Leftover Salmon Ft. Bill Payne 11.30.13

Boulder Theater
Boulder, CO

Words & Photos By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot)
Audio By Corey Sandoval (Kind Recordings)

When thinking hard about it most of my friends these days listen to the same music I do and generally a good number of those relationships have started at one of the many great local live music venues that surround us here in Colorado. Bands such as Phish, The String Cheese Incident, and Umphrey’s Mcgee unite me with some of the more special people in my young life and truly bring me to where I am “supposed” to be. Leftover Salmon would definitely be on the list of bands that I have enjoyed many a nights of debauchery and unlimited laughter with some of those incredible people I mentioned above. Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt, and the rest of the Cajun slam-grass Boulder based group bring a sense of joy to whoever is in the audience and the recent shows at the Boulder Theater were nothing short of spectacular. Making these shows even more special than just a normal gathering of the “Salmon-Heads” was the addition of one of the funkiest keyboardists coming all the way from the 60's, Bill Payne from Little Feat. This was not just an addition, it was a treat for all whom were lucky enough to attend and by God did the local boys not disappoint.

Forming now more than 20 years ago in my now hometown of Boulder, Colorado, Leftover Salmon has gone through more than a few lineup changes through their jamband tenure, but their most recent group is hitting on all cylinders. Vince Herman and his hilarious antics are still at the helm, while “Mr. Cool” Drew Emmitt, in my opinion, should be considered as one of the more elite musicians of our time. Vince and Drew have been the cornerstones of Salmon for 24 years and both seem to have no intention of slowing down anytime soon. Drew stands on stage with a battle-ready supply of various stringed instruments, which consist of all sorts of mandolins, electric guitars, and even a fiddle or two. The tones he achieves with some of the fastest picking on this side of the Mississippi combined with using the back of his hand for a slide device is just mind-blowing. Herman is not as well known for his instrumental skills, but you would be hard pressed to find a better front man anywhere in our music scene. But other than these two jamband veterans, the Leftover Salmon lineup has evolved over the years due to various deaths, departures, and forced exits. With Andy Thorn on banjo, Greg Garrison on bass, and new drummer Alwyn Robinson on the kit, Leftover Salmon is back in full swing.

Playing the banjo is hard, or at least it looks incredibly difficult when seeing some of my friends try and recreate those familiar twangy tones. But when watching someone like Andy Thorn do his thing on the 5-string banjo, it is made to seem as though his fingers can flow almost effortlessly along the fret board. Thorn can definitely be described as somewhat of a phenom, and with Garrison and Robinson providing more than just a good rhythm section (They are both incredibly talented, and to say otherwise is just stupid) Leftover Salmon has three younger members who will carry the torch long into the future. Adding anything else to this could be seen as unnecessary, but when it is a true living legend such as Bill Payne from Little Feat, “The dude abides.” This past Saturday night was just another example of how far Salmon has evolved with not only their lineup, but also song choices as they blasted through two heavy-hitting set lists consisting of classic numbers and some choice covers.

Leftover Salmon Live at Boulder Theater on November 30, 2013.

Us Salmon-Heads were treated to “Breakin Thru,” “Squirrel Heads,” and “Mountain Top” right off the bat with “Breakin” having some beautiful harmonizing vocals to set the mood right for the rest of the evening. Cover-wise the traditional bluegrass hit “Steam Powered Aereoplane”, The Band’s “Ophelia” and Bill Payne’s own “Dixie Chicken” both made an appearance in the first set with Payne showing off his soulful vocals on the Little Feat classic. Along with Payne’ s noteworthy solos was the Andy Thorn newly christened Salmon song, “Thornpipe?” With Thorn leading the charge on a furious pace via banjo, both Drew Emmitt and Bill Payne were able to play along with each taking turns almost seeming to tease Thorn to pick faster. As the crowd bounced along in an incredibly happy fashion it seemed as if the Boulder-based group was getting stronger as the night progressed, with “Dixie Chicken” truly providing the band with an awe factor as they exited stage left.

Set One: Hollerwood, Mountain Top, Steam Powered Aereoplane, Pepper In The Vaseline, Breakin’ Thru, Squirrel Heads, Last Days of Autumn, Thornpipe, Ophelia, Dixie Chicken

After a fabulous first set it was hard to imagine Salmon having much left in the tank to get us through the second set with as much force as they had just previously. But wow was I wrong about that! “Rueben’s Train” led off the set with beautiful playing from all members of the now sextet, as we got another surprise when String Cheese’s Kyle Hollingsworth joined one of his personal heroes Payne on organ/keyboard. Kyle provided some delicious keyboard riffs during “Here Comes the Night” and “Keep Driving”, as Payne went back and forth with him on chord combinations and quick transitions. Other Salmon classics such as “Up On the Hill Where They Do The Boogie” and “Don’t Look Back” were played to thunderous applauses, but the ending 4-song combination of Little Feat’s “Willin,” Waylon Jennings' “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” and finally the Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was nothing short of sensational. “Willin” is not only a Little Feat classic, but the lyrics are also some of the more poignant you will hear in any decade. Payne absolutely destroyed all of his solos and to see him smile as much as he did while playing some of his more known tunes was an amazing thing to experience. Vince Herman took lead on the next two, and provided great versions of both Jennings and Reed legendary pieces and Mr. Drew Emmitt showed us another part of his insane musical repertoire by belting out the lyrics to the Rolling Stones classic. This combination almost brought me to tears as “You Can’t Always” is one of my more favorite songs, and hearing Emmitt sing it was bucket-list worthy. To close the night out “Hot Corn, Cold Corn” (with Colonel Corn onstage) gave us a great laugh, right before “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin finished the night off in a rocking fashion.

Set Two: Rueben’s Train, Here Comes the Night*, Keep Driving*, Don’t Look Back, Up on the Hill Where They Do the Boogie, Light Behind the Rain, River’s Rising, Willin’, Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way, Walk on the Wild Side, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Feelin’ Alright

Encore: Hot Corn, Cold Corn & Rock and Roll

*With Kyle Hollingsworth

For the last few Thanksgiving weekends here in Boulder, Leftover Salmon has been treating us Cajun slam-grass fans to spectacular nights of shredding string music and some truly special moments. This year we were lucky enough to catch our homegrown boys play alongside a true legend in Little Feat’s Bill Payne. In my humble opinion, Salmon’s music is supposed to have a keyboard player integrated within the ever-evolving jams so you never know what the future has in store for this eclectic group. Whatever happens I will be along for the ride, as I know Salmon always will provide a good time.

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