Words by: Shawn O’Bryant | Images by: Sue DuMond
Leftover Salmon with Elephant Revival, Fruition and Jim Page :: 12.31.11 :: Roseland Theater:: Portland, Oregon
In the greenroom of the Roseland Theater, Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon sits surrounded by masks and balloons restringing his guitar. He is preparing for the final gig of Leftover Salmon’s New Year’s Run, a four show tour that kicked off on December 28 in San Diego, CA and is culminating in a New Year’s Eve masquerade style jamboree in Portland, OR. As he tinkers with the strings and tunes them by ear, he talks excitedly about the upcoming year. “Twenty-twelve, bring it on,” he exclaims. “We’re stepping into a new world. We are psyched to start it here.”
|Vince Herman by Sue DuMond|
The final show of the year marks the 22nd anniversary of Leftover Salmon, who played their first gig in Crested Butte, CO on New Years Eve of 1989. Tonight also marks the beginning of a new era for the band as they swing away from the on-again-off-again hiatus they have been on since 2005. As the new year comes knocking, the veteran originators of “Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass” have a lot coming up in 2012, including a new album in the works and a revitalized winter tour calendar.
Along with Leftover Salmon, fellow Colorado natives Elephant Revival, longtime Leftover Salmon collaborator and Seattle local Jim Page, and Portland native folk/soul rockers Fruition are in the house to round out the show. The gig is a mash up of Rocky Mountain and Northwest talent and although the lineup spans geographic and generational boundaries, all of the acts fit together like pieces of a carefully crafted, larger mosaic. This is no coincidence. The lineup has been pulled together intentionally and includes some of Leftover Salmon’s oldest and newest friends from the last two-plus decades of life on the road.
|Drew Emmitt by Sue DuMond|
Herman finishes stringing his guitar and eyes the vintage tuxedo he will soon put on to play his set. The mood in the greenroom is getting energetic as the doors to the concert are about to open upstairs. Herman recalls that the foundations for this very night were laid over 15 years ago when Leftover Salmon found themselves at the Oregon Country Fair outside of Eugene, OR. Wandering the entwining paths between stages, Herman bumped into Jim Page playing an impromptu show and was immediately hooked. “I just got glued to Jim for a few hours,” he remembers. Vibing off each others’ ability to keep music fluid, fun and improvisational, Page was soon collaborating with Herman and Leftover Salmon all over the country.
Elephant Revival first came onto the radar of Leftover Salmon in 2006 when two of their members, Bonnie Paine and Dan Rodriguez, moved in next door to Herman in Nederland, CO. Before long the two households were picking away together. “We got to cook good meals, pick all night, and drink whisky to keep our blood warm,” recalls Rodriguez about the formative time period. On the upswing, Elephant Revival has been turning heads ever since, creating a solid fan base through their tireless touring, dedication and love of their craft. They have remained close to Herman and now share a common manager. Herman’s admiration for the band and their “Transcendental Folk” style is obvious. “Elephant doesn’t have to slam you down and rowdy you up to get you to pay attention,” he says, “Their breath is enough.”
|Elephant Revival by Sue DuMond|
Fruition made it to the stage after a series fortunate meetings and good old fashion jamming. After seeing Elephant Revival at a show in Portland, “We instantly had a band crush,” recalls Jay Cobb of Fruition. After the show some of the members of Fruition and Elephant Revival ended up playing together at an after party.
After jamming in Portland, Fruition again met up with Elephant Revival at the 2011 Northwest String Summit where Herman was also hanging out and playing. One night Herman, who is notorious for keeping the jam going after all others have retired, fell asleep early. Seizing the opportunity to give Herman a taste of his own medicine, members of Elephant Revival and Fruition glommed together in conspiratorial glee and snuck wordlessly into the tent of the peacefully asleep Herman. “We decided to wake him up with a sweet lullaby,” remembers Rodriguez of Elephant Revival. With a full band including an upright bass squeezed into Herman’s tent, the ensemble slowly began to play Herman into consciousness. “I met them in a dream state,” recalls Herman of Fruition, “They invaded and sang the most incredible, gorgeous song. It was the greatest.”
|Fruition by Sue DuMond|
The Roseland Theater is getting packed as hordes of fans stream in the door and pick up complimentary masquerade masks. The theater is split into two levels with a main stage upstairs and a secondary stage on the first floor. At 7:30 pm Fruition starts playing their first set. As usual they get the show rocking hard and rocking early. Fruition has become a staple for the dance hungry, foot stomping fans of the gritty folk rock scene in Portland. With a local crowd and the thrill of playing a gig with some of their favorite musical inspirations, the show quickly gets into full swing. Throughout the night Fruition will be playing tweener sets on the lower stage during each of the set breaks of the upstairs stage, “This is the best situation,” says Cobb over the microphone as they wrap up their first musical onslaught. “We get to play for you and then we get to party with you. Let’s go watch Elephant Revival!”
The multi-level layout of the venue insured that a constant flow of traffic is continually streaming between the two floors. Elephant Revival takes to the stage next and hypnotizes the crowd with goose bump inducing melodies, heartfelt lyrics, and contagious aura of conscious optimism. The crowd is drawn into hooting applause as Bonnie Paine rocks a washboard solo and then gets carried off on a sea of strings and bass. Elephant Revival delivers the type of show that leaves you feeling good. The band is so cohesive in their approach that the whole audience is riveted by the exuberant passion of the band.
|Jim Page by Sue DuMond|
Jim Page delivers next with a short but politically charged set accompanied by Herman and Paine. The intelligence and compassion in Page’s lyrics waft over the crowd as he tackles contemporary issues of beauty and ugliness in songs like “Tent City” and a remake of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”
Leftover Salmon finally takes the main stage at 10:00. Decked out in newly purchased vintage suits and ready to give it everything, the band launches into their music with all the exuberance of the early days. Playing a mix of classics and a few tunes from the upcoming album including “Liza,” a new Andy Thorn tune, the crowd is whipped into a dancing frenzy. Everyone is feeling the high. Paine, waiting backstage before joining Leftover Salmon for some washboard collaboration, grabs fellow band member Sage Cook and swings him into a dosey doe as he passes by. The energy is tangible and everyone is feeding off of it.
|Leftover Salmon w/ Bonnie Paine by Sue DuMond|
After a few songs Jim Page and Paine join the lineup onstage, and Page demonstrates his dynamic improvisational style on the fly. After a few tunes, Herman introduces the Jim Page song “Over My Dead Body,” which he describes as “the anthem to the Occupy movement.” The set carries the crowd with every twist, solo and belted chorus.
At a few minutes past 11:00 the crowd has again flowed downstairs to watch Fruition before the final Leftover Salmon set. As Fruition winds up their last tune, the song slowly dissolves into a ruckus drum solo by drummer Tyler Thompson. Out of the wings appears drum and dance ensemble Axé Didé, jamming Afro-Caribbean beats in coalition with Thompson. Dancers appear onstage decked out in carnival-esque costumes and whip the crowd into a frenzy with their booty shaking exuberance. Soon the percussion section and the dancers have left the stage and begin meandering their way through the audience in a train, dancing and leading people back upstairs. By the time they reach the main stage the whole venue is bouncing. Salmon effigies attached to dowels float amongst an ocean of hands as the dancers make it onstage for a solo rhythm and dance show.
|Leftover Salmon by Sue DuMond|
The crowd counts down to midnight and an avalanche of balloons drops over the audience. Leftover Salmon is back onstage and rips into their last set of the night, beginning with their own rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.” With another new tune, “Light Behind the Rain,” a cover of “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” and more classic material such as “Zombie Jamboree” and “Euphoria,” Leftover Salmon ratchets up the energy even further in the packed house.
The show ends on a high note, leaving everyone sweaty, overwhelmed and screaming for more. The new and youthful energy of Fruition and Elephant Revival mashed up perfectly with the road tested experience of Jim Page and Leftover Salmon. “This is the best show I have seen in 11 years working with the band,” remarks Leftover Salmon manager John Joy.
|Leftover Salmon by Sue DuMond|
Leftover Salmon will be riding the crest of that wave right into the studio as they finish recoding their album in Portland over the next few weeks. It was a satisfying show, a fitting location, and an incredible display of musical collaboration between regions and mutually respectful generations. When asked why Portland was the town to hold this incredible ceremony of revitalization Herman says the reasons are obvious: “That’s where Salmon go - they go to the Northwest.”
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