Leftover Salmon celebrates 30 years of jamgrass
Leftover Salmon with Tony Furtado Band
8 p.m. on Friday, June 21
DeJoria Center, 970 N. S.R. 32 in Kamas
Leftover Salmon continues make big splashes in the jamgrass summer festivals and winter ski resort scenes after 30 years.
That doesn’t mean, however, that trip has flowed smoothly, said mandolinist and founding member Drew Emmitt.
“Keeping a band together is a big challenge on many levels,” Emmitt said. “You have to be able to power through all the things from constantly touring to dealing with everyone’s personalities and quirks and staying healthy.”
Leftover Salmon — Emmitt, guitarist, singer and founding member Vince Herman, bassist Greg Garrison, drummer Alwyn Robinson and keyboardist Erik Deutsch — will continue to celebrate its 30th anniversary when it plays at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 21, at the DeJoria Center in Kamas. Americana multiinstrumentalist Tony Furtado will open the show.
Furtado is also scheduled to play the banjo with Leftover Salmon that night because the band’s banjoist, Andy Thorn, had a prior commitment.
Furtado is no stranger to Leftover Salmon. He filled in for a few shows after original banjoist, Mark Vann, passed away in 2002.
Emmitt said the few years after Vann’s passing took a toll on Leftover Salmon.
“We did take a break for three years, starting in 2004,” he said. “Up until then, we had kept it going with some other players, Tony, Matt Flinner and Noam Pikelny. But it was not the same, and it was hard to keep it going at the rate we were going.”
The band had become a touring machine, and the schedules were, according to Emmitt, “quite crazy.”
“We were hanging in there, but I think we were a little burnt touring three weeks of every month,” he said. “We needed to stop and regroup, and we didn’t know if we were going to bet back together.”
After three years, Emmitt and Herman contacted the rest of the band to see if they could make it work again.
“When we started back up, we did it slowly,” Emmitt said. “We started with festivals and did one-offs here and there.”
When Emmitt and Herman also had commitments to their other projects.
Emmit had his own band and also played in the Emmit-Nershi Band with String Cheese Incident guitarist Bill Nershi, while Herman formed the Great American Taxi and worked with a revolving door of musicians.
Leftover Salmon didn’t actually start getting back on the road until 2012, according to Emmitt.
“Luckily, and thankfully, we were able to get it back together and figure out a way to do it without touring all the time,” he said. “We would do festivals and long weekends during the summer, and I think that was a great thing for the band. It’s been more fun, and definitely more healthy and sustainable.”
Emmitt said he feels the current lineup is the best version of the band, which was borne out of the bluegrass festival scene.
“We’d go to these festivals, and then take our own instruments and jam around campfires,” he said. “That’s the most accurate thing I can point to as to where we pulled our inspirations from. I think we were inspired to create a band to play music that we liked and have fun doing it.”
In the early days, the band members wanted to play festivals as well as tour, Emmitt said.
“That was a tall order at that time, because a lot of the bands that were touring weren’t necessarily festival bands, because bluegrass wasn’t that marketable at that time,” he said. “Also, if you were playing festivals in the summer, you had to have a day job in the winter. And we didn’t want jobs. We just wanted to play music all the time.”
So Leftover Salmon figured out how to do both.
“We started playing the ski areas in Colorado during the winter,” Emmitt said. “We didn’t have any grandiose ideas. We just thought if we could play festivals in the summer and then play ski resorts, then we’d be rocking.”
Much of the band’s history is documented in a new biography, “Leftover Salmon: 30 Years of Festival!” Written by Tim Newby.
“Tim had approached our manager about writing the book, and we were all a little surprised that somebody thought enough of us to do that,” Emmitt said. “After talking with him, we started to feel really good about it.”
Newby conducted long interviews with band members, past and present, as well as close friends and musicians in other bands.
“He compiled a good, basic biography of the band, and I think it’s very good,” Emmitt said.
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