Colorado's own Leftover Salmon returned to The Fillmore in San Francisco recently for a night of bluegrass, rock, folk, and jazz. Formed in 1990 by Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt, the band takes their name from combining Emmitt's band The Left Hand String Band with Herman's band Salmon Heads. In the past, the main attraction of LoS was their wacky onstage antics: shaving the bass player's head while on stage at High Sierra Music Festival one year, dumping a vat of mayonnaise on another fan, inviting Manny the Hippie to jam on harmonica. These stunts at times seemed to overshadow the fine picking and singing of the band.
LoS' music has evolved from the frantic "Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass" of the earlier years to a mix of slower ballads, jazzy improvisation, and old school classics, with fine playing throughout. With a new studio album simply titled Leftover Salmon coming out in March, the band played a few selections from the new CD, interspersed with some old time favorites like "Bend in the River" and "Euphoria" and the crazy "Blisters on my Fingers." The show was highlighted by lots of stretching out in many songs and extended jamming segments. The audience of diehard fans was eating it all up, reveling in the happy feet music of Leftover Salmon.
A band that constantly tours, Leftover Salmon made their mark by playing at the many music festivals throughout he country, Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado and High Sierra Music Fest in California to name a few. After losing original banjo player Mark Vann to cancer a few years ago the band seems to have taken a more serious musical approach to their performances with the focus seeming to be less flash and more substance. Drew Emmitt on mandolin, electric guitar, and fiddle is a consummate musician; he can play all three instruments equally well and is a fine singer in the high lonesome style. His slide mandolin style is completely unique. Vince Herman is still the wacky front man, telling tall tales while mugging it up for the audience to their great amusement. It is often overlooked that he is a fine guitar picker too. On banjo is the youngster Noam Pikelny, celebrating his 22nd birthday this night, who seems to have matured before our eyes in the past couple of years. On keys is Bill McKay who adds a boogie woogie/southern rock edge and at other times a jazzy sound to the mix. Rounding out the band are Greg Garrison on bass and Jose Martinez on drums, who was recruited at High Sierra Music Festival two years ago. This night special guests included Pete Sears on accordion, Scott Law on guitar, and San Francisco legend Wavy Gravy preaching to the masses.
Words and Images by Susan J. Weiand
JamBase | San Francisco
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