Festivaaal! Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass giants, Leftover Salmon brought the sauce to Fort Collins’ Aggie Theater this April. The Americana, string-based, electric bluegrass band is on Spring Tour in support of the 2012 release Aquatic Hitchhiker (produced by Steve Berlin on Los Records.) Members include: Vince Herman (co-founder, singer, guitarist and washboard player) Drew Emmitt (co-founder, singer, guitarist, fiddle and mandolin player) Andy Thorn (banjo, vocals, also Emmitt-Nershi Band) Greg Garrison (Bass, Vocals) Jose Martinez (Drums).
The crowd stretch south lined down the sidewalk along College Avenue. Heady anticipation rose as the audience approached the glowing marquee of the Aggie Theater. “The time is right for this band to come back” says Emmitt. He was referring to last year’s album release. But one look at the Saturday night crowd, and you would think he was talking directly to the FoCo community. The place was packed! Slowly, from the sidewalk-past the soundboard, u(p)stream- stretching to the stage. We had reached the musical headwaters of tonight’s Salmon concert. They opened with “Liza > Gulf of Mexico,” both off of Aquatic Hitchhiker.
Salmon churned out Voodoo Queen Marie by the 60’s psychedelic folk band, The Holy Modal Rounders. With the intensity up, Salmon lead into “Aquatic Hitchhiker,” the title track penned by former RockyGrass Banjo Contest winner Andy Thorn. “Andy’s a real young guy with a lot of great energy” says Herman, “there’s just something intangible about playing with Andy that kind of makes Drew and I look at each other and grin.” That intangible energy gave the audience a gigantic grin too. (A guy next to me said, “the floor is trying to steal my shoes, they keep sticking.” I tried to tell him that they just got melted along with his face.)
Aquatic Hitchhiker is Salmon’s first record in eight years and first all-original material, many played this evening. But in between the originals, Salmon welcomed on Johnny Hickman of Cracker to play a series of covers: “Little Maggie” (Stanley Brothers)> “Lonesome Johnny” (O' Cracker Where Art Thou?) > “Danger Man” (David Bromberg -Wanted Dead or Alive). Martinez also welcomed multiple guest percussionists^ on to the stage for a drum solo tucked into Booboo.
The second set was a confluence of calypso, jazz grass, and rock. A “New Grass Revival” with a heavy rain pouring outside the theater. Herman acknowledged the weather as a perfect time to go into “Light Behind the Rain.” It was perhaps the apex of the night. Emmitt’s electric guitar transcended the speakers and swelled in the open space just below the ceiling, it was an amazing moment so many Salmon fans had been waiting for. The energy of 1993,that Emmitt and Herman acknowledge has returned with Thorn and this recent album release after a long hiatus.
The encore turned the Aggie upside down. While not a cover, “Dance on Your Head” seems derivative of jazz icon, *Ornette Coleman’s Album “Dancing in Your Head,” (beyond the nominal correlation) specifically the track "Theme From a Symphony." Herman’s lyrics are upbeat and it is a dance favorite anytime they play it. Salmon closed the night with another nod to The Holy Modal Rounders, recognizable to many fans as Salmon’s 1997 title track, “Euphoria” before ending with a original song off that same release, “River Rising.”
Leftover Salmon setlist at the Aggie 4/13/2013
... Gulf of Mexico
Voodoo Queen Marie
Gold Hill Line
Sing up to the Moon *
Hi Way Song
Jokester *, #
Lonesome Johnny **
Danger Man **
Lets Give a Party
Here Comes the Night
Bend in the River
Light Behind the Rain
Ridin the L&N
The Other Side
Mr Wrong **
Baby Please **
Out in the Woods **
Railroad Blues **
Rivers Rising **
* Alwyn on Drums & Percussion
# Alejandro Castano on drums & Percussion
** Johnny Hickman on Guitar & Vocals
^ (w/ guest percussionists Allman, Robinson, Alejandro?)
* GW fans may find it interesting that Jerry Garcia played guitar on three tracks from Coleman's Virgin Beauty (1988): "Three Wishes," "Singing In The Shower," and "Desert Players."