If a stranger were to ask me to describe the Tri-Cities, I would probably start with the mountains. My next reflection would be about the people and among other things, I would mention our special way of life that makes this a great place to call “home.”

If asked about a local band that represents the natural ingredients of our native musical culture, I’d have to tell you about a band from Bristol named Yukon.

It was odd to see Yukon on the marquee this past week at Coconuts on East Stone Drive. It was windy that day and like a change in the weather, this venue in Kingsport is turning off the DJ and presenting live bands on Friday nights. This neon building used to be a barbecue joint. I’d eaten a few sloppy buns there over the years and this was the first time I would hear a band.

A police car was parked outside the entrance and an armed officer stood inside the door and I was concerned there was trouble. Nevertheless, we made our way into a large room that surrounds a hard wood dance floor. Jimmy Buffett and Cameo were thumping on the house PA and a couple of dancers were solo under a battleship of lights and mirror balls that hung from the ceiling. The band was set up on the floor next to the DJ and started its second set around 11 o’clock.

Yukon’s music has style and substance all its own. I would describe it best by saying this — a little bit Southern, a little bit reggae and a signature dose of white boy soul vocalized by the band’s pied piper, Jared Bentley.

Jared is somewhat of a local celebrity. He’s the host of a local sports game show on Charter Channel 13 called “So You Think You Know Sports.” He’s a good host but his euphoric lyric is what sets him apart in the local music scene. On stage, he’s lost in the music and sways in the breeze of some of the finest musicians in East Tennessee.

Steve Martin made me realize that the banjo is a happy instrument, but Chad Light, banjo player for Yukon, is showing us all that the banjo is more than a stringed instrument for bluegrass and Dixieland. On this night, he was plugged through a Leslie device commonly used for organs and his tone was the perfect compliment for the reggae vibe this band cooks up together.

Eric Quesenberry is without a doubt one of the best drummers around. He knows how to steer a rhythm section and his swanky style is grounded near the roots of the band’s style. Lots of drummers make mental decisions to play this way or that, but Eric has the character of a seasoned sessions man with the ability to approach rock, country, jazz and swing all in one set.

This past summer Yukon attracted two new members and during this gig, both players proved to me that this group is coming into its own as a stylish rock band. It takes a lot of elements to make a great band. Besides a dose of luck and hard work, you’ve got to have the right constellation of players and this band’s potential is coming into focus.

Chad’s bigger brother Kevin plays bass with Yukon and he’s got a joy about his music that makes him fun to watch. He plays with a pick and he’s one of those punchy players that make the music groove. I was pleasantly surprised to hear him breathing great background harmonies to the Yukon sound tonight, too.

The dance floor at Coconuts forces you to watch the band from the side. Perhaps that’s why I noticed the new spicy tones of Mo Canada, the new guitarist for Yukon. This is just what the band needed to punch up their music. His sustained solos were a great compliment to the band’s instrumentation and I look forward to hearing great things from him in the future. One bit of advice: Turn it up!

Probably the best memory of the Yukon experience is the quality of their songs. Their lyrics are fun, down to earth poetics. Everyone needs a copy of their first recording “An hour before sunrise.” I’m listening to it on my computer while I finish this column and excited about receiving the new disc coming some time next year.

The band is currently finishing up its second CD at Classic Recording Studio in Bristol. I got a first salty taste of their new songs this past weekend with a tune called “Rain Song.” If that performance is any indication of the quality of music that we’ll be treated too on this next disc, then I’m first in line at the music store!

Get a dose of Yukon this weekend in Johnson City. Rumor has it this will be the last local performance for some time as they finish their new project. The band will be appearing at the little room at Halo on Main Street in downtown Johnson City on Friday and you can catch them in the big room at the Sophisticated Otter on Saturday.

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This week’s buzz topics:

  • RIP — Dancin’ Jon Greer…
  • What’s on your CD Player?…
  • What’s your opinion on Homemade Jam?

This week’s best bets for live music:

  • The Amazing Rhythm Aces, Friday and Saturday at the Down Home.
  • Yukon at Sophisticated Otter on Saturday.
  • Kids Our Age at Coconuts on Friday.


David Cate is director of new media for the GoTriCities Network. Send tips for The Buzz or comments to dcate@gotricities.net.