23 July 2016 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO
for The Lot Scene by Parker
Band Members: Vince Herman - vocals, acoustic guitar, washboard; Drew Emmitt - vocals, acoustic and electric mandolin, electric guitar, fiddle; Andy Thorn - vocals, acoustic and electric banjo; Greg Garrison - vocals, acoustic and electric bass; Alwyn Robinson - drums; Erik Deutsch - keyboards, piano, melodica
Music and friendship. The two go so well together, creating so many wonderful things in the process. A natural marriage of ideas and ideals that was so apparent at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO, this past weekend. Hometown heroes, Leftover Salmon, epitomized the very meaning of musical friendship opening things up for their pals from Kalamazoo, MI, Greensky Bluegrass who would be playing their first headline show at Red Rocks to a sold out crowd. There has been mention of a “passing of the torch” from Salmon to Greensky, but that isn’t quite what I observed the other evening. What I saw instead was the coming together of two bands in joyous camaraderie to share a stage and a night of music under the rainbow skies at the historic venue: true friendship made manifest through sound and sight and shared experience. And what I saw was magical — a night of celebration and merriment for one and all, bands and fans alike. Smiles were abounding and legion all evening long, even through the scattered rain and winds, each one a testament to the spirit of friends-made-family emanating from the stage. And, that afternoon, no fewer than three different rainbows graced the skyscape over top of the stage and spilling down onto distant Denver and the surrounding hills. The magnificence of Nature all around us, bathing our faces in the golden light of the evening sun and the multicolored hues of those utterly beautiful arcs in the skies above, we were ushered into the musical bliss of our big night of wonderment by some good ol’ fashioned polyethnic Cajun slamgrass, care of Leftover Salmon, of course!!
One of Colorado’s most Colorado bands, Leftover Salmon are no strangers to the Red Rocks stage. Which is why they made the perfect ambassadors to open the gates for Greensky to follow. In my opinion, an incredibly cool and classy thing to do on their part and embodying that organic meaning of friendship. As such, we all knew that Salmon would be throwing down some serious jams and hot energy that night and we weren’t to be disappointed. They started the whole shebang with Vince on lead vocals for “Dance on Your Head”, a highly danceable and enjoyable staple of the LoS catalogue. This song has been with the band and their fan base for a nice long time and was the perfect way to begin. Instantly the party-time electricity was felt blasting up from the speakers as each member of the band settled in to jam our faces off. Tons of great stuff happened in this one like Andy Thorn and Erik Deutsch laying down a little keys-backed banjo solo which turned duet at points in very tasty ways. And this was only a minute or so in. Vince was clearly already having fun himself, playing around with the vocals a bit and dancing around like the merriest of madmen. And then, back to Mr. Deutsch: his solo? Just stellar on every conceivable level. Piano, keys, organ…all of it and more. Again, I must gush and say how incredibly happy I am that he is a part of one of my very favorite bands. Erik brings a vast amount of everything to the Salmon table and it all fits in so seamlessly with all that is the band. Last but not least, Drew’s solo on electric was pretty raw and remarkable. Talk about your versatility in a single band! So much talent and so much skill being brought to bear for our enjoyment. How can’t you love this? Next up was “All Night Ride” filled with tons of hard drivin’, fast pickin’ for everyone to enjoy. Drew was on lead vocals for this one as well as mandolin, setting a nice, blistering pace for all the dancing feet on tier after tier of Red Rocks. Vince’s guitar and Drew’s mando dominated throughout, Drew’s solo of particular quickness and mastery. All of this, of course, backed by the man behind the beat, Mr. Alwyn Robinson, whose percussion skills rained down with perfectly-timed drops of those mystical sticks of his, driving songs like this one like a freight train. “Walkin’ Shoes” followed “ All Night Ride” with Uncle Vince back up to the mic take the lead. Lovely and large ensemble sound coming out of this one at the beginning setting a great tone and tempo for this version. Greg Garrison gave us a nice clinic in sweet bass lines about a minute plus into things at the behest of Vince — the good doctor was in, thank goodness. This gave way to a fantastic round-robin all the way around the band with so many solos coming from so many instruments, keys and strings everywhere. In turn, “Two Highways” followed up with Drew back up to the mic. They took this one at a good clip, seeming to want to keep the energy at as high a level throughout the amphitheatre as possible. Andy Thorn’s solo a couple of minutes in was blindingly fast in its execution (no surprise there) and incredible to behold. That man just keeps getting better and better and better at what he does with his chosen instrument. And aren’t we all thankful he does? And what about that ending jam? Oh my goodness, how incredible it was!! Huge band jamming all around followed by a monster electric solo from Drew? Just massive amounts of music coming at you all at once…and such great music, too. So good!! Later on down the set it was time for the band to channel some Taj Mahal with “Lovin’ in My Baby’s Eyes”, a personal favorite of mine. Leftover had recorded a version of this song with Taj on their album The Nashville Sessions so it was special to be getting a version there at Red Rocks. Vince Herman took lead vocals for this one, the strumming of his rhythm guitar like the voice of an old friend throughout. The central breakdown was filled with all sorts of goodness, from Andy on banjo to Erik on keys to Drew on mando, all three tearing it up and threatening to evoke tears with the beauty of their jammed out melodies. Just magnificent!! I was completely unprepared for what came next: some Jimi Hendrix. That’s right…you read that correctly. Jimi. As imagined by Salmon. What could be better, right? It was certainly a supremely cool version of “The Wind Cries Mary” to be sure. I’d never heard the song done up bluegrass-style before. Andy Thorn’s banjo lit things up early on taking up the melody line only to hand it over to Drew on vocals. This one was an instant crowd pleaser as soon as we were all sure of just what exactly we were hearing. And the band took it and ran, that’s a fact, my friends. Erik had his chance to dominate on keys, of course, and that he did, in spades, many times over. But it was the entire band together who shone most brightly during this song, so much big and bold ensemble sound bursting into the night sky. Drew also took a nice, lengthy, rockin’ solo on electric for us handing the reigns back to Andy on banjo who marched up and down his fretboard like a mad scientist of bluegrass groove. This was a big one, good people. Big. One I would very much suggest finding on the Internet Archive (please, do yourself a favor!!). Suffice it say, there were lots and lots and lots of ecstatic faces beaming round after this one wrapped. Mine included. A lengthy and lovely and lunatic “Bolin Creek” followed up the Hendrix giving us a simmering, sizzling instrumental reason to keep our feet a-dancing in the crowd gathered between Ship Rock and Creation Rock, one of the best places to be on this planet. This one was peppered through and through with one simple thing: bodacious beastly bluegrass badassery. So many notes, so quickly played!! How?? Almost impossible…and from each and every man on that stage, too. Mad beats? Mad notes? Madness abounding? You bet, my friend. And all so delicious to the ears!! Bravo to each and every member of the band for this one. What a ride! A 13:05 ride to be exact. Wow. Another one for the Internet Archive assignment, I’m afraid. Heck, you should probably just listen to the entire set, really. You know, only if you love incredible music, that is. Next up, Vince announced Anders Beck from Greensky who joined Leftover for a rendition of “Breakin’ Thru” on his mighty dobro. Drew took the lead on this song as per the usual, crooning to us in that unique and lovely voice of his. Let me tell you, I do love dobro with my Leftover Salmon. I mean, I just freakin’ love it. And last Saturday was no exception whatsoever. Anders sounded simply marvelous, both in the texture of the group and during his solo. The man is an adept on his instrument, there can be no argument. And he makes it looks so blasted easy, too!! So does Erik, for that matter. Such a comfortable mastery on those keyboards, hands flying, fingers dancing. How much great music can one heart hold, right? And only to have Andy join in and throw even more notes at you? More and more and more! Yes, please!! I’ll gladly take them all!! This was another hefty one, too coming in at 8:35 — talk about getting the most from your music. With this band? By a long shot. Finally, Vince closed things out by thanking all the mothers in the audience, especially those of the band, for all that they do. It was touching and sweet and classic Vince. Then, he invited a couple of “Salmon Eggs” on stage, his own son, Silas Herman, and also Eli Emmitt to come and join in the fun on mandolin and guitar, respectively. There is nothing like getting to see a couple of proud papas and their sons jam out on the stage at Red Rocks. And with Anders still sitting in, things promised to get really special for the last song of the night. It just so happens we grabbed that very song on video for you which we will bring to you now:
See just how magical the night really was? And to think it was only the beginning. But what a freakin’ beginning, right? Salmon really did blow the doors off the opening for Greensky, true and true. And that prevailing feeling of friendship? Found everywhere…bouncing off the very walls of Red Rocks and around the hills of the Front Range. I really cannot think of a better way for things to have gone. Perfectly is the word that comes to mind. The perfect preparation. So many thanks to Leftover for putting on such a helluva show. It truly was special. And kind. And kickass. Damn, do I love this band!!
Stay tuned for Greensky Bluegrass and their first headliner at Red Rocks!!