House of Blues
-Quick Pickin' -
Juggling genres from a high wire without a net, Leftover Salmon's travelling carnival "Slamgrasses" the House of Blues
by Lee Abraham
Everyone inside the House of Blues on Thursday night saw two very different bands achieve the same objective: get people dancing. It was easy. Sector 9, an all instrumental six piece groove generator out of Atlanta started their set to a sparse crowd but proceeded undaunted, letting loose with a sophisticated fusion sound that had the early crowd bopping around the wide open dance floor. By the time their set was over, the dance floor was full.
Exploring a variety of musical styles, Sector 9 kicked out a muscular brand of art rock, built on a fat, cool funk bass and sweaty, backbeat drums. Occasional techno gurgles, 88 key R&B, world percussion and, searing, Latin tinged, electric guitar driven jams are some of the elements that flow in and out of Sector 9's highly danceable and jazzy jams.
After a short stage change, the founding fathers of Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass, Leftover Salmon, took the stage to the hoots and hollers of their boisterous fans. On fire from the getgo, Leftover blazed on the "Blue Night" opener. These guys are quick pickers! Mark Vann on banjo is a phenom, and two time winner of the "Top Picker" award at the Telluride Bluegrass festival. Multi-instrumentalist Drew Emmit is no slouch either. Described by bass player Tye North as the "Mario Andretti of the mandolin," Emmit also shreds on electric guitar and fiddle.
The band seemed to be in high spirits during the course of two set marathon. Frontman Vince Herman looked chipper in a brightly colored shirt as he hoisted a two-foot tall plaster-of-Paris Elvis statue above his head early in the set. The now traditional head of Mayor McCheese was also strategically placed on stage for the viewing pleasure of all in attendance. Ah yes, nothing like a little Rocky Mountain hijynx, Leftover Salmon style.
From straight-ahead bluegrass, to calypso flavored island jams and a bunch of acoustic blues in between, LoS gave their fans a heaping helping of Salmon, playing over twenty-five songs during the course of the night. First set highlights included a freewheeling carnival ride on "Jokester," a longtime concert favorite, a campy tribute to the neon city on a tune called "Las Vegas," and the set closer, a country picker's delight, "I Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow." Set two picked up where the opener left off, with more high energy, new-traditional Slamgrass.
Toward the end of the 2nd set, LoS strung together a few tunes from their highly acclaimed '96 release, "Euphoria," starting with the title track. Then came "Cash on the Barrelhead," yet another quick pickin' tune with an infectious sing-a-long melody, which was followed by "This Is the Time," a thoughtful, mid tempo acoustic number with rich harmonies. An effective change of pace. "Wild Bill Jones," a smoldering rocker closed the set with a slow burning groove.
Although the wee hours took their toll on most of the casual fans, many of whom split during the second set, there were still a couple hundred dance crazed LoSers clamoring for more after the 2nd set. Without much delay, the band was back on stage for a two-song encore. "Nobody's Fault But Mine," was given a slow bluesy treatment and then the band geared up for one more tipsy high country romp, this time through "Wake and Bake," a fire and brimstone revival that gave everyone a chance to work out whatever energy they had left.
Hoisting the statue of Elvis over his head one more time while dancing a jig, Herman stayed on stage along with North, both entertaining for just another moment. Then they ambled off stage. As the house lights came up, the crowd, still buzzing, began filtering out of the theater. Whew… not only was this a fun show, it was a workout!