It’s been quite some time since the Leftover Salmon’s full band peformed at Summer Camp in 2004. I was there that year I and remember it being one of the highligts of that particular lineup. However Vince Herman has a long history with the fest taking on MC duties in 2006. He did everything from introducing bands, playing tweener sets on stage, and even playing an impromptu acoustic show in front of the barn with Chuck Garvey. He was also there with his side project Great Ameican Taxi and as an artist at large in 2007. So it would be an understatment to say that seeing them on 2012’s lineup would make me very happy. I’ve been touting the reemergence and reinvigoration of Leftover Salmon for months. It was obvious after seeing them on their River Run this summer that any sign of burning out or winding down was a distant memory for the members of LoS. I was again reminded of how far they’ve come at their show at The Ogden.
I headed down early to get a good spot for some shots and ended up hanging out on the rail for most of the show. Head For The Hills opened up the night with a string filled bang. Now Head For The Hills has never had the opportunity to play at Summer Camp but I honestly believe they would be an asset to any festival. Furthermore, I just want to start off by saying that Matt Lowen is the Bassnectar of bluegrass, holding down the rhythm with his thick licks and nasty bass bombs. He was most definitely driving the bus. Now I’ve had the pleasure of seeing H4TH a few times but when they arrived onstage adorned in their tracksuits and screaming out, “Turkey Sweat” to the rapidly growing crowd I knew we were in for a treat. They took this run seriously, which is evident in the tape from Kind Recordings.
You can listen to it on ARCHIVE, thanks to Corey for posting.
It is shows like this that just fill my heart with so much goodness it is simply impossible to wipe the smile from my face. As I was snapping pictures I found myself pausing just to soak up all the righteousness oozing out of the band in front of me. They have this indescribable mix of being both current and yet old-timey. Their contemporary take on the classic and ability to harmonize so well is what sets them apart from other bluegrass acts touring today. They opened with a beautiful One Foot In The Grave that showed everyone what is possible vocally with Head For The Hills. They performed massive version of My Angelie, which has to be my favorite jamming vehicle of theirs. Beautiful and musically perfect versions of Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill and Pink Floyd’s Fearless were highlights from their set as well. Joe Lessard’s fiddle was both powerful and subtle as he traded main vocal duties with Adam Kinghorn. They each took turns with hand-blurring solos as they ripped through their repertoire. By the end of the set my head was spinning from what I was witnessing. Mike Chappell on mandolin was the glued that held it all together as he at times held back and at other times literally made the earth move. They closed their set with Ray Charles’ Unchain My Heart, which took on a tone that was both unexpected and crispy. Once again Head For The Hills showed us why the are Colorado’s best bluegrass band two years running (as decided by the Westword) and why they are a not to miss show. This Thanksgiving I was thankful that they were on this run with Salmon.
It was time for the main event, which as a two set extravaganza from the one and only Poly Ethnic Cajun Slamgrass outfit from the mountains of Colorado, Leftover Salmon. They opened with a rowdy Carnival Time that just set the mood for what was about to go down. Here is the rest of the setlist from Kind Recordings.
SET I: Carnival Time, Gold Hill Line, Gonna Have A Party, Shenandoah Valley Breakdown, 44 Blues, The Highway Song, Danger Man*, She Caught The Kay*, RIP Michigan Mike, Down In The Hollow
SET II: All Night Ride, I’m Gonna Live High Till I Die, High On A Mountain Top, Almost Cut My Hair, Troubled Times> Ask The Fish, Last Days of Autumn, Jokester, Bill’s Boogie, Out In The Woods, Whipping Post> God Save The Queen
ENCORE: Nobody’s Fault But Mine**
*Silas Herman on mandolin
**Silas Herman on acoustic guitar, Joe Lessard on fiddle
Here is the Kind Recording from Corey on ARCHIVE.
I guess let me start by personally saying sorry to Jose Martinez. I’ve been giving him guff mainly because I felt he has had a few weak outings with the band in the last couple years, and when Wally Ingram sat in with the band for the River Run I honestly felt like they were making a transition. That being said he was on point the entire evening and really showed me what he is capable of with Salmon. So from me to you Jose nice work, keep it up sir. Going on I really do feel that Andy has just kicked this band into high gear. I don’t know that if in my twenty or so Salmon shows I’ve ever seen Vince and Drew so happy and obviously energized. They are always fun but there was something different this time, I kept catching Vince smiling as he watched Andy play and the energy between Drew and Vince was electric all night long. The Shenandoah Valley Breakdown showed some seriously fast picking and the 44 Blues lead by Bill McKay gave everyone a chance to catch their breath as we grooved away to his crunchy vocals. Vince likes to tell stories while he is performing; he is very much a bard in that way. He informed the crowd that since the band was now 21 and of age following last year’s 20th anniversary celebrations that they would be doing some extended touring and start work on a new album.
“See if we can get some more Salmon running around the country all over the place. Both in the water and on the highway.” –Vince Herman
Drew belted it out beautifully on Highway Song again demonstrating why he is so important to the Salmon sound. Few people give me chills when they sing live like Drew consistently does whenever I see him play. Vince’s son Silas came onstage for Danger Man and She Caught The Katy, which were huge highlights of the first set. After dedicating the show to Michigan Mike the previous night Vince took a moment to honor him and announced a show at The Stage Stop the next night. His hope was that the music would help the start to heal the community of Nederland after this tragic loss. They finished the first set with another Drew tune, Down In The Hollow.
They started the set teasing Louie Louie before ripping into All Night Ride. Again this shows their playfulness and happiness to be playing together in this band. Bill McKay again took vocals on David Crosby’s Almost Cut My Hair. Now I’ve seen them cover this track but this version just blasted off. A couple times it almost felt like they were teasing Whipping Post before it broke down into a reggae-infused Vince led pick off. The Troubled Times was stunning but things got weird during Ask The Fish. With the band taking on an ethereal Doors-esque jam, Vince gave us a soliloquy about how was face to face with a fish the was roughly the size of the room. The crowd became the amebas on the mouth of this giant fish asking them to act it out for him. Using a round glow stick that had been tossed onstage earlier as a prop to signify a bubble. It was a fun moment to say the least.
“How many of you feel more like you now than you did yesterday? That’s progress.” –Vince Herman
Bill’s Boogie was fun, but the highlight of the show was the set-closing Whipping Post into God Save The Queen. They encored with a huge Nobody’s Fault But Mine inviting Joe Lessard from H4TH and Silas back out for an extended picking session. This show again reaffirmed my belief that Leftover is back to their old self. After the loss of Mark Vann they had some growing pains and it took years for them to get back to this place. I can safely say that they are ready for the road ahead and I look forward to swimming upstream with them for years to come.