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Thursday, May 3

Review: Leftover Salmon with Special Guest Keller Williams Minglewood Hall - Memphis, TN - 4/27/12

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Long before we gave it a label or the Jam-Grass scene exploded, Leftover Salmon was busy defining it. For the past twenty-two years they have been playing their unique style of bluegrass for adoring fans. Fellow journeyman, Keller Williams has been entertaining the masses over the past two decades, with his mesmerizing one-man-band routine. So it was no surprise that Minglewood Hall was packed with smiling faces to witness this Friday night dancing double feature.
Keller was up first, and wasted no time showing off his formidable chops opening with the intense instrumental Thin Mint.  He then played a few songs off his new release, “Bass” dazzling as always with his constant looping and antics. He truly has to be seen to be believed as his act defies logic. After showcasing this talent for over thirty minutes, the crowd erupted as K-Dub began the familiar lyrics of his classic “Freaker by the Speaker”.  Halfway into this gem, Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt and Andy Thorn joined Keller on stage and dove right into the jam, putting their stamp on the remainder of the song.  They stayed on to close the set for another one of Keller’s infamous medleys.  The anthem, “Born to Be Wild” made famous by Steppenwolf in the sixties found itself sandwiched around GnR’s “Sweet Child of Mine”. The musicians were having as much fun as the elated crowd as they ripped through the timeless songs. As Keller’s show came to a stunning close, it was obvious we had not seen the last of him.
Leftover brought that Colorado magic of old, opening with the festive “Zombie Jamboree”. The music sounded pristine, but most important, that carefree vibe had returned. The proof was watching Vince, Drew and the boys having a blast and hearing that positive energy reflecting throughout the music.  As classics beamed from the stage, early and often, the band’s ability to improvise was evident.  They have not showcased such chemistry since Mark Vann’s untimely passing in 2002.
Andy Thorn proved his worth all evening, whether on the banjo or electric banjo, his impervious fingers pushed the jams in exciting directions.
About an hour into the party, Keller returned the favor and joined the band.  The twenty minutes that followed was pure musical bliss.  The fireworks began appropriately with “New Minglewood Blues”.  Keller and Vince traded off vocal duties during this inspired take on the Grateful Dead’s classic, in which the venue takes its name. “Minglewood” bled into “Slipknot” before exploding into Salmon’s rare hilarious spoof “Pasta on the Mountain”.  Silly lyrics aside, there was some nasty picking taking place along with several local eatery references from Vince.  Keller steered the jam back into “Slipknot” before giving way to “Legalize It”.  This anthem turned into a sing-a-long before ending the madness back at “Pasta”.  K-Dub excited the stage with promises of his return.  Leftover made the best of this time, playing a couple of promising tracks off their new release.  The well-crafted songs were played with vigor and were well received.  Keller and Leftover closed the marathon set with the bluegrass staple “Hobo Song”.
In a classy and moving gesture, everyone returned to the stage and paid tribute to Levon Helm with a stirring version of “Up on Cripple Creek” .This tasteful gem gave way to K-Dub and Vince leading the chants of “Wake and Bake”, the only way to cap off any Leftover Salmon show.  Separately these two acts are worth your attention on any given night. Together they crafted a night that is usually reserved for festivals and will not be soon forgotten.

Words by Kevin Long
Photos by Ellis Jones 
 © Phish and The Dead - a Grateful Music Publication