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Published: 2002/09/15
by John Sents

Salmonfest, Bearcat Getaway, Lesterville, Missouri, 8/30-9/1

Leftover Salmon brought the party back to Missouri for the second annual
"Fester In Lester," transforming the beautiful riverfront campground into a festy-ville of
costumed gorillas, Mayor McCheeses and exploratory music. The festival,
which was dedicated to the memory of former Leftover banjo player Mark Vann
and former Widespread Panic guitarist Michael Houser, brought a diverse
selection of bands sure to satisfy the musical palate.

The first day of music included sets from Keller Williams and Galactic-who
heated up the early arriving masses with a mix of old favorites and new
tunes. Highlights included a Galactic cover of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta
Love." Leftover Salmon headlined the first night in prime form with a
smoking first set that included hot versions of "Carnival Time" and the John
Hartford classic, "Up on the Hill."

We took advantage of the set break to check out Eckobase from Fayetteville,
Arkansas. The band drew a strong crowd to the second stage to catch their
set of jazz influenced electronic jams.

Got back to the main stage just in time to catch the beginning of Leftover's
second set featuring Saxophonist Ben Ellman and guitarist Jeff Raines of
Galactic. Shortly thereafter, drummer virtuoso Stanton Moore stepped up to
join in on a huge version of Bob Marley's "Small Axe."

The second day brought more music and madness, with early sets from New
Orleans singer/songwriter Theresa Andersson. Despite a short but thorough
rainfall, Andersson worked the crowd up with her lively interpretation of
roots-pop with New Orleans soul. She was followed by Mofro, a stripped down
bluesy funk band from Florida. Next, the Australian John Butler Trio gave a
taste of things to come with an extremely emotional and politically charged
set on the river stage. They were followed by Umphrey's McGee from Chicago,
who drew the largest crowed to the second stage by far. The Midwest
harvested band blew the roof off the stage with a set that was far too short
for our liking. We left completely pumped up for Leftover, who followed sets
by Jorma Kaukonen & Blue Country and Robert Earl Keen on the main stage.

Leftover didn't slow down the energy a bit. With a two and a half hour set
of unbelievable music and stage theatrics. As the boys came to the stage,
their humongous light setup gave a surreal effect due to the natural fog
created from the rain earlier in the day. With their new banjo player Matt
Flinner donning a giant plastic head, and front man Vince Herman in a
striking blond wig, the band ripped through outstanding versions of
"Troubled Times" and a "River's Rising" that featured dancers on the stage
wearing glow outfits. Leftover was joined by Theresa Andersson on "Nobody's
Fault but Mine" and the Rolling Stones' "Let It Bleed."

After their set, the fun spilled out into the campgrounds, as Herman and the
rest of Planet Salmon led a hilarious parade to judge the "best campsite"
contest. Wookie Foot, hailing from Oregon to play the festival, took the
prize for their elaborate campsite and theatrics. They will have their own
(locked) porta-potty with plaque for next years festival.

Highlights from the last day included sets from Spookie Daly Pride from
Boston and Bockman's Euphio from St. Louis, two of the sleeper bands to
emerge with big sets in the festival. Leftover Salmon played an acoustic set
(with a little help from David Grisman) that appropriately closed with
"Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow." David Grisman Quintet followed with a magical
set of acoustic tunes including "Grateful Dawg" and "Arabia."

The festival was closed by Umphrey's McGee-who stepped to the stage to the
chant of "Cubs suck!" from an obviously biased crowd of St. Louis Cardinals
fans. The heavily Midwest audience was treated to an extended set that
picked up where their shortened set the day before had left off. The band
was joined by Herman and Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon for a tune that
featured a "plastic chicken jam" by Herman. They closed the festival with
Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains The Same."

Leftover Salmon and High Sierra music are hoping to repeat their festival
next year.

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