Yo-Yo Ma revisits SSU for ‘Goat Rodeo’

As the sun began to set behind the Green Music Center, the excitement from the crowd started to rise for the return of criti- cally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma and music from the Goat Rodeo Sessions.

Featuring Ma on cello, Chris Thile on mandolin, Edgar Meyer on bass and Stuart Duncan on fiddle, the four musicians walked out center stage to the welcoming warm roar of applause from the packed audience. Even the outdoor seating was jammed-packed full of people, eagerly awaiting the classical-yet-quirky musical stylings of Ma and company.

When Ma first performed at the Green Music Center back in late January, his two-hour set was crisp and to the point with almost no talking or interaction with the audience. This time how- ever proved to be the complete opposite.

In between almost every song the musicians would joke with each other and the audience, telling amusing tales of how the song titles came to be and the origins of their onstage nicknames. The audience took great delight with the interactions, for it was a dif- ferent side of Ma than what they were used to.

Thile explained that the name ‘goat rodeo’ was inspired from an entry on the website urbandictionary.com, with the definition being a chaotic situation where everything must go exactly right, musicians performed a perfect two-hour set.

A mixture of both classical and bluegrass music, the songs either had you closing your eyes and letting the vibrant music flow through your soul, or tempted you get up and dance along. While the demographic of the audience was the same as that of National Public Radio’s, the music is hip and something younger listeners can appreciate with their parents. The air outside was filled with the aroma of wine, aged cheeses and even a slight hint of weed from the picnics on the lawn.

Even their attire fit the style of the music comfortable yet professional making it seem like they all just finished with a long day at the office, rolled-up their sleeves and met-up to jam. They all looked relaxed on stage, with not a single tuxedo in sight.

Th was the most energetic performer onstage and the crowd’s favorite, politely rocking out on his mandolin and playing as if he were possessed consistently throughout the performance. 

Every musician was a musical juggernaut on that stage, proving with every song why they were considered the best in their field. 

Every musician but Ma played several different instruments throughout the show. 

Thile played mandolin before changing to fiddle and guitar, Duncan played banjo before changing to fiddle and mandolin and Meyer played both bass and piano.

Singer Aoife O’Donovan made a surprise appearance and sang with Thile during a few different songs, “Here and Heaven” and “No One But You,” much to the crowd’s delight. 

At one point towards the end of the night she made a comment about how beautiful the venue was and the crowd responded with prideful applause. 

The album “The Goat Rodeo Sessions” debuted two years ago and went on to win the Grammys for Best Folk Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. 

Thile shared with the audience that even though the song “Parallax” was produced last year, only recently did they finally learn what the definition of the song title was. 

They were thankful that the definition matched the style of the song; along the same note/line before diverging slightly.

Before their final song of the evening, “Attaboy,” Ma thanked the audience for coming out and watching four friends have the time of their lives on stage and then went on to thank Sandy and Joan Weill for building such a beautiful and wonderful venue. 

It’s obvious that Yo-Yo Ma is the prized gem in the Green Music Center’s collection of artists who have performed to date and is now very close friends with the Weills.

Thanks to Ma, the Green Music Center is quickly becoming the most prestigious venue on the West Coast, which means more exposure for Sonoma State University at the same time.

As the show ended and the audience started to leave, all that remained on the tables outside were empty bottles of wine and beer, half eaten picnic baskets and remnants of desserts.

Truly the sign of a great show that was enjoyed by all.