07 May 2016 - The American Theatre - Hampton, VA
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;
Special Guest: Erik Deutsch - keyboards, piano, melodica
It was a lovely flight Saturday morning from Denver to Richmond, VA, made all the more so since we’d be seeing Leftover Salmon in Hampton, VA, later that evening. Our heads and hearts still filled to the brim from our Colorado run with Turkuaz the two previous nights, we were in fine form and ready for some of that polyethnic cajun slamgrass we’ve all come to love so much over the years. The drive east from Richmond gave us plenty of time to jam to some Salmon and relax a bit. Then we met up with some friends to do all that lovely pre-show pre-gaming before heading down to The American Theatre, a rather intimate venue space and certainly a rather tiny place to be seeing Leftover. What a special treat this was turning out to be! It was a good crowd that had formed, too. A healthy mixture of all types of folks, all there to see some intensely good music. Speaking of which, shall we talk about just that? Some music? Yes, let’s!
From the very beginning, the show took on a very “Storytellers” type of vibe, with Vince talking a bit about each song in between numbers and shelling out a few anecdotes along the way. The band had all each dressed in a sports jacket as well so as to class up the affair even further. If I’d only gotten the memo…oh well. Next time. Vince introduced the first song as one of the old Lefthand String Band songs in the repertoire (Lefthand String Band being one half of the two bands that joined together to form Leftover Salmon) - “Gold Hill Line” is a Drew Emmitt lead and was possessed of a vibrant energy that was the perfect kick start to the show. Vince busted out some fast pickin’ in the form of a super quick guitar solo which Drew answered with a big mando solo of his own. Erik Deutsch took full advantage of the grand piano on stage at The American all evening and in this one especially. Just love the sound of Salmon with some savvy keys. A big start to a big Saturday night show. “Blues in a Bottle” was up next with Vince at the microphone for this one sounding marvelous as usual, the perfect front man for his chosen genre. Vince called out Erik for a solo and solo he did. Man, can that cat play those keys!! So very good! Not to mention Andy and Drew’s monster solos along they way through these blues in a bottle…magnificent! Following “Blues” came an old fan favorite, “Liza”, a song with a groovy and happy energy as well as some light and lovely lyrics. Mr. Deutsch tore it up on the keys once again, much to loud appreciation of the crowd and I quite agreed with them. Mr. Thorn threw down supremely good electric banjo solo about midway through the song, eliciting rounds of hoots and hollers from the crowd. Again, I agreed with each one. As I did for those following Drew’s mandolin solo as well. Three songs in and they were sounding fantastic, really easy going and free — it was a cool feeling to tap into as an audience member. Drew was back up to the mic for the lead in “Western Skies” which came next. After his familiar mando lead in, he was off and crooning for us in only the way that Mr. Emmitt can. Their ensemble sound was really on point that evening and was really apparent in this song. Love the mean beats that Alwyn was laying down, too; he really gives such drive to this one. Nothing like watching someone open a grand piano up the way that Erik during his solo work in “Western”, either — he truly dominated those ivories, really boosting the overall impact of the song. Great stuff. Vince introduced Andy Thorn and the next in the same breath, a banjo tune from Andy’s background, “Bolin Creek”. And, holy goodness, did he just kill it on the banjo!! Just when you think you’ve seen him play at his fastest, boom! More hard drivin’, fast pickin’ to lend doubts. And just wicked quickness from everyone in the band! Drew, Vince, Erik, Greg, Alwyn — all of them just smoking right along to the intense tempo set by Andy at the start. What a wondrous whirlwind of sizzling string band music! At the end of “Bolin” Vince, Drew, and Andy left the stage leaving a trio of Alwyn, Greg, and Erik behind. This trio then persuaded to play us a really simmering jazz-influenced number. Fantastic all around. From those delectable drums of Alwyn to Greg’s stalwart and moving bass line to Erik just owning the keys…as I said, fantastic. Vince, Andy, and Drew rejoined them towards the end where we got some great interplay between Andy and Erik, banjo and piano. Really incredible stuff! Drew led on fiddle for “Bend in the River” which came next and which was followed by “Woody Guthrie”, with Vince Herman on vocals. “Hey Woody Guthrie, where are you?” A very good question these days it would seem. More white hot banjo from Mr. Thorn came next in the form of “Winter’s Gone”, Thorn also taking lead vocals here. Nothing like hearing a great Colorado song. So many bands seem to have them these days, however, I’m not sure there are many that have more than Leftover Salmon. And, can you blame them? Of course, I am a little biased. But I try to keep that in check of you, my trusting readers. But, I digress. Back to the music…and Drew’s masterful mando solo right smack in the middle of the song. Boy, he sure can work that tiny fretboard! The last song of their first set was “Down in the Hollow”, a song born out of Emmitt’s Tennessee background and one for which he sang the lead. Vince nailed a fire hot guitar solo to the ground while we all soaked it in, happy as hell to be there for this unique and exquisite show. More delicious keys from Mr. Deutsch definitely decorated the musical landscape of this one with beauty and power. It had been a strong first set and it certainly had me hungry for more superb music, Salmon-style.
After a brief set break we were all back in our seats (Yes, seats. Which made for kind of a weird show. But the music was solid so let’s get back to it.) and ready for the second set. “Never let reality get in the way of a good story, I always say.” Words of true wisdom laid down by Vince Herman, himself. And by way of introduction to the first song of the set, “Molly and Ten Brooks”. Just like that we were back in the world of hard drivin’ fast pickin’ and couldn’t have been more ecstatic. Drew sang lead for this one, a number completely and charismatically colored by a round robin of each member on their respective instrument, tearing it up like so many magical musical madmen. Zydeco time? “Zombie Jamboree” time? Why, yes, how did you guess? Vince was entertaining as usual on the vocals of this old Salmon favorite interspersed with some impressive banjo work from Andy Thorn, some truly killer keyboard stylings from Erik Deutsch, and, of course, the mean mando skills of Drew Emmitt. Always a fun time, that song. “Thornpipe” was the next wild ride of the evening for us replete with a little “Sailor’s Life” teaser at the beginning and characterized by yet more of that five-string supercollider of Andy’s setting the pace and the tone. Which Vince picked up like a master on the guitar and ran with it himself for a good distance. This one was really hitting up a fast clip, one which Drew had no problems matching on mandolin. And things always managed to come back to Andy and his banjo. Loved this one…really look forward to hearing it again sometime soon! Next in line for the evening was “Highway Song” introduced by Vince’s anecdotal reminiscing about how in 26 years of touring they’d never hit a traffic jam, going “80 miles an hour everywhere.” Tall tale? It sure sounded like it to me and to the rest of the audience as well. Vince said that maybe he was remembering it wrong. And laughed. Good times with Uncle Vince. Alwyn delivered a mighty fine and funky drum intro for “Highway” that set the perfect tone for the remainder of the song. Love that man’s drumming!! Really lovely piano floating over the top of those drums care of Erik — thank you, kind sir. Oh, and big thanks to Drew for the gargantuan electric guitar solo that he dominated in the mid section of the song. Mighty fine work, good sir! Vince was back up to the mic for “Get Up and Go” which followed “Highway Song” and was ready to deliver that very brand of wisdom a person needs in this life. “Get out the door, get up and go!” What excellent advice in this day and age when our lives and things seem to weigh us down. Sometimes we just need to get up and go!! You know? I really enjoyed the guitar and mando duet in this one between Vince and Drew. More of that amazing ensemble sound I love from my Salmon. A favorite of mine came after, “High Country”, one that instantly got me moving and grooving all over again after a night full of doing just that. Hot banjo and some tight vocal harmonies? Crazy good mando and mad great keyboards? Yes to all of that more, please! Which is exactly what “High Country” has in spades! A little later down the set we got a really soulful and bit mellower version of “The Time” with Drew at the helm, laying down the lead vocals. Andy took the opportunity to throw down a beautiful banjo solo to counterpoint Drew’s strong singing. “Dance On Yer Head” got that “festival!!” feeling going to help the show finish out strongly, the urge to dance so intense in so many of us. Damn chairs! But that didn't stop us from jamming out to this thoroughly enjoyable song along with the band. Thorn brought out the big guns on his solo, working that banjo of his expertly and with precision. Big keys coming from Erik’s side of the stage, perfect for this song, nailing it to the wall. I sincerely hope that the band is considering a permanent position for him — that would be excellent news. The final song of the set was “All Night Ride” with Drew back up to the mic. Vince tore up the guitar for us in fine fashion keeping with the blistering pace of the song. Such adept quickness from each member of the band. Andy, Erik, Greg, Alwyn…all these incredible musicians playing so perfectly right up until the last note. A whiz-bang ending to a unique and memorable show with Leftover Salmon! But they weren’t done just yet; there is the matter of the encore which we just happened to record for you. Please enjoy, friends!!
What a show, from start to finish! I truly dug the vibe of the evening and the quaint little venue, it was all pretty marvelous from many angles. A huge thanks to the band for a really fun and funny evening of expert music and Salmon stories!! A huge thanks as well to The American Theatre for hosting us all for a wonderful night. So worth making the trip to Virginia!