In the town of Fort Collins, the month of January is a time of major change each year as the onset of a new year also marks the return of 20,000+ students to Colorado State University. However, each year in the midst of the chaotic happenings that surround the new semester, one thing remains constant in Fort Collins: Leftover Salmon will be coming to town for a rip-roaring weekend of music and madness. This year was no different as the boys returned to our
northern Colorado town with a bang, carrying with them the momentum of a week long run in the mountain towns of the state. After stops in Aspen, Steamboat Springs, Crested Butte, and Breckenridge, LOS arrived for a weekend "festival" at the Aggie Theater in Fort Collins.
This was the boys first tour with the new lineup, and the recent additions to the band only heightened my excitement. The last time I saw LOS was at Planet Salmon in September where the boys said farewell to Jeff Sipe and Tye North. After playing New Years Eve in Denver, the new members of the band, keyboardist Bill McKay, drummer Jose Martinez, and bassist Greg Garrison made their premiere in Fort Collins, one of
the towns in Colorado that has a strong devotion and love for the band. Immediately it became apparent as I received my VIP pass and ordered the first of many beers that night, that the band had expanded. McKay's keyboard appeared to be a welcome addition to the stage and I waited with anxious dancing feet for the boys to start the "festival".
Friday night's first set was smashing and highlighted Las Vegas and She Caught The Katy. McKay proved to be an expert on the ivories and an even more amazing singer, as witnessed on She Caught The Katy. As the former lead singer of the Derek Trucks Band this should not have surprised me, but I was pleasantly pleased with the change in vocals. The second set featured a smoking River Rising with Drew Emmitt going nuts on the mandolin and
leaving the crowd agast. My personal favorite of the first night was Walk and Don't Look Back. The Friday night show also featured little moments of bliss like McKay teasing The Simpsons Theme in the middle of the set and the crowd urging the boys back on stage for an encore with the traditional chant of Rise Up and Wake and Bake. As usual, the show concluded with The Andy Griffith Theme as our walking music and after thanking the boys backstage
for an excellent show I wandered home and rested up for the next night.
The intimate Aggie Theater, which can fit about 1000 people, sold out
for both shows and was packed to the gills. The whole Saturday night show featured more traditional LOS fare. Drew and Vince ran things from the get-go and Mark Vann, quite possibly the best damn banjo strummer I have ever seen, had numerous moments of exceptional playing. The first set featured a wailing Doin Time with Drew belting out the vocals and Greg and Jose
doing a great job of keeping the flow steady. The party really got going when the boys busted out Mama Boulet and Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow. However, the madness was just beginning as the boys ventured into their own little world of insanity with Hot Corn/Cold Corn (featuring a breakdown into Jimmy Crack Corn
and the insane sight of Mark using a can of tuna on his banjo). Vince kept the crowd fanatic with his random rumblings between songs and as the boys left the stage the call of "FESTIVAL" echoed from his mouth.
The second set of the Saturday night show may just be the best set of music I have ever had the privelege of witnessing LOS perform. Long time favorites like Better, Festival, River Rising, and Breakin' Thru were peppered throughout the set, but it was the
rarities and oldies that got me going the most. Say Boom La and 4:20 Polka were spectacular with Drew losing control multiple times and playing his mandolin and guitar so frantically that I thought he was going to explode. The second set ended with Whispering Waters, a song Vince announced they hadn't played in a long while but that was due to end this greta run through Colorado.
Whispering Water is amazing with dramatic risings and fallings and amazing solos. The boys headed off stage and I gasped for breath in pure ecstacy. I could not imagine the boys matching that second set display in the encore, but hey LOS never disappoints. The
encore, Are You Ready for the Country, was ripping and concluded with a "wall" of noise as the boys left every ounce of themselves on that stage. Fittingly, the "festival" ended with the classic walking music of Andy Griffith. What a show!
The whole weekend was amazing, Leftover Salmon returned to Fort Collins with a bang and the new lineup did not disappoint. In fact, Bill McKay and his keyboards/vocal make this band ten times stronger. It was obvious the boys are thrilled with the addition of keyboards as they spent the whole weekend messing with the instrument (running plastic fish along it, sitting
on it, etc.) in the middle of songs and at every opportunity they got. To say the least it was a memorable weekend and in my mind the real party to bring in the new year.
JamBase Colorado Correspondent
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