Perfecting Utopia

Slamgrass, Screaming Eagle soul, stuttered rhythms, and sweet pop shock Utopia Fest


Leftover Salmon

Friday, 10:30pm, Arrowhead stage
Saturday, 10:30pm, Cypress stage

Formed in Boulder, Colo., at the end of 1989, Leftover Salmon celebrates 25 years of making an aggressive brand of bluegrass dubbed "Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass." There have been a few lineup changes – founding member and banjoist Mark Vann passed away in 2002 – and there was even a hiatus between 2004-07. These days, co-founders Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt remain enthusiastic about the music they make for several reasons.

Primary among them, the addition of drummer Alwyn Robinson, as well as rock & roll veteran, Little Feat co-inventor, and keyboardist Bill Payne.

"With Alwyn coming in," explains Herman, "he's 27 years old and he brings new energy to the band. Then Bill, he's 66. He brings an interesting dynamic. It's really comfortable. It's my favorite version of the band ever.

"We certainly didn't see 25 years coming when we got together for what we thought was a one-off show on New Year's 1990. We could have come up with a better name. I guess it served us. People take us a little less seriously than the music would indicate. We don't take ourselves very seriously either. So I guess it's all right."

The addition of Payne allows some Feat songs into the set list, plus a new project that takes the band from Colorado to New Orleans to record Cajun-tinged sounds this fall.

"Those song are so fun, so powerful," enthuses Herman. "For improv, they're unparalleled. And co-writing with Bill has been an amazing experience. His vocabulary is so advanced."

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