When jam band Leftover Salmon takes the stage next week at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, they’ll be adding to their long history with Durango.
The last time I interviewed the band was in the late 1990s before they played at the San Juan Room (now the Wild Horse Saloon). I was working for FLC’s newspaper, The Independent.
A lot has changed since then – both in Durango and with Leftover Salmon. Band members have come and gone, and the guys have seen the rise of technology change the way music works since they first started in 1989 in Colorado, but they still manage to come back here.
When Leftover first got together, it wasn’t that unusual for the band to be in Durango, said Drew Emmitt, mandolin player/vocalist and one of the founding members.
“Back in the day, when we were first getting started, we used to play Farquahrt’s I think once a month for like six days,” he said. “A couple of days, we would do happy hour sets and nighttime sets. I think maybe as far as when we were starting out, I think we played Durango probably more than anywhere.”
And while the guys were here a lot, they also logged miles getting to other mountain towns, Emmitt said, hitting the ski towns, the Front Range.
“We had the ski towns, we had the Front Range and we weren’t touring yet, so as far as the mountains went, we played Steamboat, Crested Butte, Durango, Aspen.”
But it was Durango they kept coming back to, Emmitt said.
“I really feel like we played Durango more than anywhere,” he said. “I’m not really sure why, except that they kept wanting us to come back and we got to stay at a really cool place, Ferringway – we used to have a joke: ‘What’s a Ferringway?’
“And we had lots of good friends – still do have lots of good friends – in Durango. We had just a really nice core group of people that were coming to see us, and it just always felt great. There really is nowhere like Durango that we’ve played, quite honestly, in the whole country,” he said.
And anyone who went to Leftover’s shows back in the day will remember the party atmosphere – including the parades.
“There have definitely been various points in time where we’ve done a lot of crazy stuff,” Emmitt said, laughing. “We had like a parade era on the road, where we brought costumes on the bus, and then every night, we would have random people put on the costumes and we would have a parade through the place – it went on for a while. It was kind of a crazy era.”
While Emmitt admitted that things have mellowed over the years, Leftover can be counted on to deliver a fun show – for the audience and the band – which is the secret to their success.
“I think we’ve always just tried to keep it exciting, especially for us. I think when we’re having fun, then the crowd’s having fun. And we have fun; we always have,” he said. “Now more than ever, we’ve got a band that’s really cranking and everybody’s really enjoying it and they’re really great players. And we’ve always been blessed with different great musicians who have come in and out of this band and also people sitting in with us – and that always makes it more fun. I would just have to say that having fun with this band is what’s kept it going and kept people having fun with us.”
It’s no easy feat for any band to stick together for what will soon be three decades – and Emmitt has a theory for how Leftover’s been able to stay around.
“Not to sound corny, but I think we’ve been true to ourselves; we’ve been true to what we want to do,” he said. “We’ve always just been who we are; we haven’t tried to be a band that maybe would be more commercially viable by doing certain things. We’ve just always played what we want to play.”