Leftover Salmon Sound Fresh and Revitalized over Two Sets at Brooklyn Bowl

Posted on Monday September 21st in

Leftover Salmon :: 2015.09.18 :: Brooklyn Bowl

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For a while there, it looked like Leftover Salmon weren’t coming back, and as recently as 2010, core band members were on the record saying that any shows would be one-offs and nostalgia for the foreseeable future. Instead, planets realigned, and Leftover Salmon not only came back to life, but also once again became a priority for the likes of Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt, and Greg Garrison, who retooled the lineup with banjoist Andy Thorn, drummer Alwyn Robinson, and, in an especially impressive coup, Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne.

This is a happy story. More or less since the release of 2012’s Aquatic Hitchhiker, Salmon have sounded fresh and revitalized — back in action to help preside over a vanguard of veteran string bands and a newer generation of pickers, from Greensky Bluegrass to the Infamous Stringdusters, creating a new golden age for this music. Of course, what is this music? In Salmon terms, it’s always been the “Polyethnic Cajun slamgrass” thing, and you’re never sure quite what that means until you hear the stuff delivered and are reminded, as we were on Friday night at Brooklyn Bowl, of its potency.

Over two Salmon-riffic sets the band served a full complement, from newer-era staples like “Aquatic Hitchhiker” to vintage Salmon tunes like “Mama Boulet.” They let the covers carry this one, from David Bromberg (“Sharon”) and the Grateful Dead (“Mr. Charlie”) to T. Rex (“Bang a Gong”) and, yep, Little Feat (“Cajun Girl,” “Easy to Slip”). Sneaking in the Band’s immortal “Rag Mama Rag” to close the first set was another fun surprise, same with a protracted ramble through Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” which ended the show. Throughout, they were as-ever Salmon, with the knowing winks and humor, the dazzling string-band virtuosity, the long jamming segments of letting one or more band members work himself into a frenzy of picked notes and heightening tension. They’re varied, and prefer their edges fuzzy and frayed, but Leftover Salmon are, at heart, still a precision bluegrass crew, and when they went deep into more traditional, old-timey territory — John Hartford’s “Steam Powered Aero Plane” and the Stanley Brothers’ “Little Maggie” both turned up at this show — it sure sounded classic. —Chad Berndtson | @cberndtson

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