Live Audio Recorded by Eric Wilkens


Each fall the salmon run back to Boulder to reunite the tribe and give thanks. This time around was noteworthy because of the inclusion of legendary picker Peter Rowan and the massively talented Billy Failing. Leftover Salmon has been a cornerstone of the bluegrass and jam scene for well over a quarter century, but in Colorado they are truly legends. Their yearly homecoming to The Boulder Theater has been a highlight of the fall/winter concert season going all the way back to 2011. What started as two night thanksgiving run has transformed into a holiday celebration made complete with friends and family. In short, it’s become tradition.

The whole shindig got started with local outfit Banshee Tree. This project began as a collaborative cooperative of musicians inspired by the bouncy swing music of Django Reinhardt. One the years they have transformed into a full blown psychedelic blues jamband. They played for only about an hour, but by the time they were wrapping up they room was packed and people were dancing. The entire set was a jammed out “Moth” sandwich with huge highs throughout. “Glue” took on a honky-tonk, bluegrass twang that fit in with the festivities. “Low High” built into massive jam that brought us back to “Moth.” This band has come a very long way from their early days opening up shows at Hodi’s. Drummer Michelle Pietrafitta is a monster behind the kit and guitarist Thom Lafond continues to push himself musically. Look for this band to rise through the ranks as their sound continues to evolve.

Banshee Tree Night 1 –

Leftover Salmon started the show with the core band including newcomer and multi-instrumentalist Jay Starling. Starling has been performing with the band as a guest going all the way back to 2021. He was made an official member last year. He adds a texture and depth to the sound that is a welcomed addition. They opened up the extravaganza with “High Country” but quickly dove deep with the Lefthand String Band original “Get Me out of This City.” They brought out Billy Failing for a fiery banjo-tastic version of Dan Tyminski’s “Ernest T. Grass.” Failing was up for the rest of the set and most of the show for that matter. “Show Me Something Higher” into a mammoth “Aquatic Hitchhiker” was a huge peak for the first set. They invited Mr. Peter Rowan out for a sticky sweet rendition of The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses.” They punctuated a fantastic set with the Old And In The Way classic “The Hobo Song.”

The break lasted about thirty before ol’ Panama himself appeared onstage solo. He began strumming his mandolin and the chatter suddenly died down. The docile tones of an eloquent “Dance with No Shoes” began to trickle out of the PA. He kept the vibe going with his classic “Walls of Time.” As he proceeded into the first refrain the members of Leftover Salmon entered from the wings. In one of the most powerful musical moments of the weekend, Salmon became Rowan’s backing band as the song took on new heights. When Drew picked up backing vocal duties the entire room could feel the magic happening live. The reunited band went into a triumphant “Panama Red” before the master retired backstage. I’ve had the honor of seeing Peter a number of times but he seems to be on absolute fire these days.

“River’s Rising” went almost twenty minutes giving the whole band a chance to stretch it out. The Drew and Vince back and forth was in full effect with “Euphoria” up next. Several songs off the new album Grass Roots made it on to the play list including the smoking “Fire and Brimstone.” To wrap up the set Greensky Bluegrass guitarist Dave Bruzza (who had be patiently waiting in the wings all night) and Billy Failing landed on stage for a spot on version of Bill Monroe’s “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” followed by the Flatt and Scruggs traditional “Dear Old Dixie.” They closed the set with “Bend In The River.” Peter Rowan reappeared with the full band plus friends to  close it all down with a sublime “Midnight Moonlight.” The night was a testament to the community that Leftover Salmon has built going all the way back to a snowy New Year’s Eve in 1989. Despite the rotating membership the core of Vince and Drew have remained dedicated to  marching to the beat of their own drum. And in doing so they’ve made a huge impact and a ton of friends.

Leftover Salmon Night 1 –

Night 2 – The Boogie Continues

The evening air was still chilly on the second night of Leftover Salmon’s Thanksgiving extravaganza at The Boulder Theater. Fans a bit more sluggish still lined up early and VIPs filled the Lounge next door all in anticipation of another night of amazing musical collaboration. Attendees flocked inside to their favorite spot before relative newcomers Sicard Hollow opened up the show. These talented young men hail from Nashville and their style is self-described as psychedelic punk-grass. They have a heavier approach to songwriting but at the heart they are a string band. They have a fresh approach and a rowdiness that seeps into their music. This was their first outing in Boulder, but they have already announced a return to The Centennial State in February for a run with Dopapod. They were given an hour to wow the crowd and they took full advantage. Blasting through a series of original tunes Sicard Hollow quickly won over the audience. “Escape the unknown” was an absolute shredfest showcasing the musical prowess of these pickers. Mandolinist Will Herrin went all in with Jeff Austin’s “The Boys on The Hill.” They closed up with the Ralph Stanley traditional “Clinch Mountain Backstep.” Keep your eyes peeled for Sicard Hollow. These boys are going places and they are going fast.

Sicard Hollow Night 2 –

The room felt electric with anticipation as Leftover Salmon made their way to the stage for two more sets of music. The format would remain largely the same with a few surprises. Vince started shimmying and we all knew it was “Carnival Time.” Overall we would be treated to a slew of classics including an early “Down in the Hollow.” Drew kept the pipes humming on “Sing Up To The Moon” before Billy Failing again appeared this time with Yonder Mountain String Band’s Dave Johnston with his banjo and Eli Emmitt with his electric guitar. Eli is Drew’s son and both he and his sister have sat in with Leftover numerous times in recent years. The newly formed banjo army led the band through a tight rendition of Junior Brown’s “I Hung It Up.” Everyone stuck around for a huge “Midnight Blues.” Leftover Salmon went into Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate” which was recorded for the new album. Suddenly, Hot Rize’s Nick Forster hit the mic to lead the band through the mournful Jimmie Driftwood tune, “He Had A Long Chain On.” Vince credited Hot Rize with inspiring him to move to Colorado way back when. Peter Rowan traded spots with Nick to lead the band through a jammed out “High Lonesome Sound.” Rowan was rolling his R’s on a stellar version of “Free Mexican Airforce” to wrap up the third set.

Again the crowd hushed as the master made his way to the microphone after the break. The reverb was turned up as he strummed his mandolin on a stirring “Fetch Wood Carry Water.” He again found a backing band plus Billy Failing as he rounded the corner on “Land of the Navajo.” The crowd absolutely lost their collective minds before they gained their senses on “Thirsty In The Rain.” Rowan retreated and Salmon attacked with a tight “All Night Ride.” Andy Thorn absolutely destroyed his banjo on the politically charged “Red Fox Run.” Silas Herman, Vince’s son joined his father for colossal version of “Funk Mountain Fogdown.” After a short “Love Please Come Home” the band again invited Peter Rowan out to shut it all down. They began to build musically with a reggae flavored take on Peter Rowan’s “Pulling The Devil By The Tail.” They wrapped the fourth set with a bubbly “I’m Gonna Love You.”

The encore was a 17 minute clusterpluck for the ages that began with the crowd singing along to “Rueben’s Train.” There was a rubber chicken solo before the band ripped into “Hot Corn, Cold Corn.”  “Rueben’s Train’ made another pass before they absolutely blasted off on a Zeppelin “Whole Lotta Love” tease into Lynard Skynard’s “Free Bird.” Vince shouted, “Free the turkeys” as they ended the jam. It was a joyous way to close out two nights of incredible live music. Leftover Salmon is worth the price of admission on their own, but the addition of Billy Failing and Peter Rowan ups everything a notch. Rowan’s catalog of music stretches from Bill Monroe until today. His output has a depth and experience that we just don’t get to see today. Salmon knows that and by sharing him with their audience they are passing the torch. Billy Failing shredded his way though both nights without breaking a sweat. It was nice to see the past, present, and future of bluegrass all on one stage. Until next year, Happy Thanksgiving.

Leftover Salmon Night 2 –