at the Simon Estes Amphitheatre.
Des Moines’s Locust Street was filled with the parked cars of music-lovers who were attending the city’s Nitefall on the River event, with Thursday evening’s premiere performance being none other than the Yonder Mountain String Band.
As the lines began to move and spectators poured into the amphitheater’s grassy knoll at 7 p.m., food, drink and merchandise vendors readied themselves for the hundreds of customers who needed something to help stop the tremendous heat.
With hot dogs, burgers, pork and more beer than a baseball game, spots on the lawn, sidewalk and benches were quickly filled as people set up their various “picnic” spots. Blankets, folding chairs and plates of food all found their own spots where they could accompany their owners as the wait began for the band to start.
At 8:15, the lawn was full, and howling could be heard from the southern end of the amphitheater due to the long-awaited emergence of the Yonder Mountain String Band from their tour bus. As the four musicians prepared themselves on stage, onlookers disregarded their empty plates and beer cans to stand up and cheer towards the stage.
Sean Petersen, of Des Moines, was in line for a beer while waiting for the show.
“These guys’ music is smoking. I see them regularly and love to come to this beautiful stage,” Petersen said.
Like many fans of the YMSB, Sean’s favorite part of seeing them play is how well they perform covers.
After a warm welcome, the band started to play and the audience started to groove. People young and old swayed their bodies through the air as the bass, mandolin, banjo and guitar chords emanated across the crowd. Some even took the chance to dance along every empty inch of sidewalk they could find, all while heartily singing along to their favorite bluegrass tunes.
The group of four musicians — hailing from Colorado — has had numerous performances at the amphitheater in the past. The band joked that they were proud to be performing on the surface of the sun that evening but raised a good point that the river would help cool off the concert. As the sun descended, the spectators ascended, freed from the choking grasp of extreme humidity.
Chris King, of Urbandale, was at the show with a friend of his.
“My buddies told me about the show, and I’d been at this stage many times. I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the YMSB,” King said. “I love outdoor venues; this is my kind of thing. Rock on.”
The band played on into the night, as the sun fully set and the stage’s mesmerizing light show came into full effect. At the conclusion to the show, many spectators walked back to their cars with their bellies full and their YMSB merchandise slung over their shoulders. The rest took with them the memories of a loud, celebratory night.