Story last updated at 4:34 p.m. Thursday, June 13, 2002

Leftover Salmon serves up 'slamgrass'
by Carey James
Staff Writer

photo: entertainment
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Leftover Salmon  
With a name like Leftover Salmon, you might erroneously expect the self-proclaimed "polyethnic Cajun slamgrass" band hailed from Alaska waters, but you'd be wrong.

While the band certainly sounds eclectic and danceable enough to fit in with the northern crowd, it's based in Colorado, where Leftover Salmon has jammed out a national grass-roots name for itself as being pleasantly unpredictable.

Founded in 1990, Leftover Salmon draws from country, Cajun, Southern rock, boogie and assorted ethnic influences, to name a few. But don't hold them to that.

While their music certainly stands alone on sturdy legs, the band has also defined itself as fun-loving in a variety of weird ways. They usually play in costumes. Not right off the bat, mind you, but the second set often includes oddball costumes (think Christmas ornaments, medieval gear or peacock-like masks) and at festivals, there's a tradition of a parade creeping up on sleeping campers around 2 a.m. and yelling, "Anahuac, anahuac, it used to be my home, but it's not anymore," then running off.

Perhaps all the antics are part of keeping fresh after touring for 11 years, but many attribute them to Vince Herman, vocalist and guitar-player as well as one of the original three members of the band. Herman, who is said to be able to play virtually any song on the guitar, and if he doesn't know the words, make up a rhyming replacement on the spot, hails from Pittsburgh, Pa. He founded first the Salmonheads and a year later, combined with Drew Emmitt and Mark Vannn from the Left Hand Spring Band to form the current compilation of talent. Emmitt, who plays mandolin and sings, is described as "a Renaissance man," with an energetic and innovative playing style. He's been playing music ever since he was a kid in the musical hotbed of Nashville, Tenn., and plays everything from harmonica to piano. Vann's instruments of expertise might make an eyebrow or two raise, since they include the water phone and the rubber fish along with the banjo. Little explanation is available for the instruments, other than that "they must be heard to be believed."

Recently added to the eclectic sound are Bill McKay, on Hammond organ, piano and vocals, Greg Garrison on bass and Jose Martinez on drums. Herman said the three new members add a bigger, louder and faster sound to Leftover Salmon.

"We are totally recharged," he said in an promotional statement. "It has provided us with a different kind of sonic bed. It's fresh. There's now a larger palette to work from and we're all loving the new band dynamic."

While the new sound may tend toward a more rock and roll direction, the Leftover Salmon sound is still alive and well, Herman said.

"Our new band members are also great at playing bluegrass so there are a lot more musical places we can now go," he said.

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