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Leftover Salmon, Aggie Theatre, Fort Collins, CO- 1/29-30

It felt like too long had passed since the last time America’s favorite Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass outfit, Leftover Salmon had graced the stage at the Aggie Theater. They announced a two night run and tickets sold quickly. This band continues to innovate and focus on destination and festival events with much success. They are on the cusp of their second Friday the 13th run at the famed Stanley Hotel. That event sold out instantly, spurred on by everyone who missed it the year prior. This ever-shifting musical mêlée is still co-helmed by Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt after 27 years of picking together. However, Bill Payne has departed the group for now working full time with The Doobie Brothers. The press release read, “…while not a member of Leftover Salmon any longer, (Payne) is still very much a part of their extended family and will still be sitting in with them when schedules allow.” (source Doobie Brothers Site) Fans expecting to see Mr. Payne were instead greeted by the fresh face of Bobby Lee Rodgers on stage. He sat in for the entirety of both shows. Taking on opening duties for the run was Vince’s own son Silas and his band Gipsy Moon.

Friday

Gipsy Moon has endured some lineup changes and emerged a cleaner and more intriguing band. With the departure of Dave Matters they gained Matt Cantor on bass. Mackenzie Page has stepped into the limelight as quite the front-woman. Her soulful vocals are a striking juxtaposition to the hard picking band.

Set 1: Distant Thunder, Revolt, Sticks n Stones, Banish Misfortune, Clementine, Once in a Dream, Cheyenne, Daybreak, Blue Sky, Dark Eyes

They played for just under an hour focusing on their signature Americana. This string quartet draws you in with delicate intros followed by explosive finger picking. Highlights included the flawless instrumental “Revolt” and the ethereal eruption “Once In A Dream.” They brought up LoS drummer Alwyn Robinson to jam with the band for a song or two, which was a rare treat for fans of both bands. Gipsy Moon closed their set with the hauntingly, beautiful “Dark Eyes.” Gipsy Moon should be on your radar if they are not firmly planted there already.

Overall the Aggie has seen many improvements including an updated sound system and a better configuration of the floor as well as dual bar service. We noted that cocktail prices my have gone up a buck apiece on average, but the jovial vibe more than makes up for the drink tax. Leftover Salmon remains the stalwart party band from the days of yore. Everyone involved just seems happy, and there is nothing better than watching a band who is all smiles as they perform. When Vince and Company are having a good time we are all having a good time. The band emerged with an energetic “Liza” to start their run.

Set 1: Liza, Western Sky, Mountain Home, Get ‘er Rollin’, Better Day, Aquatic Hitchhiker, Head Bag

Set 2: Reuben’s Train, Where Did The Radio Go, Two Highways, Colorado Evermore, Get Up and Go, Ask The Fish> Gin and Juice*> Once In A Lifetime> Ask The Fish, Outerspace, Space is the Place, Fixin’ To Die Blues, All Night Ride

Encore: Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?

*Featuring improvised lyrics about a “Fish in the Poudre”

Audio by Eric Wilkens and Jim Walters

The intricate yet delicate “Western Sky” was all Drew Emmitt. “Mountain Home” continued the theme of celebrating the Colorado Rockies. With the band scattered across the country now, I assume that these homecomings are a bit sweeter. “Get ‘er Rollin’” was the start of the heavier rock tunes, that I can only assume were inspired by the inclusion of Bobby Lee Rodgers on guitar. Andy Thorn’s exemplary banjo skills were on display during “Better Day” as well as “Aquatic Hitchhiker, which lasted over 18 minutes.” When Leftover Salmon locks in they can jam with the best. Furthermore, Leftover Salmon is the wellspring from which jamgrass began. Each performance is a harmonious gumbo full of richness and authenticity that includes every possible genre imaginable. This approach allows for incredible musical acrobatics in a live setting. Vince who seemed to be reference Straight Out Of Compton throughout the evening came to the mic sand and said, “This is a song about way back when, I’d also like to say Fuck Suge Knight,” before they closed the set with a tight “Head Bag.”

The first set felt focused on the rock and roll and the second set was no different. Even “Reuben’s Train” felt heavier and grittier than usual. “Where Did The Radio Go” was a poppy jam from Bobby Lee who took the opportunity to showcase some of his extensive guitar skills. Mr. Rodgers (ehem..) first came to notoriety as a founding member of the Codetalkers before breaking out on his own as a solo artist at Wanee in 2009. Drew took another turn with a stellar “Two Highways,” before Thorn shredded the strings on “Colorado Evermore.” “Get Up and Go” went back to the honkytonk sound before an epic “Ask The Fish.” This “Fish” contained a stellar segue into an improvised “Gin and Juice” with Vince belting out “With My Mind the fish and the fish on my mind.” The jam also included a short nod to the Talking Heads’ with part of “Once In A Lifetime” tossed in for good measure. Bobby Lee again took the spotlight with a rock-centric song entitled, “Outerspace.” Vince kept the ‘extraterrestrial thread’ going a bit longer by ripping into “Space is the Place.” The rapid pace didn’t slow down for the rowdy rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Fixin’ To Die Blues.” The set wrapped up with Drew’s lightening fast fingers shredding the strings on “All Night Ride.” Leftover Salmon returned with version of Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” which was featured on the Nashville Sessions sung by the man himself. This time Vince went into Lou Reed’s “Take A Walk On The Wild Side,” Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and a “Franklin’s Tower” sing-along to fill in the gaps. Needless to say fans walked out grinning widely with visions of night two dancing in their heads. Leftover Salmon continues to amaze wherever they go. Their music is a blend of magic and nostalgia all filtered through the musical sensibilities of Vince and Drew. They are the party and we are just along for the ride.

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