Saranac, a name meaning “Cluster of Stars” is inspired by the Iroquois Indians, historically indigenous to the area now known as Utica, NY (and throughout Upstate NY). Nestled in the foothills of the Adirondacks, in the middle of this run-down, old industrial stopover city – a place where the buildings are so worn the brick look windburn and the hollowed shells of factories whisper a forgotten town – sits the lively Saranac Brewery with a massive American flag soaring above. Symbolic and geographically historic, the city-in-the-shadows reflects American folklore and does so in celebration with good brew and great music. Fittingly, for one evening, a cluster of stars were hosted on the Saranac Brewery Summer Stage as two roots based bands Railroad Earth and Yonder Mountain String Band energized the overlooked town.
Steeped in Americana, Railroad Earth warmed up the crowd with a tantalizingly ominous “Forecast” but fortunately, the weather cooperated as the venue is open-air. “Stillwater Getaway” showcased instrumental mastery and perhaps served as a nod to Railroad Earth’s home base, engaging the crowd for an eight-minute dance around before slowing down in a soothing “A Day on the Sand.” Moving through a truncated but lovely set, the evening was beginning to take shape, the sun was setting, the temperature mirrored a typical August day in Upstate NY and the craft beer was joyously received and the songs unfolded. Gratitude would be the only acceptable emotion and that sentiment was echoed in “Livin’ the Good Life.” The segue that followed was a playful tease and a subtle hint at the soon-to-take off, cerebral jam, “Seven Story Mountain.” Railroad Earth’s folk like lyrics and organic tones make for a synchronous match for such a location.
Setlist: The Forecast > Stillwater Getaway, A Day On The Sand, Came Up Smilin, Saddle Of The Sun > Shockenaw Mountain Breakdown, Livin The Good Life > Seven Story Mountain, Hard Livin, Bringin My Baby Back Home
After a rousing set by Railroad Earth, Yonder Mountain String Band kept the excitement high by launching right into “Ramblin in the Rambler” which easily transitioned into “Pretty Daughter” and just as cheers began hit right back into “Ramblin.” Stopping briefly to welcome the burgeoning crowd the band took little breathing room before launching into a more than 20 song set, stretching to the edges of their catalog, even including Frank Zappa’s “I am the Slime.” With the sun finally setting, the band welcomed to the stage Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth for “Funtime” a jammed out “Riverside” and closed the set with a tune many YMSB fans know far too well, “Two Hits and the Joint turned Brown.”
Taking a short break, Yonder returned to the stage for their encore adding to their ranks John Skehan, Andy Goessling and Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth. The three talented musicians added to the already robust sound to help YMSB close with “If You’re Ever in Oklahoma > No Expectations >Oklahoma.” Yonder Mountain String Band, no strangers to Saranac Brewery were perfectly complimented by Railroad Earth, making it a strong night of bluegrass, beer and dancing.
Setlist: Tuning Up, Ramblin in the Rambler>Pretty Daughter>Ramblin in the Rambler, New Deal Train, Don’t You Lean On Me, I am the Slime>Northern Song, Just Like Old Times, Katy Daly, Finally Saw the Light, Pockets, Irondale, Death Trip > Boatman, Going to the Races, Funtime* >, Riverside*> Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown*
Encore: Oklahoma# > No Expectations# > Oklahoma#
*with Tim Carbone on Violin
#with Andy Goessling on Guitar and John Skehan on Mandolin and Tim Carbone on Violin