A Shining Weekend: Leftover Salmon Returns To The Stanley Hotel – Review & Photos

By Tory Pittarelli Mar 27, 2018 1:08 pm PDT

Words by: Tory Pittarelli

Images by: Josh Timmermans

Leftover Salmon :: 03.09 – 11.18
The Stanley Hotel :: Estes Park, CO

Check out a gallery of Josh’s photos at the bottom of the review.

Every March, for going on four years now, music fans gather at The Stanley Hotel for a haunted and fun-filled weekend, hosted by Leftover Salmon. With one foot in the High Rocky Mountain town of Estes Park, Colorado, and one foot in the spirit world, this over 100-year-old hotel provides the perfect play place for a spooky, jocular weekend. Well, hotels don’t have feet, but you follow…

The event is a destination mini-festival of sorts, complete with theme nights, special performances, late nights, and all sorts of shenanigans. If you love Leftover Salmon, mischief, and you wish Halloween happened more than once a year, this is the event for you.

Each year, the weekend’s festivities begin with a happy hour set in the McGregor Ballroom, hosted by Breckenridge Brewery. This year featured Colorado’s own Gasoline Lollipops, an outlaw country group with a punk rock twist. Think Johnny Cash meets Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age. Lead singer Clay Rose uses a wonderful gadget called a bullet harmonica microphone, which accentuates his blues-ey, vintage vocals. A handful of swing enthusiasts greased the ballroom’s dance floor, while others enjoyed the open bar and catching up with familiar faces. The band’s overall gritty, upbeat and soulful sound provided exceptional start to the weekend.

Meanwhile, guests were gearing up for “Horror Night” with a complimentary face-painting setup in the lobby. As the hours passed, more and more costumes emerged – some certainly more elaborate than others, but everyone in the right spirit. A few lucky fans snagged super limited edition event posters, designed by Matt Leunig.

With the exception of ongoing ghost tours, the halls grew quiet as everyone returned to their rooms to get dolled up and properly libated in preparation for Night One’s Leftover Salmon show.

If you know Leftover Salmon, you know that when it comes to their performances…anything goes. If you don’t, it’s tough to describe them. Try and classify them by genre and you’ll find yourself listing off 17 of the most random and seemingly unrelated types of music. But that’s them. God, if I had a dime for every Calypso Cajun Jazzy Zydeco Hippie Bluesrock Slamgrass band I’ve seen…yeah, just kidding. Their sound is truly one of a kind.

Set One began with “Hoodoo Bash.” Fittingly, “If you’re afraid then you better stay home ‘cause there’s no turning back once the dice are cast,” Vince Herman sang. Andy Thorn somehow managed to play his banjo with a giant axe sticking out of his head, poor guy. I couldn’t help but wonder if this event was created as another excuse for the band to let their freak flags fly, or if it was for the fans to do so. Then I remembered that Leftover Salmon needs no excuse to get weird.

It was the first set’s “Demon In Disguise” > “Aquatic Hitchhiker” > “Devil In Disguise” > “Aquatic Hitchhiker” that really lit up the concert hall. “Aquatic Hitchhiker” always seems to do that, but this time, fantastically chopped up with David Bromberg’s and J.J. Cale’s respective tunes. Vince adores David Bromberg, and it’s always a pleasure to witness his renditions of Bromberg’s songs.

Between sets, twenty or so people jumped up on the stage to compete in a costume contest, judged by Vince himself. First prize was a pair of Leftover Salmon Red Rocks tickets, won by a headless man, followed by an event poster for second place, and a Nashville Sessions vinyl and t-shirt for third.

The second set began with a new tune, “Astral Traveler,” which was written for the dearly departed Colonel Bruce Hampton. It’s an absolutely gorgeous tune, sung by Drew Emmitt. Vince’s stage presence, throughout this evening in particular, was so very Colonel-esque. I heard mention many times that Colonel Bruce was present at the Stanley Hotel throughout the weekend, just not in the physical sense.

LoS’s cover of the Harry Belafonte song “Zombie Jamboree” always gets the crowd riled up. I found myself wandering for a moment downstairs, and truly wish I had a sound bite of all those feet getting down to that song on the old wooden floors of the concert hall above my head. Not long after, drummer Alwyn Robinson took over vocals for a gritty version of “Don’t Owe You A Thang.” And in yet another nod to the departed, the second set ended with a cover of Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How It Feels.”

The evening’s “Lawyers, Guns & Money” was a victorious moment, as the crowd erupted into a big ole sing-a-long, with many fans cheering and hollering, their fists in the air. Last but not least, Salmon rounded out the night with “Let In A Little Light,” and the sing-a-long, whistling and cheering continued as the tune merged seamlessly into “Wake & Bake.”

For the remainder of the evening, the McGregor Ballroom was the place to be: Eddie Roberts, DJ Logic & Friends kept the fun going until the wee hours of the morning. Greg Garrison held down on the low end, Alwyn on drums. One can always count on Eddie Roberts to keep it classy, keep it jazzy, and keep it funky. This late night set was no exception.

Day Two’s festivities began early with a “Big Wheel Race,” which I didn’t have the pleasure of witnessing. Josh Timmermans captured and shared enough photos to come to a safe conclusion that it was a ridiculous sight to behold. This event was another opportunity for fans to win prizes, this time an event poster for every team member and VIP upgrades for the day (free beer!).

Shortly thereafter, the Concert Hall opened up again for a musical performance that was billed as “The Mystery Matinee: It’ll Freak You Out Who’s Playing!!” Turns out, this freaky guest was none other Leftover Salmon’s dear friend, Anders Osborne. He began his set solo by warming up the room with his beautiful guitar tones and soothing vocals. Members of Salmon trickled into the mix, song by song. Before too long, Leftover Salmon in their entirety was performing with Anders, and remained throughout the rest of the set.

It was funky, it was jazzy, and it was, without a doubt, a rare treat. The chemistry between Anders and the rest of the band is likely due to the fact that they’ve been friends for well over two decades, and shared the stage many times. Anders Osborne as a special guest during a Leftover Salmon set? Sure, that’s normal. Leftover Salmon as a special guest during an Anders Osborne set…what heaven is this? The set ended with “Not Fade Away,” after which the crowd demanded an encore by erupting into a roaring “love is real, not fade away” chant, which drew Anders happily back to the stage. “Hopefully we’ll get to do more of this down the road,” he voiced.

Once the set was over, I scurried over to the main portion of the hotel for “Colonel Bruce Hampton: Through The Eyes, Art, and Stories of Vince Herman, Joshua Timmermans and Scramble Campbell.” I wasn’t sure what to expect with this, and I’m sure those three men who put it on weren’t entirely sure either. Well, it went well beyond expectations.

The entryway to the Pinion Room was filled with various photographs and paintings of Bruce Hampton for guests to enjoy on their way to the presentation. Most of the room was seated, about 100 people or so, some comfortably in giant beanbags. Timmermans scrolled slowly through his photographs from Colonel Bruce’s 70th Birthday Celebration at the Fox Theatre, a night that forever changed the three hosts’ lives and the lives of many more. It’s tough to put into words how much power these photographs hold, a sentiment that Josh was able to squeeze past for the presentation, and one that you can understand if you’ve ever seen Timmermans’ work. His photos speak for themselves. He mentioned that his decision to edit nearly all of the photos from the evening into black & white was about the way that color tends to take over for the mind’s eye. Black & white allows you to really look deeper into what’s there in front of you.

The experience was chilling, honestly. I had goosebumps from my head down to my toes for nearly the entire hour-long presentation, which, to everyone’s gratification, ended up being more of an open forum dialogue between everyone in the room.

I worked up the courage to ask about their experiences after Colonel Bruce’s death, observing that it is common to feel the mischievous antics of a loved one that has passed on and is potentially watching down upon us, playfully meddling with our interactions and affairs. Timmermans replied that he’d had many conversations in which he felt Bruce literally standing between him and another person just stirring the pot. Vince chimed in with “it’s happening right now.” No surprise there. There were certainly many things we could all agree upon in that room. One of them was that Bruce Hampton was with us in spirit for the occasion.

Another lovely Estes Park day turned to night, which signified the commencement of “Masquerade Night.” Timmermans hosted an hour-long portrait session in the main lobby of the hotel, for guests to show off their best Masquerade Formal attire, before heading back to the Concert Hall.

Leftover’s first set began with “Liza,” an upbeat and sing song-y crowd favorite, followed by “Down In A Hollow” and “Southern Belle.” One of the longer jams of the evening came out of “Whispering Waters,” a tune that’s easy to get blissfully lost in. “Bird Call” was the highlight of the set for me, it’s incredibly fun to dance to, it’s fast and it’s a song in which each member gets a chance to really dive in instrumentally. It was nearly 25 minutes long, after all. After “Long Time Traveling” and “Evermore,” they ended the set with a lively version of “Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie.”

Saturday’s set break was far more tame without the costume shenanigans of Night One, however someone decided to it was good idea to let me get on their Segway and cruise around. We won’t go into how that ended. It’s a dangerous world out there, folks. Not sure which of the spirits of my friends that have passed on were meddling with my affairs at that time, but again…the spirit world is present up at the Stanley.

Set Two opened up with “Show Me Something Higher” followed by “Madame Boudreaux” into “Iko Iko.” Leftover stayed true to a Louisiana theme throughout the weekend, both in song choices and in the inclusion of special guests. C.R. Gruver and Jeff Watkins of the New Orleans Suspects joined the stage to lend their stylings to a fantastic rendition of “Gulf Of Mexico.”

Next up on the evening’s special guest roster, Bonnie Paine – dressed as Marilyn Monroe -joined with her musical saw for “Delta Queen.” It’s nothing short of captivating the way she plays that thing. The result is a sound equally eerie and beautiful, and a sound she is well known for. After “Delta Queen,” DJ Logic emerged for “Zombie Jamboree,” followed by “Georgie Lou,” “All Night Ride” and “Whatchagonna Do.” Bonnie Paine rejoined with her washboard for another gigantic sing-a-long of “Up On Cripple Creek.” And just like that, the night had come to a close….at least in the Concert Hall.

Yet again, the McGregor Ballroom was the place to be until well into the wee hours of the morning. If you haven’t seen the New Orleans Suspects, I recommend making some adjustments. Those guys are some of the most respected players New Orleans has to offer, and they don’t disappoint, especially when the flavor you’re looking for is late night bayou funk. The stage was constantly revolving with special guests, from Eddie Roberts to DJ Logic and more. It was a real heartbreaking moment when the clock struck three and the show was over.

Those early-ish birds that managed to get themselves down to the Ballroom again witnessed a very special gathering of musicians: Jazz Brunch featuring Sockeye (Greg Garrison, Erik Deutsch, Alwyn Robinson) and their longtime musical hero, clarinet player Don Byron. Guests relaxed in beanbag chairs in front of the stage, drinking bloody mary’s as the players passed around solo after solo, each showcasing their unique musicianship and prowess. Smiles abounded both on-stage and off- as the Sockeye guys were performing with a man they’ve admired since high school. After such high caliber musicianship to get the morning started, it was sure to be another hell of a day at the Stanley.

For the grand finale of the weekend, Leftover performed the first Colorado version of their acoustic “Living Room Set,” which is an outfit they took on the road back in November for nine dates. The band members were seated beneath framed paintings, the rest of the stage decorated with other homey props. They began the show with a few of their original tunes “Muddy Water Home,” “Mountain Top” and “Western Skies,” a personal favorite. Covers (appropriately by the Stanley Brothers) like “How Mountain Girls Can Love,” “Constant Sorrow” and “Heart Of Gold” had people singing and dancing like there was no tomorrow. “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” was Salmon’s encore choice, and the final song of the weekend. After a very jazzy, cajun-y, jam-heavy couple of nights, the band took this Sunday afternoon set to showcase their folk/bluegrass side to the fullest extent.

There was something so uniquely pleasant about wandering around this matinee. It had to be seeing the daylight on everyone’s happy faces after a weekend full of unadulterated fun, walking out of the Concert Hall after Leftover Salmon, and then realizing it wasn’t over. For the weekend’s grand finale, Bonfire Dub and Woodshed Red rounded it all out with performances in the McGregor Ballroom. Bonfire Dub is a Front Range-based roots band that blends worldly acoustic music with powerful, thoughtful lyrics. Woodshed Red plays jammed-out covers of fan favorites from Phish to the Grateful Dead to Tom Petty, with strong musical prowess and instrumentation. Hell of a way to end a magical weekend up in Estes Park.

Photos by Josh Timmermans

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