The guys from iconic jam band Leftover Salmon are headed back to Durango, and they’re bringing with them 30 years of Leftover history.
The band’s origin is the stuff of legend: According to Leftover’s website, the story begins in 1989 when members of Vince Herman’s Salmon Heads could not make a New Year’s Eve gig at the Eldorado Cafe in Crested Butte. He called on his friend, fellow Boulder picker Drew Emmitt, to help supply a few musicians from his band, Left Hand String Band, to fill out the lineup for the show. Emmitt and Herman realized the energy of the combination was palpable, so they soon shelved their respective bands and focused all their energy into the new one, which they named Leftover Salmon.
Being a Colorado band, Leftover Salmon has a pretty extensive history with Durango.
“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,” Emmitt 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 for a band to survive – and thrive – for as long as Leftover has, it’s necessary to change and evolve. Emmitt said that while he and Herman have remained the core of the band, the other musicians who have come and gone have added immensely to Leftover’s legacy.
“We’ve added and had so many different great people come in and out of the band over the years that it’s really made it cool,” he said. “I feel like the band’s just evolved so much through that, that we have learned so much playing with different people that it’s really enriched the music. And the music just keeps evolving and getting better and better.”
Emmitt said that along with the energy boost new players bring, Leftover Salmon has also evolved in the way the band works: Everyone writes now.
“Vince and I have obviously been doing it for a long time, and having these younger players come into the band definitely gives it new energy. It’s not just about Vince and me and everybody else just backs us up – everybody has an equal part in this band and that’s what really makes it fun. Everybody’s invested in it and a part of it. It’s definitely evolved into more of a collective than it used to be. What we have now is definitely a really great group effort that’s been happening in the band.
“We’re definitely way better than when we first started 30 years ago, although it was fun, it was so fly by the seat of your pants – we still have that attitude in the band, but it’s so much tighter and so much more put together than it used to be.”
Leftover isn’t slowing down anytime soon, either: Emmitt and Herman have just finished a three-week duo tour, “kind of celebrating the 30 years, doing like a victory lap,” he said. And then the band sets off on tour, which includes a night playing The Warfield in San Francisco with ALO. Then they’re hitting Durango, Salt Lake City and Jackson Hole, wrapping up the month with their Boogie at The Broadmoor weekend in Colorado Springs. Coming up, there’s DelFest and Telluride.
“And we’re releasing a new record that we’re working on. So we are cranking,” Emmitt said. “We’ve slowed down a bit; we’re a little more strategic – we don’t go out for like three weeks at a time all the time like we used to, but we’re definitely still busy; it’s just a different kind of busy.”
And the trick with Leftover is that not only are the members top-flight musicians, since their beginning, they’ve known how to throw a hell of a party – both on stage and off.
“I will say it’s always been fun,” Emmit said. “We have been allowed to have more fun probably than most bands should be allowed to have. I think we probably own that – we own the fun factor. I challenge any band to have as much fun.”