:: Leftover Salmon :: with moe. :: :: Red Rocks Amphitheatre :: July 28 ::
By Brian F. Johnson
When the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31, 2004, and the calendar flipped to 2005, Leftover Salmon was at home — on stage, playing to a sold-out crowd at Boulder’s Fox Theatre. Three hours later, in the wee hours of the morning, the band played their final song (“Pasta on the Mountain,” with a medley in the middle that included “Free Bird,” “Third Stone” and “The Star Spangled Banner”) and called it a night, and with that, also called it a wrap. After 15 years as a band, to the very day (their first gig was on New Year’s Eve in 1989 at The Eldo in Crested Butte, Colo.), the machine had outgrown the band and the incessant touring needed to feed that machine had gone beyond the band members’ threshold.
Leftover Salmon never claimed they were breaking up, but the “indefinite hiatus” label was cast upon them, and with members swimming off to pursue solo projects and spend time with their families, it looked like it’d be a very long time before they’d be onstage again.
But the summer of 2007 has seen a re-emergence, as the band members once again have reunited at their spawning grounds, and will collectively call out their patented “FESTIVAL!” cry for the first time in years.
Drew Emmitt, who during the break has put his full effort into his solo project, Freedom Ride, said in an interview with The Marquee just before Leftover headed to the famed grounds of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival to play the first of the reunion dates, that he’s at least partially responsible for the reunion shows. “I was hanging out at home one day, in a really good mood and I decided to call our old manager, John Joy, to see what the interest was in reforming. John called back within an hour and had all sorts of different offers for festivals,” Emmitt said.
That interest ultimately lead to five shows being booked throughout the summer, although Emmitt said that there were many other offers they simply couldn’t make happen. In addition to the gig they played late last month as this issue was going to press, at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Leftover Salmon will be playing the High Sierra Music Festival in California in early July, the All Good Festival in West Virginia in mid July, Red Rocks later this month, and they will cap their summer with a show at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival on Labor Day weekend.
Taking into account the aforementioned machine, Emmitt said that these shows will be easy, fly-in shows for the band, and that their bus — the esteemed but dilapidated “Bridgette” — will remain parked in the field where she’s been resting, near Rollinsville, Colo. “It’s just the six of us,” Emmitt said. “We have no road manager, no sound man. There’s no machine involved.”
Apparently, according to both Emmitt and fellow front man Vince Herman, there’s such a low level of stress about the gigs, that the band hasn’t even rehearsed. Just before Herman pointed his ride toward Telluride, he told The Marquee, “We might get together in a room and talk about it for a while before we go on, but we won’t be doing a rehearsal.”
Emmitt concurred, saying, “Everyone knows all the material, so there’s no need to worry. It’s how we always did it.”
How they always did it was pure magic for the “polyethnic cajun slamgrass” band. With Herman and Emmitt trading duties up front on guitar and mandolin, respectively, Leftover Salmon was a free-form whirlwind that could be delicate and tight in one song, and loud, full on electric assault on the next. Much of that magic, in the early years, was credited toward banjo player Mark Vann, who not only was a major force in the band, but also helped to revolutionize the role of the banjo in modern jamgrass. Vann passed way in 2002 at 39, after a battle with cancer. With Noam Pikelny in Vann’s place, Leftover continued.
Emmitt told The Marquee in 2004, that the band maybe should have taken their break after Vann’s passing, but so many people were involved in the day-to-day operations of the band that it wouldn’t have been plausible. Eventually, however, all the strains took their toll on the band. “We were touring too much,” Emmitt said. “Touring all the time is not a good thing to do. There comes a point when you have to stop and create the demand, or we were just gonna go straight into the ground. Guarantees go down, crowds go down. There are so many bands on the road trying to do the same thing that eventually it becomes harder to go to the same markets over and over. But now, after a break, we can come back and be celebrated. This is going to be really fresh and you can’t manufacture freshness.”
Both Emmitt and Herman also make no bones about the fact that from a financial standpoint, the reunion makes sense, and will help to continue the work they’ve been doing with their solo projects. “It’s going to enrich everyone’s solo careers, and help us put a little money in the bank. It’ll take the financial pressure off everyone,” Emmitt said. In addition to the financial rewards, Herman said that he thinks it’s going to bode well for his current project, Great American Taxi, which just released an amazing first album, Streets of Gold, earlier this summer. “The focus and energy for me is still on Taxi. It just feels real good with Taxi. I’m loving it and I’m hoping that people who are drawn back into the Leftover Salmon thing will inquire about Taxi. In the end it’s going to be good for that band,” said Herman.
:: Leftover Salmon ::
:: with moe. ::
:: Red Rocks Amphitheatre :: July 28 ::
Spectate if you Gravitate:
• New Grass Revival
• Yonder Mountain String Band
• Great American Taxi