Leftover Salmon comes to Beaver Creek
Last year at around this time, Leftover Salmon fired up the tour bus and embarked on its first string of dates since the band’s hiatus in 2005. One of the stops on that brief mountain run was at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek, where the group tested the waters for a potential next chapter in the 20-plus-year history of the Colorado jam-grass pioneers.
With a new album in the can (set for a May release), Leftover Salmon has scheduled more than 25 dates between now and Memorial Day, touring through not only the Rocky Mountain region, but through the heartland and Southeast as well.
Led by founding members Drew Emmitt and Vince Herman, Leftover Salmon has been tearing up the Colorado and national music scenes since 1989 when the band formed in Boulder. A mix of bluegrass, rock, country and Zydeco, the group describes itself as “polyethnic Cajun slamgrass.”
“(Last winter) was our first, sticking-our-toes-in-the-water attempt at getting the band on the road again, and it went extremely well,” Emmitt said. “This year’s tour is a broadening of that concept – get the band out for a little longer. And we’re pumped up. … It feels good, like a whole new era for us.”
Officially celebrating the group’s 20th anniversary at the Fox Theater in Boulder this week, Salmon’s 2012 schedule sends the pickers to familiar sites, such as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June, and to more modern festivals, like Avon’s SnowBall, where they served as the weekend’s “Secret Guest” on Sunday.
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“It’s how we started, when we first started really getting down with this band 22 years ago. We were playing ski towns. It’s the foundation of what this band is,” Emmitt said. “The mountain folks are definitely some of our favorites crowds to play for.”
With a packed schedule and new music on the way, it’s full steam ahead for the previously disbanded Salmon, although they’re planning to pace themselves a bit more compared to the last go-round: two or three quick tours per year with a festival thrown into the mix from time to time.
The catalyst for the band’s breakup in ’05 was banjo player Noam Pikelny leaving the group to join the John Cowan Band. Tracking down a new banjo man would be an arduous and emotional endeavor for Leftover Salmon, which only three years prior had to replace founding member Mark Vann, who lost his life to cancer.
The group has since been revitalized, Emmitt said, by the addition of Andy Thorn, who captures Salmon’s original energy and sound with a return to the electric banjo.
“Andy (Thorn) is amazing. He is really one of the reasons why this band has new life. It’s very reminiscent of the old Salmon days with Mark (Vann). He’s very similar to Mark. He’s got great energy; he’s young and really enthusiastic and excited about being in the band.”
Salmon’s new album, “Aquatic Hitchhikers,” will be its first since 2003. Recorded in November without copious amounts of overdubbing, the record is intended to capture the spontaneity of the group’s live performances.
“It’s all brand new material that we created pretty much on the spot, and we’re really pleased with how it came out,” Emmitt said. “It’s completely different (from our earlier work). It’s pretty much like no Salmon record we’ve ever made. It’s really organic. It was recorded very live. It’s very rootsy – a little more Americana, folk-like. But there’s definitely some rock in there.”
Emmitt played to the Vilar Center crowd earlier this winter with the Emmitt-Nershi Band, a string quartet he fronts alongside String Cheese Incident guitarist Billy Nershi.
“(The Vilar Center) is just top-notch. It’s a really great place to play, and it’s incredibly well done,” Emmitt said. “I think it sounds good from pretty much anywhere in the theater for the audience – and it sounds great onstage. It’s really, hands down, one of the most beautiful venues of its size in the country.”