By John Schulze Special to Published Nov 13, 2011 at 8:45 PM

It was an epic and smokey evening Friday night with Yonder Mountain String Band, the fog machines working overtime onstage highlighting the dazzling light show that occurred at The Pabst Theater.

Yonder's last CD was the 2009 disc "The Show" released on their own Frog Pad Records. Of course, a band like Yonder Mountain String Band doesn't need a new disc to tour. Touring is what they do best.

The band stopped at Downtown's historic theater to play on a rare date, 11/11/11, and they'd recognize the event late in the first set by playing a cover of The Grateful Dead tune "The Eleven", a rather jazzy and aloof song with cryptic lyrics. Some of the bands more hardcore fans, known as Kinfolk, thought it may have contained a "Good Loving" tease in it somewhere when I discussed it with them during set break. It also appeared that Jeff Austin paid homage to National Metal Day by wearing a Metalocalypse Dethklok T-shirt. It could have been coincidence, but you never know.

Early in the first, fans were treated to "Death Trip", which if I have my story correct was listed as an encore the night before, but went unplayed in Chicago. Also noteworthy was "Suspicious Minds", which was played with a tremendous amount of heart and soul, and you just can't hear the tune without thinking of "The King" of rock, Elvis. The band also paid tribute to our veterans, and it was as genuine and sincere as it gets.

The Quartet played two full sets of music to the jam-packed Pabst Theater, a venue that they've not been shy about showing love for onstage. At one point last night Jeff mentioned that they once sat in the balcony for a David Byrne concert. 

Banjo player Dave Johnston did what he does best last night, hold the anchor onstage. His articulate and measured picking is often the groundwork for the groove. Bassist Ben Kaufmann's deep and resonating tones from his five string upright bass provided a solid foundation for his bandmates, an important position in a band without a drummer. 

Guitarist Adam Aijala added his smooth and richly toned style to the mix. He's someone that I can relate to. Like myself, Adam listened to punk and metal in his early teens and by his late teens started to explore musicians like Jimi Hendrix and The Grateful Dead. 

Jeff Austin rounds out the group on mandolin. Austin, ultimately and very clearly, is the most animated member of the band on stage. He's a wildly entertaining performer who has a knack for making some of the most interesting stage faces I've never seen. His mandolin style is sharply formulated and free flowing. When he lets loose on stage there's no telling where Austin will take the melody, but I can assure you that you'll enjoy the ride. When it comes to vocals there's no shortage of talent, either, every member of Yonder stepped up to the mic at one point last night to deliver a song.

There was one point when 11:11 p.m. on 11/11/11 was fast approaching that the entire building erupted into a thunderous roar of approval which was acknowledged by the band and everyone was encouraged to let it all out. Jeff Austin simply said at one point "We've been on the road for five weeks now and you people are the cream of the f@cking crop."

The band, which vowed to play as long as they were allowed, held up to their part of the bargain and walked off stage just before midnight after a two song encore of "Complicated" and "Spanish Harlem".