Thirty years of Leftover Salmon stories

Leftover Salmon

 Boulder band’s musical book tour coming to Washington’s

By Steve Graham

A good road trip is more about the journey than the destination. Likewise, a music festival is more about the experience than the performance.

Something special and memorable happens almost every time bands and fans hang out for a few days to jam and bond. Sure, there are unexpected collaborations and transcendental tunes. But nearly everyone who has traveled to a festival also has a tale of camping capers, musical mayhem or drug debauchery.

Leftover Salmon has three decades of those festival stories to tell and wants to hear some more. The band is celebrating the release of a new biography with a unique book tour in relatively intimate venues, including a Saturday, Feb. 16, show at Washington’s. The show will include some acoustic songs alongside stories from the band — and maybe from the fans.

“Salmon’s manager John Joy, I believe, suggested the idea of combining a ‘living room’ tour and the book release as a way to be able to tell some stories and interact with the audience about some of their tales they remembered from back in the day,” said Vince Herman, the ever-grinning, white-bearded guitarist who has long been the face and voice of Leftover Salmon. He added that they couldn’t really separate the book from the music.

“The more intimate setting, we hope, will lend itself to that sort of thing happening,” he continued in an email interview. “Since the book is really about the music, in the end, it just made sense to play music while talking about the band’s history. There’s really no telling where this will go on any particular night, so I imagine many different adventures will come out that may not be in the book but relate to that particular town.”

The book, titled “Leftover Salmon: Thirty Years of Festival!,” tells several stories about northern Colorado. Author Tim Newby, who has also written a book about the history of Baltimore bluegrass, organized the book as a history of the band told through individual chapters about each band member, plus a chapter in the middle about Joy, the aforementioned manager who tried to keep them all together and keep them on the festival circuit.

The chapter opens with the backstory of Salmon’s annual Stanley Hotel residency in Estes Park, and it mentions some special NoCo fans who trekked to the Eagle County community of Bond for what was then known as Salmon Fest.

“The weekend was a typical wild Salmon affair. Corn had become the unofficial theme of the festival. There was corn on the stage, around the grounds, in the dressing rooms, and there was a huge corn parade down the river with people on floats tossing corn to each and throwing it at the people on the shore as they floated by. Salmon’s good friends from Fort Collins, who were known as Fort Support, even showed up in a pickup truck with the entire bed filled with corn,” Newby wrote.

Herman also recalls playing a grungier Washington’s before the remodel, back in the early days of the band.

“I remember playing Washington’s back in the early ’90s, when a woman rode into the club on her motorcycle, parked in front of the stage, walked right up to me, kissed me, grabbed the mic and told everybody it was her birthday,” he said.

Leftover Salmon formed in 1992 and was born of the festival scene. Herman moved to Boulder from his bluegrass-tinged homeland of West Virginia in 1985 to find Hot Rize and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Herman formed the Salmonheads, which eventually joined forces with Drew Emmitt and other members of the Left Hand String Band, forming a group that combined their names into Leftover Salmon.

Herman is thrilled the band has lasted long enough to warrant a book-length biography.

“A bunch of hillbilly hippy kids follow their love of roots music for years and years and it turns into something worth writing about,” he said.

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