Leftovers of long career make tasty stories
Vince Herman is the Cajun Swami. Leftover Salmon is the personification of his spicy, backwoods wisdom. It’s not that the rest of the band is less important; it’s just that Herman is so outspokenly unique.Herman and his outfit of creolized Colorado mystics brew up a family-style musical concoction to kick off the Ford Amphitheater’s Hot Summer Nights with a free show today at 6:30 p.m.”We’re having some of the, probably, most fun shows of our career. I think that we’re really just having a great time playing together, and it’s a good time for us, coming off making this new record – that’s been very encouraging,” said Drew Emmitt. “It’s a fun, full summer of great festivals.”The band’s already hit a few of the late spring/early summer hot spots like Haymaker Music Festival (Spotsylvania, Penn.), Cityfest Live (Charlotte, N.C.), Hookahville (Kirkersville, Ohio), Summercamp 2004 (Chillicothe, Ill.), the Snowmass Village Festival and they will arrive in Vail fresh off two nights of Bonnaroo bliss.
“We have a lot of good friends in Vail. We’ve been playing there for a long time. We go way back to the Jackalope days,” said Emmitt. “Vail was one of the first ski towns that we frequented, so Vail’s always been good to us; we’ve always had a great time there.”Though the band’s played 12 years and virtually formed at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, they will not be performing at this year’s hoe-down.”A couple of us knew each other, but we met Mark (Vann, who passed away), our banjo player, there, which was very key,” said Emmitt. “And we basically had our first gig there, which was kind of just a thrown-together jam downtown at the Roma during the festival. Then we played in the band contest just kind of as a joke.”Herman and Emmitt founded the band with Vann. Herman and Emmitt still lead the group, which has gathered Noam Pikelny on acoustic and electric banjo, Bill McKay on keyboards and vocals, Jose Martinez on drums and Greg Garrison on acoustic and electric bass.”Vince has many talents and many strengths, and, certainly, you’ll not find a better front man, really. He’s always been a lot of fun to work with. I’ve never laughed so much in my life as I have at Vince Herman’s antics, over and over again,” said Emmitt. “He’s one of a kind, that’s for sure.”
When asked to tell his favorite story about Herman, Emmitt chose one away from the stage.”He used to put a sheet around him and wrap either another sheet or a towel around his head, and put on a rubboard and go into convenience stores in the middle of the night, on the road … and sunglasses, can’t forget the sunglasses,” said Emmitt. “He’d walk around the store, playing his rubboard and saying that he was ‘the Cajun Swami.'”And what does Herman look like with a couple of sheets, shades and a percussive chest?”It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen,” said Emmitt. “A lot of times, people didn’t even react. It’s just like, ‘Oh yeah. The 10th ‘Cajun Swami’ of the night just walked in. No big deal.'”
As for the other guys in the band, Emmitt says they’re all joined by the desire to boogie with genre smorgasbord.”Greg holds down the groove. You can always count on him to play well and be consistent. Jose’s from Venezuela and grew up in Miami, and his nickname’s ‘The Eskimo,'” said Emmitt. “Bill’s great piano player and an organ player, and he’s a great singer and songwriter as well. And then Noam Pikelny, our 23-year-old banjo prodigy, who stepped in for Mark after a fairly lengthy search, has been doing a great job.”Herman and Jonny Mogambo play the after-show at Sandbar Sports Grill in West Vail at 10 p.m.Andrew Harley can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.