Leftover Salmon & Head For The Hills 11.25.11
Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis & J-man
The thought of a two night Leftover Salmon run in Denver conjures up images of a homecoming celebration of the rarest sort. Salmon's dates have been limited in recent years, so that night in Denver was a very special occasion. Good cheer was in the air as it was also Thanksgiving weekend. Salmon was joined by another Colorado band, Head For The Hills, who opened the weekend's shows and added to the get-down.
At the ticket booth, the line extended down the block due to high demand. It felt good to get into The Ogden and out of the cold. We grabbed a couple of drinks and headed upstairs. Head For The Hills had already taken the stage and were already impressing the large crowd. Their music was extremely full sounding and very well arranged. Their cohesive and energetic phrasing and melodies thrilled the early arrivers, who seemed greater in number than most typical shows.
Watching Head For The Hills felt like we were witnessing what would normally be a headliner, but with Leftover backstage warming up, H4H would take a back seat on the bill... however not musically. They charged forward with precision and thrilling instrumentation. As has always been the case with H4H, I was impressed. For what many would consider a bluegrass band, H4H stepped way outside of the genre and utilized influences from all over the musical spectrum.
Their exit from the stage left folks wanting more, but alas openers don't perform encores. The stage cleared, more beer was purchased, folks packed in and Leftover Salmon took the stage. Vince approached the microphone and had this to say:
"...Good to see you Colorado folks and folks from all around the country coming out for this. Especially our mountain friends and all of the folks from Nederland. Music is a great thing... It can heal you in rough times. This show goes out to the memory of Michigan Mike. We're all tangled up in blue and don't know what to do and all we can do is take care of our friends... Pay attention."
Leftover Salmon Live at Ogden Theater on November 25, 2011.
With that, Leftover Salmon began with "Tangled Up In Blue" and the healing began. Salmon sounded fine-tuned from the start. The Ogden was comfortably packed in and folks were getting what they came for. Beautifully tight instrumentation crisscrossed sound vocal contributions from Vince and Drew Emmitt. Bill McKay's organ playing was phenomenally tasteful and soothing, matching his solid vocals.
Early on it was decided... I was impressed. It seemed like a whole new upgraded/polished version of Salmon. After a few songs, Vince leaned to the mic and said:
"It sure feels good to be back here on this holiday! Well, good friends, we're here to tell you that you're going to get a lot more Salmon in your ears if you want it in this coming year. We're going to go into the studio next week, right here in town... Make us one of them records. One of them round things. You know you put a needle on it and spin it around. We're all fired up..."
It was a good day to be a Salmon fan. The Ogden was buzzing as Leftover jumped into another jam. I looked around the insanely energetic room and took a deep breath. The lights we're bright. I was captivated and thrilled with what I was hearing. I stared at the stage from the balcony and then it hit me... Andy Thorn. That's what was different. The addition of Andy Thorn has seemed to sparked something in Salmon. The loss of Mark Vann left a huge gap that until the addition of Andy, was never properly filled. I watched as Andy rolled through some driving/aggressive banjo licks, while keeping time in an impeccable manner.
On the other side of the stage, Drew had ventured into some powerful rock oriented slide mandolin. I had never witnessed anything like it. As the night progressed I was sucked into the music and the vibe. The first set was great and Leftover ended with a version of their ever-so-popular "Euphoria." A combination of bluegrass and rock was fed to fans on a silver platter. With Salmon going into the studio the following week, the nuts and bolts had been tightened.
They took what would turn out to be a quite lengthy setbreak, leaving the fans to wander aimlessly with huge smiles on their faces and a twinkle in their eyes. Salmon's crowd is always good people. We ran into some of the Quixote's staff and conversed loudly, laughing and yucking it up. We were all in good form that evening.
Salmon hit the stage for another round of madness and our focus re-shifted. I was overcome with happiness and energy. They played some entertaining material that included songs such as "Squirril Heads & Gravy". From that point on things became increasingly hazy. I remember laughing, I remember smiling, but most of all I remember being in a state of bliss...
Set One: Tangled Up In Blue>Pay My Dues> Two Trains Running>Pay My Dues, Everything Is Round, The Other Side, Keep On Walking, Blue Kentucky Sky, Doing My Time, Euphoria
Set Two: Dance On Your Head, Squirrel Heads and Gravy, Get A Rolling, Oh Eliza!, Light Behind The Rain, Fastest Song, Bend In The River, Junco Partner, I Don't Know You, Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow> Whole Lotta Love, Can't Get No Better, Breaking Through, Better, Hot Corn Cold Corn, Dead Flowers, Rise Up
Leftover Salmon is at the top of their game. Look out for Salmon in 2012 and get it while you can!
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