Leftover Salmon: Celebrating 20 Years Part 4

By: Michael 'Jersey' Gerity

Download the final part of our Leftover Salmon Celebrating 20 Years sampler here.

Every once in a blue moon, a group of musicians will get together and find that they have unleashed a spark of musical and personal compatibility that will not only change their lives but the many lives of the people around them as well. They might not see the longevity of what they are creating at that point, but as the years roll by and the band endures, the magic shines through in their music and amongst the troupe of fans that returns their energy.

If you've been following the first three parts of this series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) then you have come to realize that Leftover Salmon is a band of this ilk. And like Salmon instinctively do, the band recently returned to the exact site of their spawning some 20 years ago. It was at The Eldo in Crested Butte, Colorado in December of 1989 where the journey began, so it was only natural for the band to kick off their four-show holiday anniversary run back where it all got started.

Here in part four of "Celebrating 20 Years" it seemed fitting to have Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt recall the recent run of shows and what it meant to the both of them.

"It was taking it all the way back to the beginning," explains Emmitt. "There was a lot of intense energy in that little room. I don't think I've seen that many people in The Eldo before. It was a wall of sound in a very small space."

Vince Herman :: 12.28 :: The Eldo by Jackson Photo
"For me, it was huge personally. I've been here now in Crested Butte for almost ten years. So for me to be able to play with Salmon in my hometown for all my friends and give that to my community was huge. I was so psyched we were doing it here," adds Emmitt. "It was incredibly significant and really fun."

For a band that has nearly 375 songs in their repertoire, it was any one's guess what they might play that first night in Crested Butte.

"Vince just really wanted to be old school and he said, 'You know what? Let's play everything that really slams.' Because he really wanted people to slam dance," Emmitt says. "And I agreed with that."

The band brought out many of those early slam-grass zingers to get things going down in Crested Butte, saving their ballads and long epic jams for the Boulder and Denver shows.

"For me, it did reveal what's happened over the years," says Herman. "It was like, 'Mission accomplished!' And it was so cool to see a lot of the same people that were at that first show and what's become of their lives and you know, up to the same tricks kinda thing - in brand new ways."

"One of the things that was a revelation to me was thinking about getting there in the beginning and not having a repertoire. You think twenty years later there is this whole repertoire of tunes and all this stuff. But we had absolutely nothing when we rolled into there that we had played together," Herman recalls. "Lefthand [String Band], at that point, had been playing really fast and the Salmonheads were playing fast but with a drummer and an accordion player, so we just figured out what it was we could pull off. It turned out the more bluegrassy, rowdier stuff caused slam dancing; and probably to the crowd's surprise and to ours. But slam dancing was kind of a thing at the time. It didn't have any intention, but it was obvious where to go once those people showed up. And then they showed up again."

Leftover Salmon & Friends :: 12.30 :: Boulder Theater
By Jackson Photo
Of course what Herman is talking about is the birth of their sound, an amalgamation of music that they coined Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass, which would ultimately go on to help pioneer the jam band scene.

After the Crested Butte show, the band returned to Boulder, their other Colorado home, where they played two nights leading up to New Year's Eve at the historic Boulder Theater. It was a family gathering and the vibe was one of optimism and hope as the Emmitt-Nershi Band took to the stage to open things up.

As we awaited Salmon's arrival, it seemed appropriate that just Herman and Emmitt appeared first on the stage for an acoustic rendition of a Woody Guthrie tune and a heartfelt welcome and thanks for twenty wonderful years.

"Everybody came out of the woodwork, all the old friends. It was wonderful," says Emmitt. "To be honest with you it was a little more overwhelming when we did our last shows at the Fox before the hiatus. That was intense, with a lot of emotion. This was more relaxed and happy. I think this was more of a beginning, with a sense of something we are going to keep doing, and finally after twenty years we have figured out how to do it and have it make sense and have everybody still be able to do their other projects. And it's great. It was a real nice way to kick off a new era for us."

Leftover Salmon & Friends :: NYE :: Boulder Theater
By Jackson Photo
Like many New Year's shows, the anticipation began building early and the room was charged with a special glow. It is said in Salmon folklore that it was a blue moon the night of their first show in 1989. So, it was only appropriate to celebrate twenty years of this band in a special, surreal way on the night of another blue moon. It seems with these fish, things really get done, well, twice in a blue moon.

Salmon was scheduled to play three sets with no opener. When the lights dimmed, we were off. There are many simultaneous things happening to make this sound called Leftover Salmon and if you have been to a Salmon show, you know the carnival atmosphere I'm speaking of. So, peruse the setlist (at the end of the story) and use your imagination to envision how this band rejoiced in their rebirth at twenty years and how this following of LoSers helped bring in the New Year.

To commemorate this historic four-night run, the band and their management went the extra mile to accommodate the fans. The Eldo show in Crested Butte was broadcast on KBUT and streamed live on their website. It was a great way for all the folks that didn't get tickets to this intimate show or just couldn't make it out to Colorado to listen. Likewise, the Boulder shows were streamed in High Definition and will be available through the On Demand stream throughout the month of January. Both shows were also filmed for a possible future DVD.

Continue reading for more on Leftover Salmon's 20 Year Celebration...

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