Leftover Salmon, House of Blues, February 27, 1998
The birth of Leftover Salmon can be blamed on the Big Bang theory, according to the band's rambunctious front-man, Vince Herman. The Boulder, Colo., quintet formed in 1991 when Herman's Cajun-calypso outfit, Salmon Heads, joined forces onstage with mandolin, electric guitar and fiddle player Drew Emmitt's progressive bluegrass group, Left Hand String Band. The resulting explosion yielded a new universe that the band members refer to as "polyethnic-Cajun slamgrass."
"We just kind of played traditional string-band music with drums, and then it got aggressive," says Herman. "People were slamming into walls. Chaos is good ... Everything is so categorized in our world that it's time for chaos to ensue. Which is not to say that clean socks aren't good, too."
Leftover Salmon's invigorating acoustic-electric blend travels easily from the swamps of Louisiana to the Mississippi Delta, the hills of Kentucky and on down to the Caribbean. The appealing hodgepodge gels as an organic whole on their major-label debut, "Euphoria." Produced by Phish and Blues Traveler knobs man Justin Niebank, the album offers punchy ska, laid-back swamp grooves, bluegrass workouts and a nod to Texas swing on the insistently silly title track.
"Generally, our record company would be happier or something if we were a little more specific in terms of finding a category," Herman says. "But categories are marketing devices. A band is a musical device. You create fun by playing all the stuff you love to listen to, and not excluding something just because it's not supposed to fit."
Leftover Salmon's energy and eclecticism immediately began attracting attention at home and on the road. Herman, Emmitt, bassist Tye North, banjo player Mark Vann and drummer Jeff Sipe have played more than 200 shows a year, including sell-out shows at the Wetlands in New York and the Fillmore in San Francisco. Along the way, they've developed a 150-song repertoire, sold 20,000 copies of their two independently released albums, and accumulated a mailing list of 13,000 fans. Those loyal listeners have been asked to contribute their home-grown tapes to the band's next release, a live-from-everywhere album.
"We're just really happy that our record company is going to allow us to do it," Herman says. "It won't have the perfection of a studio production or any of that stuff, but in a sense it's what live music is all about."
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