The first thing a salmon does from birth is establish its home.
Long before a salmon becomes leftovers, neatly wrapped in a styrofoam container placed in the crisper between the string cheese and lettuce. Before it is placed in the surgical hands of a sue chef or taken in the tattered net of a fisherman, a salmon makes an incredible journey. Like their scale rich counterpart, jam band Leftover Salmon established their home over twenty years ago at the Fox Theatre in their native habitat of Boulder, Colorado. So when it was time for the Fox Theatre to celebrate twenty years of hosting artists the likes of Phish, Hunter S. Thompson, and Willie Nelson on March 6, 2012 they asked hometown heroes Leftover Salmon to return for a two day celebration.
Taking the stage with smiles from ear to ear front man Vince Herman told the crowd, “Start shouting em’ out, we’re going to play ’em all! It’s going to be a dance party tonight!” From that moment on Leftover Salmon had every toe tapping in the house. A fast paced first set kicked the night off with some bluesy fun provided by songs “Steam Boat Whistle Blues” and “Unplug that Telephone”. At times it was hard to keep up with Andy Thorn’s feverish banjo picking as the melody of “Morning Sun” sounded more like the orchestral interlude of “The Flight of the Bumblebee”. As the first set finished with the electric fireworks of “On The Other Side”, I could help but think of the incredible journey of a salmon.
After the initial growth and development in small fresh water springs a salmon takes the long arduous journey to the ocean.
Since Leftover Salmon formed in 1989 there have been fifteen different band members including those currently back stage preparing for another boisterous set. Two days prior they preformed an unannounced set at the Snowball Music Festival in Avon, Colorado to honor the tenth anniversary of the passing of former banjo player Mark Vann. Looking around the Fox Theatre it was inspiring to see faces new and old come together to celebrate the journey.
As the second set beings my eyes scan past the far right of the stage and I spot a canvas and a man who calls himself “Scramble Campbell”. Dancing and flinging paint like a man possessed Scramble has painted over one-hundred artists at the Fox Theatre over the years. Perched over the crowd singing along with to the cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue”, Scramble captured the celebration covered in yellows and greens.
Not without their own genetic mutations, Leftover Salmon lived up to their cartoonish self-owned classification as Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass in the second set. Drew Emmitt owned the title as he took a glass side to and electric mandolin making Woody Guthrie sound like Jimi Hendrix. Described as a “firehouse” by Herman earlier in the night, drummer Jose Martinez kept everyone on time during “River’s Rising” as the second set ended with a splash.
After spending the majority of its life in the vast ocean, the salmon instinctively returns home to its place of origin.
Even after playing a three hour show, Leftover Salmon is still in the present, celebrating the past, and looking toward the future. They finished the night with a four song encore including Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” and the sing-a-long tune “Rise Up”. With twenty years under its belt, the Fox Theatre looks to continue hosting great musical acts on the hill. Hopefully for the rest of us, Leftover Salmon will be there to share in both the celebration and the journey.