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Thread: Your Jeff Austin Memories

  1. #1

    Default Your Jeff Austin Memories

    Hey Y'all, I haven't seen another post other than https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...in-Family-Fund and figured this would be a great place to share your memories of Jeff.

    My first Jeff memory was at Incident in the Hills in Terra Alta WV August of 2000. It was my first real festival and Id never seen or heard of Yonder. We were posted up in lawn chairs right up front when YMSB took the stage for the early set. I remember the first notes of the set immediately invoking a perma-grin on my face and thinking WOW what is this joyful chaotic noise! The entire festival was a blast, but their set had a lasting impression on me and my love of psychedelic, traditional, jam, etc.. grass

    Here are some old pics I took of them while helping as a stage-hand for Smilefest in Union Grove, NC 2004. I also just found https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsCZgATWmqo of the same show.

    Rest in peace Jeff.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    Here is a link to most of the YMSB when he was still with the band. They are in the society of musical groups that encourage the taping and sharing of their music. archive.org is THE place to find them.

    I wasn't there but was just listened to this show last week where Sam Bush sat in on mandolin and fiddle all night.

    https://archive.org/details/ymsb2005-10-21

    I first saw him at the moe.down festival in Turin, NY in 2003. That show and the Del and the Boys album are the two things that really what hooked me on bluegrass.

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    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    I don't have a good memory of my own to share but a friend of mine posted this to FB today and it seems to fit here:

    Other Matt and I had 2nd row seats for Phish at Blossom in 2011, right behind the pit. They had just finished “F*ck Your Face” when they launched right into ”Foam.” I turn around to see the crowd behind us and who do I see? Jeff Austin, directly behind us. He had both hands stretched high in the air, eyes closed and a look of purest joy on his face. We chatted him up a bit after the song and he was friendly and gracious.

    RIP Jeff, you made so many of our lives better with your music and incredible, unmatched sense of humor.

    “Keep on a Goin Ya’ll”

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  7. #4

    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    Oh man, thanks @jaybp30... https://archive.org/details/ymsb2000-08-08.shnf is the show mentioned in OP! I feel like I had looked for this before, not sure why I didn't find it.

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    Registered User ColoradoMando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    That was my first Yonder show as well! I was just thinking about that set, and listened to it last night on Archive. It was such a low key festival, and it really comes through on the recording. Especially when the main sound you can hear at the beginning of the set is dogs barking.

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    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    I seen them years ago maybe 2007ish up in Buffalo, NY at a free music in the park gig, it was pretty sweet! That was my only time ever seeing them in person and they were all on game! One thing I don't like is well not just their guitarist but all who play in a grass band that plugs their acoustic/Martin in and it just sounds thin and well not good like if you just used a microphone traditional style! Even sometimes great ole Doc Watson's guitar sounded terrible to me-not the picking the whole tone/voice of a fine guitar! Maybe tech is better now to capture the true sound if their plugged in?

  10. #7
    Fatally Flawed willkamm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    Saw Jeff and his band with the Travelin Mccourys October of 2016 in Annapolis. Grateful Ball tour. Awesome three set show.

  11. #8

    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    I did not see Jeff with Yonder as that happened during some years I was not really seeing live music. My first encounter with Jeff Austin was when he was playing with Keller Williams as part of a Grateful Gospel set in 2014, shortly after leaving Yonder. Instantly knew Jeff was the shit. Looked up and started following him and over the next almost five years saw him when he was within 2 hours or so. Probably saw 10 shows of so, saw him with the McCoury's in the Grateful Ball several times, most recently in Richmond with the Larry Keel Experience and Jon Stickley Trio, saw him with every member of jAb except recent addition Julian Davis.

    Jeff was one of the most important reasons I decided to pick up and play the mandolin. I've been at a little bit of a loss of what to say the past few days, as its both the truth that I really didn't know him and also that his death pretty deeply affected me. Didn't know Jeff personally, but followed him regularly and interacted some with him on social media and shared some things in common with him, like his love of gardening, saw him post regularly about his love of his family and kids. He was only a few years younger than I am. It was hard to watch the past several months as he struggled.

    Depression is a deep, dark hole. I've been there. Despite all the sorts of external good things in life and how many people would have willingly and readily done anything to help, it just becomes almost impossible to see any light. It's a sign of strength to ask for help. If you don't have anybody to ask for help, ask me. I'll help.

  12. #9

    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    I never hung around for the late night Telluride jam bands back in the days that I went. I did happen upon Sam Bush picking with someone back in the vendor's tent one year. I asked who the other mandolin player was and found out it was Jeff Austin. They were having a great time and so was everyone in the vendor tent. Some fine picking and lots of outside the box playing--just delightful. Everyone hung around until they moved on. Sam and Jeff obviously enjoyed each other's playing and company. Great music and a great memory of TRide.
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    Registered Muser dang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    I have to admit, if it wasnt for Jeff I might never have picked up a mandolin. I heard of John Hartford through YMSB. I followed them since about 1998. When Jeff parted ways with YMSB I never really understood and thought YMSB was worse for it and I never started following Jeff Austin Band.

    I must have seen YMSB with Jeff several dozen times. I was at a new years show once and met Jeff in his hotel room and he signed a cheap F style mandolin for me. When my buddy died of cancer YMSB played a show about a month later in my town and they dedicated the encore to him - Jeff being the one who talked about my buddy being a taper...

    So this hit me kinda hard. But playing mando helps, and as one of Jeffs songs goes, Im gonna keep on going.
    I cannot begin to imagine what his family is going through.
    A whole lot of us miss you Jeff!
    I should be pickin' rather than postin'

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    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    This is from the mando player from Trampled by Turtles. Here is the link
    for those who dont facebook:

    From our mandolin player, Erik Berry. R.I.P Jeff Austin.
    "Words have been hard to come by. Lots of them have been swirling in my head since the news came and it's hard to know where to start or end so I'll just jump in and then go until I have nothing left to say.

    I'm so sorry Jeff is gone, and I'm not sure why it's hitting me so hard. My relationship with his public persona has been complicated; I never established a personal or professional relationship with him and in the last 30 days I had three opportunities, including a missed one that will haunt me for years.
    I started playing mandolin in 1998 and pretty much only listened to the Grisman-Garcia records for a year. When I moved to Duluth in 2001 I kinda quit playing mando because I was playing bass with bands. I won't recount the whole Erik/mando/Duluth/TBT story here, but suffice to say Trampled had played our first gig and recorded our first demo CD before I started seriously listening to mandolin players again. I went to the Electric Fetus and told them I was in a bluegrass band now and didn't know what I should listen to. They had two recommendations: Bill Monroe's Greatest Hits and Yonder Mountain String Band Mountain Tracks Vol. 2. "This is where it started and this is where it is now," I was told (A+ recommendations, btw).

    The Monroe really captured my attention (and still does) but YMSB was a revelation. This band existed right now; this band could freakin' jam; this seemed like something I could do; and "Raleigh and Spencer" is possibly the greatest bluegrass song I've ever heard!

    I bought more of those guys' discs. I used to walk around Duluth listening hard, especially to the mandolin playing. They had a few tunes I really, really liked (Half Moon Rising and Sorrow is a Highway, to name names) but I kept coming back to Raleigh.

    But the reality is that Trampled has never really jammed out like Yonder. Things were a little stretchier in the early days but if we weren't playing three hour shows at Luce every other week I wonder if we would have been more concise. However we always focused on original material (our first demo had an original of mine with me singing because we didn't have enough Dave originals and we didn't want another cover). And as we started playing out we would get called a jamgrass band. Which we weren't.

    It's hard to articulate how annoyed we were about this because now it seems quaint, but we were just getting started, we were just finding our sound and our identity and people kept comparing us to Yonder Mountain, and not always favorably at that: you guys don't jam, your sets are too short, haven't you ever heard these guys? Why don't you play like that?

    Ironically, TBT's first really big break (and one of our first gigs after Dave moved away from Duluth, which encouraged us to kept going even though we didn't live in the same town) was opening for Jeff and Chris Castino at the Cabooze for their Songs from the Tin Shed tour. Obviously I paid as much attention as I could to Jeff's set up and routine and all that. And he even indulged all us Trampled guys in a spontaneous Q&A about the business, the road, the life. That is also the only time I ever talked to him outside of a "hey" at Blue Ox a mere eleven days ago.

    So on the one hand you got me being a fan of his playing and on the other you have my professional aspirations, which involve being separate from "jamgrass." Whatever that is, Trampled is not that. As a band with minimal improvisation, we are simply not a jamgrass band. So the professional walls went up. We made an effort to avoid jamband and bluegrass festivals in favor of our own shows or more esoteric events. We made sure to distance ourselves from Yonder Mountain String Band in particular, because they were the titans of the scene. And except for Raleigh and Spencer I quit listening.

    Trampled never really crossed paths with the Jeff Yonder. To this day the members I know best are his replacements Allie and Jacob, because Trampled did play shows with Cornmeal and Joy Kills Sorrow. Sometime around the release of Wild Animals we felt as though we'd established our own identity enough that we could go back into the jam community without people expecting a Minnesota Yonder. But that time frame coincides with his leaving YMSB. And for whatever reason, we didn't cross paths with the Jeff Austin Band.

    Until this last May.

    Now I think I've explained at length that there is complication in this business with perception. Well another thing that's kinda strange about this business is checking out music at festivals you yourself are playing at. In short, it's easy to hear backstage if you don't mind distractions and muddy sound but if you really want to check it out you have to go out there and watch it. And if you do that you are not eating/warming up/napping/talking with your friends and colleagues backstage.

    Anyway, I saw Jeff plenty backstage at Bluegrass in the Bottoms, somewhat at River City Bluegrass Festival but he was warming up or in the only private dressing room in the half hour before his set, and then extremely briefly at Blue Ox (where we said hey). I listened backstage at the first two; I went out at Blue Ox, where I was blown away by his guitarist Julian Davis.

    It will be Bluegrass at the Bottoms that I'll think about for the rest of my life. I was back in catering by myself eating. There were a few volunteers commiserating about their shifts and there was Jeff and John Skehan from Railroad Earth talking. Talking about personal stuff. Talking about Jeff's personal stuff.

    Now I know John a little bit, though at the exact moment I'm talking about it was a lot less, since John and my best and longest hang was still to come after Trampled's set that day. Suffice to say, I didn't feel that I should interrupt Jeff, who was having an emotional moment, to reintroduce myself to John so he could reintroduce me to Jeff Austin, whom I had met way back in 2004. Backstage is funny: we all have the same laminate and we all work the same job but if you're uncomfortable introducing yourself to someone at a party (as I am) you're uncomfortable introducing yourself at the casualness that is backstage. Anyway, there was a moment for three mandolinists to chat but I didn't make it happen.

    I'm not comfortable sharing what I overheard except to say that Jeff was having an existential moment about the fragility of life and I learned he had at least one child, who was very young and had recently been ill.

    The first news came on Saturday: the word was he had died. That changed. Now it's changed back and he's gone. During those few days I read all the news I could, whichiwasn't much. I have heard nothing from anyone I know in the business. I read a rumor on Facebook from a guy whose Dead & Company rumors usually turn out to be true. I won't repeat it, but I believe it.

    Since Saturday I've learned things about Jeff I didn't know. He was born in 1974 like me. If we'd attended the same school we would have been in the same grade. He's from a Chicago suburb, I'm from a Madison suburb--we probably would have laughed over Wisconsin-Illinois crap. We both started playing mandolin relatively late: him at 22, me at 24. We both got our starts in the bands that worked out fairly quickly after starting the instrument: him after two years, me four years but with a two year gap in there. He's a father of three I have two.

    I don't know but I imagine at all the festivals we were both at we would have been the only two 1974-born working mandolin playing fathers from the Midwest who haven't done much else professionally with their lives on the bills.

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    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    REST OF THE POST...

    And I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't interrupt. My first selfish reaction is that I'm sorry I never really met him, never told him what his playing meant to me regardless of whatever professional bullshit he may or may not have heard. But I think I'm more upset that I didn't just talk to him as a person. He had a nice talk with John at Bottoms, but maybe he and I would have had one at River City. Maybe a good visit with someone his age with a similar life story would have been good for him. For us. Certainly it wouldn't have hurt anything.

    I have a fair amount of detachment to life; I believe much of it is out of our hands and while you must make the best of it, terrible things happen to people who don't deserve it and terrible people get away with their evil and the world turns no matter what we do. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose and sometimes it rains, to quote a movie. I do not feel guilt or responsibility for Jeff Austin. But I sure feel something. Something like regret and self-recrimation, wishing I were a different sort of person than I am because a different person would have done something different.

    But a different person would have lived his life differently and probably wouldn't be in the position I'm in, because the position I'm in is mine because of the person I am. There's a Zen lesson for you.

    Anyway, he's gone. I've listened to a bit of Yonder and JAB since yesterday but I have listened to Raleigh and Spencer a ton. To my ears, it's everything that guy will be remembered for: chops beyond compare, a wonderful sense of melody and a knack for repeating it within his improvisations, imaginative and propulsive rhythms (probably his biggest influence on me as a mandolinist), exuberant vocals and a freeform vocal improv style which is arguably his trademark. It was the first song I listened to after hearing the news, just simply streamed off YouTube as I stood in my garage taking a break from yardwork and I'd never realized how much the song is about dying and being gone: "I'll never get to heaven when I die...I'll drink it down then I'll die…"but then…"you can stomp down the flowers that grow around my grave but they'll rise and bloom again! Yes they'll rise and bloom agaaiinn!" And I'm okay saying I burst into tears there in my garage, holding my phone listening to the same Yonder song I've listened to 100s of time. They'll rise and bloom again!
    Rest easy Jeff Austin. The next one's on me, but I'll be sharing it with the musician I've had the courage to approach and introduce myself to. In my mind, you'll be there making sure it'll be okay.

  16. #13
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    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

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    Im not on FB, so my buddy shared this pic with me, it seems appropriate to post here...
    3 Nuggets! Paul Hoffman, Jeff Austin and Drew Emmitt
    I should be pickin' rather than postin'

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  18. #14

    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    Rest in peace Jeff.

    Thanks for all the good times. One day we'll get to hang in the big backstage in the sky again and play more octave mandolins together....

    j.condino
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  19. #15
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    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    My wife and I just caught the end of a Jeff Austin Tribute at 89.7 FM in Towson, Maryland. Embarrassed to say she recognized Jeff's mandolin playing before I did. She was very fond of his band after a show he did at Ram's Head in Annapolis, MD. Even bought a CD.
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  20. #16

    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    Wow, what a shocker. I had not heard of him until he played in Iowa City recently at the Arts Fest (1st weekend in June this year). i heard him from afar and had to go see what he and this band were all about. I was astonished at how good he was and everyone in his band. Real edgy style in his music, fusion jazz of sorts. Anyway, sympathies go out to family, friends and bandmates.

  21. #17

    Default Re: Your Jeff Austin Memories

    So many miles and so many roads...

    I was a huge Yonder fan from 2003-2015 snd a huge JAB fan ever since. I've done 5 Northwest String Summits and between TMSB and JAB I've probably seen Jeff play 30 times or so. His shows never lacked energy! Just saw Greensky Bluegrass Sunday and they did a tribute to Jeff and played No Expectations.

    I have not attended the NWSS for 3 years but after his passing we decided it's where we need to be.

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