“It’s a festivaaaaal,” Leftover Salmon frontman Vince Herman is fond of yelling in concert. And a loyal fanbase will unanimously confess that the band’s most endearing trait is the frenzied party atmosphere of their live persona. For more than 20 years, the pioneers of “polyethnic Cajun slamgrass”—think bluegrass, calypso, rock and kicked-up Cajun—have filled venues with their potent concoction of zaniness and festivities.
At Denver’s Ogden Theatre in late 2011, the five-piece revealed that they will be reuniting (for good) to deliver nationwide tours and new album releases on a more frequent basis, a development that came on the heels of an eight-year period characterized by occasional reunion shows and hiatuses.
Herman sounded similarly enthusiastic when asked about the band reuniting to tour and record a new studio album, to be released later in 2012. “Any time you’re in a band that you’ve spent years on the road doing your thing with, it is crazy to stop,” Herman says. “We are feeling really good about the songs on the record, and it’s been great to be doing it with the old lineup again.”
A flurry of fan mail from parts of the country that missed the various reunion shows provided the impetus for firing up the tour bus and returning to the studio. “A lot of people were writing and saying they really wanted us to come out and play Atlanta or New York or wherever,” Herman says. “The Salmon family is definitely extensive and long-lasting. We’ve got a lot of friends around the country, some that were at some of our first shows who still come to every show.”
In recent years, Leftover fans have been satiated by several of the band members’ highly active side projects. Mandolinist, fiddle player and vocalist Drew Emmitt powers The Emmitt-Nershi Band, while Herman reports that his band Great American Taxi played over 170 gigs in 2011. Herman was quick to issue reassurance that he and the other musicians will continue to pursue their solo projects, as well as the born-again Leftover Salmon.
The opportunities to get a high-altitude slamgrass fix will be plentiful, with Leftover announcing about 50 dates at present. Although lean in comparison to other jam bands on the circuit, the tour will supply the considerable demand for high-octane spontaneity from the five skilled players in a frenzied musical mélange. Modestly though, Herman attributes his fans’ adoration to banjo player Andy Thorn’s “chiseled good looks.”
The new touring commitment for Leftover Salmon coincides with the release of their seventh studio album, their first since 2008. The band teamed up with producer Steve Berlin (R.E.M and John Lee Hooker, among others), who helped the group’s studio efforts reach top form.
“The new material on the record came together really naturally. We are starting to feel very comfortable and organized in the studio,” Herman says. “Steve had a lot of good ideas and good ears for this project.” Herman also notes that the new record centers on the core members of the band, in contrast to some earlier efforts in their discography—such as Nashville Sessions (1999), which notably features the talents of guest musicians.
In 2011, Salt Lake City was one of the select locales to play host to the elusive and slippery Salmon. Fortunately, these part-time snow-sports enthusiasts attempt to make mountain-town destinations a part of their travels whenever possible.
“It will be really great to get back and dip our toes in the water again,” Herman says. His optimism about the tour and the album are likely a result of a Leftover Salmon that is in top form for a highly anticipated comeback.
400 W. South Temple
Saturday, March 3, 9:30 p.m.
$20 in advance, $25 day of show