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Published: 2013/02/25
by Jed Nussbaum

Leftover Salmon, Wilma Theater, Missoula, MT – 2/13

Photo by Matt Riley

As jamgrass pioneers and quintessential pickin’-party band Leftover Salmon draw ever closer to the quarter century mark of their career, the question comes up: Will they ever slow down? Haven’t they lost their edge? Will Vince Herman ever stop smiling? Won’t they ever get tired of playing “Pasta on the Mountain?” The answer that resonated from the stage to the back of Missoula, MT’s Wilma Theater on the first night of their winter tour was an emphatic “No” on all counts.

The band was received by an intimate but animated audience, which they seemed to have expected, removing the customary barrier between the dance floor and the stage so everyone could get personal. Crowd size seemed irrelevant towards the energy of the night or attitude of the band, and the opening “Let’s Give A Party” was a clear indication of the group’s mood – light, but full of fire – complete with the first of many screaming slide mandolin solos by Drew Emmitt.

By the fourth song of the night, “Bird Call,” the dance floor had filled and the band hit their stride, with rock-star leads from both Emmitt and banjo player Andy Thorn. “This is the first show of the year, man,” Herman noted. “I think it’s gonna be a wild one!” Judging by the cheers, everyone seemed to agree.

Thorn has taken his place alongside the other formidable banjo talent the band has seen through the years, delivering some of the night’s finest songs and solos, such as the nearly nine-minute rocker, “Light Behind the Rain.” His flawless lead breaks and fleet-fingered precision fills the shoes of his predecessors without a hiccup.

Drummer Jose Martinez brought in the second set’s first song, “Gulf of Mexico” with a deep-pocket groove, and from there the band was off and running again. A cover of Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue” brought people back to their feet, and the disco beat of “Aquatic Hitchhiker” pushed the dance floor’s “On” button, followed by Emmitt’s searing southern-rock electric guitar licks on “Highway Song.” By the time the 20 minute, “Pasta on the Mountain/Soul Shakedown Party/Hot Corn, Cold Corn” medley began to finally wrap up, the writing was on the wall: this was a fine start to another year for a high-speed locomotive band that never seems to run out of track.

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