Photo by Joshua N. Timmermans

The first annual Strings & Sol Music Festival took place at the Dreams Tulum Resort and Spa in beautiful Tulum, Mexico this past weekend. Bluegrass fans from around the world were treated to multiple sets from Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon and The Infamous Stringdusters over four days at a picturesque beach south of the border. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

Yonder kicked off the festivities on Wednesday night backed by an impressive lighting rig. The band was joined by Del McCoury Band fiddler Jason Carter for the entire show, which featured a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Althea.” The band closed out each set with pretty solid jams, with set one ending with “Only A Northern Song”> “No Expectations” and the second set wrapping up with “Dawn’s Early Light”>“Boatman.”

The music got started a lot earlier on Thursday, as the Infamous Stringdusters took the stage at 4pm. The band powered through a fairly short one set show that was followed a few hours of down time before Railroad Earth. RRE also played a one set show that included covers of Rafael Hernandez’s “El Cumbanchero,” Vince Gill’s “Bread and Water” and a set closing rendition of The Waterboys’ “Figherman’s Blues.” Leftover Salmon was up next, with Jason Carter joining them for the full show, which also featured a number of other guest appearances. The Infamous Stringdusters’ Andy Hall sat in for “Doin’ My Time” before being joined by Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone for “Gulf of Mexico” and “Falling Sky.” Andy Goessling then jumped into the fray to help close out the show during “Blue Earth,” “Going Round the World” and “Whispering Waters,” with all the guests sticking around for “Better” and “Wake and Bake” during the encore.

Fans got another dose of Leftover Salmon the following day, as the previous nights’ closing act played a 4pm set to kick off the day’s music. Jason Carter once again joined the group on fiddle for the duration of the performance. Yonder Mountain String Band frontman Jeff Austin took up vocal duties on “Ask the Fish” about midway through the one set show. He was followed by Infamous Stringdusters guitarist Any Falco, who contributed his stringdusting skills on “Sing Up to the Moon,” “Breakin Through,” “Lovin in My Baby’s Eyes,” “Rivers Rising” and “Up on the Hill Where We Do the Boogie.”

Yonder closed out Friday night, with the tireless Jason Carter once again joining the band for the entire two set show. The band kicked things off with the appropriately titled “Fastball” segued into Doc Watson’s “Southbound,” though it was the first set closer of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” sandwiched between “Angel” that was the real treat. A fun filled second set was topped off with an extended “Cuckoo’s Net”> “Snow On the Pines”> “Sand”> “Snow On the Pines” jam before the band encored with “Kentucky Mandolin” and Larry Sparks’ “Sharecropper’s Son.”

Saturday saw some of the most interesting sit-ins of the weekend. Leftover Salmon’s Drew Emmitt joined Railroad Earth for a set opening “Mission Man.” However the more interesting collaboration came when Umphrey’s McGee’s Joel Cummins threw some keys into the mix on “Elko,” “Bird in a House,” “The Jupiter and the 119” and “Gold Rush” (Cummis’ wife was working the event and his band is currently at the same resort for a festival of their own.) The Railroad Earth set was followed by another quick 90-minute performance by the Infamous Stringdusters.

Yonder managed to close out the festival with a bang, as the band brought out a slew of special guests for their final show. The first big moment came toward the end of the first set, when Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone and The Infamous Stringdusters’ Jeremy Garrett joined Jason Carter (who sat in for the entire show, again) for an intense triple threat fiddle jam on “Vamp In the Middle.” The second set brought even more surprises, with Joel Cummins bring the keys to “New Deal Train” and “Rag Doll” before Andy Hall came out on the dobro for a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Girlfriend is Better.” (Cummins has a good bit of experience playing the song with Umphrey’s McGee). Hall came back for “Traffic Jam” to close out the set before the music finally came to a close with an encore that featured the weekend’s biggest all-star jam. Railroad Earth’s John Skehan, Andy Goessling and Tim Carbone, The Infamous Stringdusters’ Andy Hall, Chris Pandolfi and Andy Falco, and Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman all took the stage for a raucous version of the John Hartford classic “Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown.”

Yonder’s set marked a fantastic finish to the first (and hopefully not the last) Strings and Sol Festival. The event once again proved that there are few better places to hold a music festival than the beaches of Mexico, especially in the winter time. It’s no wonder that so many people have made their way south of the border for this weekend’s third annual Mayan Holidaze Festival featuring STS9, The Disco Biscuits, Umphrey’s McGee and more. As previously reported, STS9 will play a special show on December 21 to mark the end of the current Mayan calendar cycle. You can check out the Strings & Sol setlists for Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth and Leftover Salmon below.

Yonder Mountain String Band, December 12, 2012, Strings & Sol, Tulum, Mexico setlist via

Set 1:
Out Of The Blue, Criminal, High On A Hilltop, Left Me In A Hole, Old Dangerfield, Troubled Mind, Pretty Daughter, All The Time, Holdin, Only A Northern Song> No Expectations

Set 2:
East Nashville Easter, How Bout You, Corona, Polka On A Banjo, Night Out, Part 1> Too Late Now, Sometimes I’ve Won, Pass This Way, Althea, Looking Back Over My Shoulder, Dawn’s Early Light> Boatman

Crazy, Rambler’s Anthem

Notes: Jason Carter on fiddle entire show

Yonder Mountain String Band, December 14, 2012, Strings & Sol, Tulum, Mexico setlist via

Set 1:
Fastball> Southbound, Complicated, Jack A Roe, Boots, Maybe You Will Change Your Mind, 8 Cylinders, Pockets, Sidewalk Stars> Angel> Dear Prudence> Angel

Set 2:
Mother’s Only Son, Fingerprint, What The Night Brings, Dreams, Jail Song, Fine Excuses, Damned If The Right One Didn’t Go Wrong, Casualty, Cuckoo’s Nest> Snow On The Pines> Sand> Snow On The Pines

Kentucky Mandolin, Sharecropper’s Son

Notes: Jason Caster on fiddle entire show

Yonder Mountain String Band, December 15, 2012, Strings & Sol, Tulum, Mexico setlist via

Set 1:
Redbird, Honestly, Lay It On The Line, Don’t Worry Happy Birthday, Things You’re Selling> On The Run, Vamp In The Middle(1), Peace Of Mind

Set 2:
Southern Flavor, Another Day, New Deal Train(2), Rag Doll(2), Girlfriend Is Better(3), Finally Saw The Light, Shake Me Up, Little Lover, Traffic Jam(4)

E: 2 Hits & The Joint Turned Brown(5)

Notes: Jason Carter on fiddle entire show
(1) Tim Carbone & Jeremy Garrett on fiddle
(2) Joel Cummins on keyboard
(3) Joel Cummins & Andy Hall on dobro
(4) Andy Hall
(5) Joel Cummins, Andy Hall, Tim Carbone, John Skehan on mandolin, Andy Goessling on sax, Chris Pandolfi on banjo, Andy Falco on guitar, Vince Herman on vocals

Railroad Earth, December 13, 2012, Strings & Sol, Tulum, Mexico setlist via

Head, Donkey for Sale, Just So You Know, Bread and Water, Been Down This Road, Mourning Flies > Lone Croft Farewell, A Day on the Sand, The Forecast > River Intro Jam > Mighty River, Birds of America > El Cumbancero, Right in Tune > 1759, Fisherman’s Blues

Railroad Earth, December 15, 2012, Strings & Sol, Tulum, Mexico setlist via

Mission Man (1), Saddle of the Sun, Happy Song, Walk Beside Me, Old Man and the Land, Elko (2), Bird in a House (2), The Jupiter and the 119, Gold Rush (2), Spring-Heeled Jack, The Hunting Song – > The Green Roofs of Eireann – > Like a Buddha, Everything Comes Together

(1) with Drew Emmitt on mandolin
(2) with Joel Cummins on keyboards

Leftover Salmon, December 13, 2012, Strings & Sol, Tulum, Mexico

Get me Out of the City
Keep Drivin
Bend in the River
Aquatic HitchHiker
Walking Shoes
The Other Side
Light Behind the Rain
Boo Boo
Doin My Time (Andy Hall)
Gulf of Mexico (Andy Hall, Tim Carbone)
Falling Sky (Andy Hall, Tim Carbone)
Blue Earth (Andy Hall, Tim Carbone, Andy Goessling)
Going Round the World (Andy Hall, Tim Carbone, Andy Goessling)
Whispering Waters (Andy Hall, Tim Carbone, Andy Goessling)


Better (Andy Hall, Tim Carbone, Andy Goessling)
Wake & Bake (Andy Hall, Tim Carbone, Andy Goessling)

Notes: Jason Carter on fiddle entire show

Leftover Salmon, December 14, 2012, Strings & Sol, Tulum, Mexico

Carnival Time
Midnight Blues
Everything is Round
Down in the Hollow
Morning Sun
Just Before Evening
Pepper in the Vaseline
Bird Call
Ask the Fish (Jeff Austin on vocals)
Here Comes the Night
Sing up to the Moon (Andy Falco)
Breakin Through (Andy Falco)
Lovin in my Baby’s Eyes (Andy Falco)
Rivers Rising (Andy Falco)
Up on the Hill Where we do the Boogie (Andy Falco)

Notes: Jason Carter on fiddle entire show

Photos by Joshua N. Timmermans