Leftover Salmon is a Colorado tradition. They are the source from which so much jam and bluegrass flows. String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, and so many others would not be what they are today if it wasn’t for the trail blazed by Salmon on a cold night in Crested Butte over twenty years ago. After an incredible set at Summer Camp i figured it was time for an update from the mountain state. Leftover has gone through some transitions through the years. The passing of Mark Vann, the departure of Jeff Sipe and Bill McKay, the search for formidable replacement on banjo that ended with Andy Thorn have all had an effect on the band. They have persevered and their music is as vibrant as ever.
Their show at The Aggie Theater in Fort Collins was completely sold out meaning tight quarters were the order of the night. I staked my spot Vince side on the rail. They took the stage just before 10 PM with a quick “Liza.”
Set I: Liza, Gulf Of Mexico, Voodoo Queen Marie, Aquatic Hitchhiker, Gold Hill Line, Sing Up To The Moon, Morning Sun, Highway Song, BooBoo*, You Can Find Some Other Man, Lonesome Johnny Blues**, Danger Man**
Set II: Gonna Have A Party, Here Comes The Night, Walking Shoes, Bend In The River, Light Behind The Rain, Riding On The L & N, The Other Side, Mr. Wrong**, Come On Baby**, Out In The Woods**, Railroad Blues**, River’s Rising
*W/ Friends on Drums
**W/ Johnny Hickman on Guitar, Harmonica, and Vocals
Big thanks to Rob O’Brien for taping and posting on Archive. http://archive.org/details/los2013-04-13.24bit
This show was a non-stop shredfest that showcased the new era of Leftover Salmon. The setlist is a mix of fresh and classic with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. “Gulf Of Mexico,” which is basically an indictment of BP and the devastation they caused to the costal waters, was a nice touch. Their Zydeco was showing with “Voodoo Queen Marie,” but it was “Aquatic Hitchhiker” that made jaws drop. This instrumental song built so beautifully, relying heavily on Andy Thorn’s banjo. Andy really has revitalized this band in a big way and continues to keep the energy at peak level. “Gold Hill Line” was a quick, but passionate version with Drew on vocals before they invited a few friends to help with percussion on “BooBoo. “You Can Find Some Other Man” kept up their breakneck pace before they called their old friend Johnny Hickman to the stage. Hickman is from the alternative rock group Cracker and he along with David Lowery recorded bluegrass versions of their songs with Leftover Salmon performing as the backing band. The result was an album entitled O Cracker Where Art Thou?. Hickman is an accomplished guitarist with a rowdy, bluesy feel to his style. Much like what Bill McKay brought to the table, Hickman transformed Leftover Salmon into a rocking bar band. They blasted through two Cracker tunes, “Lonesome Johnny Blues” and “Danger Man” before taking a short set break.
Thirty minutes later the band and opened up round two with “Gonna Have A Party.” We were treated to a subtly stunning “Here Comes The Night,” before coming back to one of their newer songs, “Walking Shoes.” There seems to be a more tuned in consciousness in their lyrics than some of their early work. There is a maturity that only comes with being on the road for two decades and it is seeping into everything they do. Drew busted out his fiddle for “Bend In The River,” which is always a treat, but the highlight of the show was the Andy Thorn sung “Light Behind The Rain.” They slamgrassed us with “Riding On The L & N,” before Drew’ mandolin took the driver’s seat with the Salmon classic “The Other Side.” They invited Hickman back to the stage for a four-song run of both Cracker and Salmon tunes that left fans happy. The version of “Out In The Woods” was yet another highlight in show filled to the brim with high points. They closed the set with an absolute barnburner rendition of “River’s Rising” that showcased the evocative vocals of Mr. Emmitt. There is something about his voice that stays with you long after the amps have been put away for the night.
Leftover Salmon came back to the stage with a quick “Euphoria” and as quickly as it started it was over. This is the type of show that leaves you all bubbles and sunshine. The rain had begun to drizzle as the capacity crowd filtered out into the night. Exhausted smiles dotted the faces of the people as they wiped the sweat from their brows. It was a good night of Salmon and an energizing way to spend a Saturday evening in Fort Collins. For a band that has been on the road for so long it would be easy for them to become blasé as well. However LoS is always innovating, inviting guests, and generally leaving it all out on every stage they play. This a new dawn for this band and I for one am happy to be witnessing their rebirth.
I took on a full day of music last Sunday with Leftover Salmon’s Aquatic Hitchhiker Release in Denver and trip back to Mishawaka for The Wood Brothers supported by Paper Bird. This year Leftover Salmon is making their triumphant return to Summer Camp and last year’s fest was my first time enjoying the music of The Wood Brothers. Here is my write up of my experience.
Leftover Salmon on Santa Fe
Over five months in the making, Leftover Salmon threw a massive party in the streets of Denver in honor of the release of Aquatic Hitchhiker. Their first album in eight years is certainly reason to celebrate, and 9,000 or so of their closest friends made the trip down to the 700 block of South Santa Fe to do just that. The setup can only be described excellent. Taking up the entire road with a beer garden and food vendors set up in an adjacent parking lot. I got in early and headed to the photo pit. They opened with a truly appropriate “Ants In My Pants.” Here is the setlist.
SET I: Ants In My Pants, Gold Hill Line, Zombie Jamboree, Stop All Your Worrying, That Was Your Mother, Doin’ My Time, Gone For Long, Aquatic Hitchhiker, Liza, Gulf of Mexico, Kentucky Skies, This Is The Time, Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie
SET II: On The Other Side, Keep Driving, 420 Polka, Light Behind The Rain, Down In The Hollow, Sing Up To The Moon, Bayou Town, Breakin’ Thru, See The Mornin’ Sun, Walking Shoes, Get Me Outta This City, Pasta On The Mountain, Here Comes The Night, Euphoria
ENCORE: I Don’t Know You, River’s Rising
Thanks to Corey at Kind Recordings for posting the recording on Archive, you can listen to it HERE.
The show began with some seriously classic Salmon including “Gold Hill Line” and “Zombie Jamboree.” Through the course of the show they managed to break out the majority of the track list from Aquatic Hitchhiker. I would go so far as to say it was the perfect balance between old and new. They finally got into the tracks from the new album with “Stop All Your Worrying,” and let me tell you the fresh Salmon tastes delicious. They dedicated “That Was Your Mother,” to all the moms in the audience given the fact that it was Mother’s Day.
“I sure do love bluegrass…. Play some of that spacegrass.” – Vince Herman
The next stretch was all new tunes showcasing how hard they worked on the new CD and how far they’ve come in a short 22 years. They closed the first set with a pair of classics including “This Is The Time,” which felt like a true assertion and “Up On the Hill Where They Do The Boogie.” I can’t think of any other band right now that would put on a show like this for their fans free of charge. Phish is not bringing all their followers to Burlington for a show like this. Leftover Salmon absolutely busted their ass to make this happen. They did not do this not to sell albums, which were being sold at the discounted rate of ten bucks. They did it because they are truly happy with where they are right now and they wanted to give back to their base. Leftover Salmon has experienced so much over the past two decades and many other bands in the same position would have fallen by the wayside. However they persevere because of a promise to Mark Vann and also because they truly love performing live. Unfortunately I had to hit the road back to Mishawaka after the first set. However given their presentation during set one I look forward to a new era of Salmon. It is officially Leftover 2.0. It is obvious they are back in a big way and with this amazing performance on Santa Fe, they proved that now is the time.
The Wood Brothers with Paper Bird
The Wood Brother with Paper Bird at Mishawaka
After the nonstop roller coaster of a weekend, a nice quiet evening at the Mish to close out their opening weekend was just what the doctor ordered. I raced back up from Leftover Salmon in Denver and got there in time to catch Paper Bird. Made up of Sarah Anderson, sisters Guinevere Patterson, and Esme Patterson, with Caleb Summeril, Paul DeHaven, Macon Terry, and Mark Anderson. The three ladies front the band and have a playful banter they toss around between songs. Their acoustic style was both relaxed and delightful. Drifting into elements of indie and bluegrass Paper Bird was a truly unique experience. They played a nice set of music and were a good fit as a Front Range opener for The Wood Brothers.
During setbreak I got a chance to grab some food off the new menu. I have to say that this is just one more of the improvements I’ve seen at Mishawaka over the last two years. The cooking was excellent with some higher-level fare as well as some affordable choices.
The Wood Brothers are quickly becoming a favorite of mine to see live. Their down to earth style is so approachable and intriguing, it’s hard not to be quickly enamored with this group. Combining the talents of brothers Chris and Oliver Wood, at times it feels like you are sitting on the front porch of the Wood home listening to two siblings play for their friends and family.
SET I: Stealin’, When I Was Young, Lovin’ Arms, Mary Anna, Where My Baby Might Be, Stumbled In, Postcards From Hell, Spirit, Shoofly Pie, Angel Band, Liza Jane, Midnight Rider, Chocolate On My Tongue, Luckiest Man, Honey Jar, Glad,
The almost two hour set was a great demonstration of what The Wood Brothers are capable of. Their take on Americana and acoustic instrumentation gives me faith in the quality of new music. Highlights from their show included an awesome “Postcards From Hell” and a tight “Luckiest Man.” Chris Wood known for his intrepid jazz licks in Medeski Martin & Wood is transformed into a folk luminary. Oliver is a fine picker with a twang in his voice that lends a certain authenticity to their sound. After seeing their performance at Summer Camp last year I knew I would be happy to make it up the canyon for this show. The concert ended before 9:30 PM, which is usually the case for Sunday shows at Mishawaka.
With Leftover Salmon making it back to Summer Camp this year I thought it would be good to give their new album a listen. Here is my review. Eight years in the making Leftover Salmon’s Aquatic Hitchhiker finally hit record stores last week. A truly original work of art this album is everything Salmon with absolutely no filler. Comprised of road-tested tracks as well as some new tunes. The impetus for all of can only be the addition of Andy Thorn to the lineup. The last year has seen some changes in Camp Salmon. The departure of Bill McKay and the addition of Thorn have given the band a clearer focus on the “Poly-Ethnic Cajun Slamgrass,” that is their hallmark. The opening tune entitled “Gulf of Mexico” is sung by Drew Emmitt and is reminiscent of his earlier work like “Valley Of The Full Moon.” It refers to the oil spill in the Gulf and shows how Salmon continues to be concerned with bigger issues. Martinez’s drums hit hard like an abandoned alarm clock left to rattle away while Drew’s vocals just soar. Vince gets funky on the road song, “Keep Driving.” You can almost picture him looking out the window of a tour bus with a notepad in hand writing the words down. “Liza” is one of my favorites that has made it into their new rotation; it’s a fun shanty love song that makes crowds bounce. Musically the title track “Aquatic Hitchhiker” is perhaps the most profound on the album, lead by Thorn’s banjo shredding and Drew’s violin. For several years after the passing of Mark Vann and the exodus of Noam Pikelny LoS seemed to be searching for someone to fill the void. I can honestly say that they have found the plug in Andy Thorn. The banjo is so essential to their sound that it is imperative to have a finger-flying shredder at the helm. Andy is just that. “Bayou Town” as it’s name insinuates is a down home zydeco-flavored strum. Greg Garrison’s bass finally finds the spotlight on “Sing Up to the Moon,” with Vince on vocals. In “Light Behind the Rain” Thorn steps up the microphone, it’s a track that he used to perform with Grant Farm. His smooth delivery is the perfect juxtaposition to Vince’s rowdiness and Emmitt’s towering voice. Leftover kicks back into high gear with the extra optimistic “Stop All Your Worrying.” Martinez gets out the brushes to Great American Taxiesque “Walking Shoes.” The Americana that Herman has been focusing on for several years certainly made it into the mix with this song. “Kentucky Skies” is a Scruggs flavored romp into the Salmon’s more traditional sound. “Gone For Long” feels like the days last cigarette while the album closing “Here Comes The Night” gets jazzy and a little lounge.
The mix of Aquatic Hitchhiker is just stellar. Recorded in both Colorado and Portland, it has a solid flow, both in music and texture. I highly recommend grabbing a copy, sitting down with a cold beer, and letting the night come.