October 31, 2008
In what has become a Front Range tradition, Leftover Salmon took the stage at the Denver Fillmore for its annual Halloween revel. The evening was complete with hootin’, hollerin’, pickin’ and dressing up in all manner of strange outfits.
Bandleader and costume guru Vince Herman dialed up his usual antics by recreating himself as a giant hotdog. Not one to be one-upped by Vince, co-conspirator and string-wizard Drew Emmitt attired himself in a reflective cowboy-meets-pimp getup that established the tone for the evening, which stood somewhere between the rootsy feel of a bluegrass festival, a ride on a cattle car and a trip through the bright lights and colorful street life of Denver’s notorious Colfax Avenue.
The audience, while giddy and festive, was packed in tight. From Uncle Sams, Elvises and pirates to the usual dread-locked hippies and a slew of Sarah Palins, the over capacity crowd was very much in the right frame of mind for what was to unfold. Close quarters notwithstanding, the boys on stage brought it on hot.
Opening with an appropriate "Hoo Doo Bash," the band, which featured Matt Flinner ripping it up in the banjo slot, stretched out on material that included spirited versions of "Ridin’ on the L&N," "Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow," "Big Mammu," an unexpected and somewhat ironic (as Vince had freshly clipped locks) cover of CSN&Y’s "Almost Cut My Hair" and a crowd-frenzying "Down in the Hollow" to end the short-ish first set.
The act of having a smoke at the set break (which had to be done in the designated and fenced-in area attached to the venue) required a slow bovine shuffle that allowed for some very close-up costume viewing with fellow revelers. Perhaps the Fillmore should figure out how to solve its congestion problem . . . maybe by selling fewer tickets or creating bigger holding pens outside.
With everyone finally shoe-horned into the venue and the lid of the Fillmore ready to levitate, the second set began. It was good to see the boys up on the big stage in the middle of Denver doing what they do best – showing a large fired-up crowd how to party in the polyethnic Cajun slamgrass kind of way.
With a nice version of "River’s Rising" the set was off and galloping. Next came "Euphoria," a longtime Salmon favorite that had everyone reelin’, rockin’ and floatin’ around a belladonna cloud of jamgrass.
Other second-set highlights included a fun Salmonized take on the old two-chord bluegrass standard "Hot Corn, Cold Corn," a well-appreciated version of the group’s antidote to stress, "Take Me Outta This City," and a extremely danceable version of John Hartfords "Up on the Hill (Where They do the Boogie)."
The band was joined onstage during set two by guests including mandolin virtuoso Michael Kang and percussionist extraordinaire Chris Berry of the group Panjea, which had opened the night’s festivities.
The final feather in the Halloween pirate’s cap of the evening was a three-song encore that included fan-favorites "Ain’t No Use," "Bend in the River" and the always fun and somehwhat asburd "Lick it."
Overall, it was a hugely enjoyable though, at times, cramped (audience-wise) performance by a band that continues to play select and very appreciated shows that clearly keep its fans coming back time after time.