Written by fans | Photos by Todd Radunsky

We had ourselves a good ol' fashion Pickin Party last night at the Fox Theatre in a Celebration of Music and Life. Leftover Salmon brought a cadre of musical legends to the Fox to play a benefit show for Mark Vann, Leftover's banjo player who was recently diagnosed with cancer. It was truly a special night, and only the first of 4 shows.

The night started with a traditional bluegrass circle, with Sally Van Meter, Grammy winning dobro player, Sam Bush a.k.a. the King of Telluride on fiddle, Drew Emmit on mandolin, Tony Furtado on banjo and Vince on acoustic guitar. The quintet alternated in front of the throw back microphone in succession in the traditional standard picking way. The acoustic beginning was a nice way to start the evening off, that and seeing Robert Randolph in the hallway!
Second set was full on FESTIVAL! There was never less then 8 players on the stage at any given time and it peaked out at 13 at one point. I've never seen that many folks on a stage that included NO horn players and only ONE drummer, it was a certified Pickin Party. The band alternated between Leftover originals and new songs, as well as some tasty covers.
Sammy Bush, decked out in his new U of Colorado wife beater, took the lead just about all night. He started out on fiddle, which sort of surprised me because he rips so hard on the mando. The boys from Little Feat were also front and center for the majority of the evening. Paul Barrere's slide guitar was only matched by Robert Randolph's and in unison as a duet, they made some sweet music. Is there anybody out there that Randolph can't play with?
Bill Payne added some nice NOLA style Dixie land on the keys as he sat back to back with Salmon's new keyboardist, who also totally rips by the way. Tony Furtado alternated between acoustic slide and banjo all night. Michael Kang seemed a bit lost up there, but his fiddle work was top notch and when he broke out the electric mandolin he let loose with a few nail biting chords that sent chills up my spine.
The best moment for me was during a sick "I Know You Rider" jam, Paul and Robert were working it and Paul nodded to Robert and Sammy and the interplay between them lit up the room. You could see the electricity jumping off of Sammy's fingers as he took it to the next level. All in all it was a wonderful night of bluegrass infused music at it finest.

JamBase | Salmonville
Go See Live Music

The first night was awesome! The energy in the Fox was as special as I've ever felt and the music that came from the stage matched it. The second night was more of a Leftover show then a festival. It was rocking for sure and Drew seemed to lead the way on his guitar rather than with his mandolin. I can't remember the specifics, but Peter Rowan was his ever soulful self, the Little Feat boys looked like they were making a statement to the fans yelling "WERE BACK," and the new Leftover is more rocking then ever. I really really like Billy, the keyboard player. He reminds me of an Allman Brother. The highlight for me was toward the end of the second set, Billy Nershi sang "My Old Home Place" which was followed by the most rocking version of "Midnight Moonlight" ever, complete with Little Feats' southern funk and some sick guitar and keyboard solos. The encore was about four songs and included a pretty good "Whole Lotta Love."

Saturday night Leftover brought the show to the Fillmore in Denver, and they sold it out! All 3700 tickets were purchased by the night before which sent many fingers pointed skyward in hope. The scene was pure festival! The place was overflowing with great energy and smiles. The Yonder Mountain String Band opened and played a short set. The Leftover show began slow, but the build up was quick.

Too many great songs and great musicians to remember. But the place really got jumping when Todd Park Mohr tore up the "Oh Atlanta" with Paul from Little Feat right at his side. Seeing Drew jump in, lick for lick, with three other phat slide guitar players was really great. I've always enjoyed his mandolin, but his guitar I like even better. b>Tony Furtado, Peter Rowan, John Cowan, Bela Fleck, Bill Nershi, Tim O'Brian, Pete Wernick and many others joined the Salmon boys on the stage from time to time. Mark's hotel room and the crowd screamed out their love to him as loud as we could. It was great to see so many great musicians, artists, and fans come out to support Mark and show some love. I don't think I've ever felt such great energy at a show in Denver before.

That night just about everyone went somewhere to watch the Leonoids meteor shower. I have to say, I saw more shooting stars then I've ever seen. Some trails lasting up to 5-6 seconds. We watched from about 2:00-3:00 in the morning and saw about 50 amazing stars and trails (mmmmm trails...) Ahhhhh Colorado.

JamBase | Colorado
Go See Live Music

Wednesday | Fox Theater | Boulder, CO
After leaving Atlanta at 5am and getting to the Boulder show at 8:00 mtn. time I was already a little road-air weary. I just had to shake off the cobwebs when they started with the traditional bluegrass ho-down.

It was a short first set but it became apparent very quickly that this was to be a Sam Bush show. He worked the stage all evening! I especially enjoyed when he got into Drew's face and dared him to out pick him. But Drew lived up to the challenge. I can't truly say anyone out picked anybody. At one point we counted 14 people on stage at which point Jersey said he wanted to throw a penalty flag for too many players on the field. It was really nice to finally see Robert Randolph. I have heard so much hype around him and now I understand why. He has sooooo much emotion when he plays.

The third set started with Paul, Sally, Sam, Drew and Robert doing a slide mayhem. All of them were just sliding away... By the later part of the 3rd set I was getting very tired from staying up for 24 hours without one drop of sleep. After the show it was back to the condo for some much needed rest.

Thursday night | Fox Theater | Boulder, CO
I forgot to mention that the crew were shaving heads in respect to Mark for $10, all proceeds went to the fund. I was really surprised at all the heads that were shaved. Eric (LoS Batik maker) made 8 special shirts for the shows they went for $40 a piece (all money to Mark) and all were gone about 10 minutes after the door opened. I know we bought 3 of them. They are SWEET!

A sure highlight was Rowan's "Mexican Air Force" (someone threw Vince a HOG-LEG which he lit and passed to Rowan but Rowan passed on it and threw it back in the crowd). "Whole Lotta Love" to close the show was also a treat. Both shows at the Fox were complete sell-outs.

Friday night | Aggie Theater | Ft. Fun, CO
This show got out of control real early. Highlights included the monster "RAILROAD" and "DOWN ON THE FARM!!!" I have seen
Widespread Panic play this but goddamn Leftover Salmon blew it right through the roof and knocked the walls off the building. Don't forget the closer when Vince got everyone but Greg to lay on the stage and they played "WE WANT THE FUNK!!!" It was a treat to see even Peter Rowan laying down doing a pick.

Saturday | Fillmore Auditorium | Denver, CO
This place was mayhem. The band sold 3600 tickets and there had to be at least 1000 outside with their fingers in the air. There was a buzz on the front range about the heat that went down the previous 3 nights and the place was crazy outside. Scalpers were getting 75-80 bones per ticket! When have you ever seen that at a Salmon show?

Inside, the venue was overflowing with heads. We had set up base camp in front of the soundboard and had to abandon it during the second song due to shear mayhem. You couldn't stand, much less boogie. So off to the VIP we went. VIP was on a raised platform to the left of the stage. Up there you could see just how packed it was. From the stage to the very back wall was standing room only. I had a chance to chat with Kyle of SCI and he was just as amazed at how packed it was. His quote was, "We have sold this place out, but it has NEVER been this packed."

Bela performed a solo of a Bach piece which was SWEET. And then Johnny called Mark who was at home and led the crowd in a get well soon chant. As the night progressed we heard "Panama Red" and "Oh Atlanta" in beautiful fashion.

I was blown away by all the support for Mark, especially that last night. Much love and praise goes out to Johnny Pfarr and the crew. You are truly a master of the party and I respect all the hard work you put into your job. As Vince once told me "that guy is too dedicated." Throughout the evening good times and love prevailed as the overwhelming crowd and amazing musicians were dedicated to positive energy in the name of Mark Vann.

- Sam

[Published on: 11/28/01]

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