words, interview and photos by Bailey Foss
Sandwiched between two 60-some-degree days, Sunday was a break in the blustery weather of fall. Maybe Leftover Salmon had something to do with it.
The temperature in The Bourbon Theatre that evening reminded me of the sweltering 99-degree afternoon I endured when I first saw Leftover Salmon perform at the Summer Camp Music Festival at the end of May. The Salmon fans gathered to send the mercury rising for this was the first time that the band — originally from Boulder, Colo., but now scattered across the country — had blessed a stage in Lincoln in a very, very long time (if ever).
Leftover Salmon formed as a band back in 1989. Two of the original co-founders, Vince Herman — acoustic guitar and vocals — and Drew Emmitt — mandolin, electric guitar, fiddle and vocals — still play in the band today. Other additions include Greg Garrison, bass and vocals, Andy Thorn, banjo and vocals, and Jose Martinez, who plays the drums.
Leftover Salmon was on a three-week tour to promote their first album in eight years, which started on the East Coast. Lincoln was the last stop on their way home.
The following is the conversation I had with Vince Herman backstage, while he restrung his guitar just before the show began.
Hear Nebraska: This is the last night of your fall tour. How would you describe the overall experience so far?
Vince Herman: Out of hand! The crowds have just been great, and we’ve been getting so much energy from the folks coming out to the shows. It’s been awesome, and we’ve been having a really fun time with it. Glad to be going home, but it’s kind of a bummer, man, because we’ve been out having so much fun. We kind of don’t want it to end now.
HN: I can understand that. Why was Lincoln chosen as the closing show of the tour?
VH: It’s on the way home!
HN: Well, we’re really excited to have you here. This tour was to promote your first album in eight years, Aquatic Hitchhiker. How successful has the album been?
VH: There are all kinds of way to measure success. I guess the one I’ve been digging is on tour is the people are singing a lot of the words to the songs on the new album as we play them. So that’s kind of exciting, of course.
Everyone wants to sell a few more records these days, you know, but there’s not a lot of love out there in the record-buying world.
HN: Unfortunately, that’s true. What kind of reactions have you guys received since the release of the album? Was it different than you had anticipated?
VH: We’ve been psyched to get pretty good radio response from it. I’m just really glad that after 22 years of being out here, people are still coming to live shows. That’s really encouraging.
HN: What inspired you guys to get the band back together after such a long break?
VH: Well, we did some shows at festivals when we first came back, one or two a year. Those were so much fun that we decided, “Well, why not get back on this boat?” Basically it’s fun-driven. Also, Andy Thorn coming in on the five-string banjo has been really great.
HN: When did he join you guys?
VH: He joined us probably a couple of years ago now.
HN: How did you spend the eight-year break from Leftover Salmon?
VH: With my band, Great American Taxi. Also playing with my kids, the Herman clan. I did a tour with Jim Page and Rob Wasserman called the "Spirit of Guthrie" tour, made a record with that. I also played a lot of solo shows.
HN: Leftover Salmon is considered "polyethnic Cajun slamgrass." Where did this genre come from? To you, what does that actually mean?
VH: Back in the day when we had an accordion player, we played a bunch of Cajun and Tex-Mex and zydeco, and that kind of stuff. It was pretty accordion centric. We played klezmer and calypso, ska, reggae and polka. That’s just kind what I grew up with in my ears, and I don’t see any reason to limit anything that you hear from coming out.
Bouncers at bars and people asking what kind of music we played, they usually say "blues rock," you know. We just thought that "blues rock" maybe didn’t quite capture what we had going on, so we thought we better come up with something… and that’s what we came up with.
HN: The band was originally formed in Boulder, Colorado. Do you currently reside there?
VH: Nope, drummer lives in Seattle. I’m moving to Oregon as we speak. The guitar player lives in Crested Butte. Banjo player lives in Boulder, and the bass player lives in Evergreen, Colorado. So we’ve got a couple guys on the front range.
HN: Now that your tour has come to an end, what’s next in store for Leftover Salmon? Can we expect another tour or another album?
VH: Yeah, we are going to be making an album this winter. Since this tour has been going well — we’ve been getting good radio support and stuff — we probably should go make a new record. Not sure when and where at this point, honing in on it.
HN: Well, thank you for sitting down with me for a moment. People are really excited that you guys are here.
VH: Well that’s really good to hear!
Even though the tour was promoting the new album, Leftover Salmon performed some of their older tunes such as "River’s Rising," "Tu N’as Pas Aller" and "Mama Boulet." They also surprised the audience with covers including "Catfish John" and "Blister in the Sun."
The band closed out the evening with an unexpected encore medley. It started with "Better," one of their fun, original songs, and continued with "God Save the Queen," "Wake & Bake," "I Am the Walrus," "Hot Corn Cold Corn," "Whole Lotta Love" and "Heartbreaker." Being a Led Zeppelin fan, I was very satisfied with the end of the show.
The tour manager informed me that the band will be going on another tour in the spring. Unfortunately, they probably won’t be making a stop back in Nebraska quite that soon. At least we will likely have a new album instead in the somewhat near future.
Bailey Foss is a Hear Nebraska contributor. She highly anticipates her next Leftover Salmon experience. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.