Any band that can manage to draw crowds for over two decades must be doing something right. In the case of Leftover Salmon, that something is being able to throw one hell of a party every time they hit the stage. Sunday’s show at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland was no exception.
The members of the self-proclaimed polyethnic Cajun slamgrass band wasted no time getting the party started, kicking off their first set with “Keep Drivin’”. The high-energy tune found relative newcomer to the band Erik Deustch dancing on the keys with a dreamlike organ solo before quick-fire interplay between Andy Thorn’s banjo and Drew Emmitt’s mandolin. “Lonesome Road” toned things down but still shined with boogieing piano solo. The band kicked up the momentum with the tropical-sounding “Jokester”, which featured some impressive electric banjo soloing from Thorn, complete with an effect that made his instrument sound like a steel drum on overdrive. “Winter’s Gone” expressed a sentiment shared by the whole room and led to a full on jamboree, while “Light in the Woods” and “Funky Fog” both put the band’s high-octane bluegrass jams on full display. The highlight of the first set came with a cover of The Band’s euphoric tune “Ophelia”, made extra special by the guest appearance of a trumpeter and trombonist.
The horns would hang around for the second set, which was even more raucous than the first. This time it was a saxophone player and the trombonist adding big bold flourishes and immediately turning the set into late night dance party mode. When they followed up the country-grass “Mountain Top” with a cover of The Grateful Dead’s “Playing In The Band”, the crowd went apeshit. This proved to be a high point of the night, especially when they sandwiched the psychedelic acoustic jam of “Ask The Fish” into the middle of the song. At this point the mood was high and the chemistry between the band members reached a peak as solos were swapped and each was given a chance to show off his skills. Each song took unexpected twists and turns and even as the set wound down, the crowd seemed to only want to dance more. Never ones to bring down their audience, Salmon closed out the night with yet another cover, this time inviting the audience to join them in singing Bob Marley’s “One Love”, a unifying tune in these troubled times.
They say never miss a Sunday show, and Leftover Salmon’s spirited performance in Portland on Sunday proved that saying to be true. With the dreary winter weather outside, Leftover Salmon managed to bring a dose of sunshine and a big old party to the Wonder Ballroom, reminding their fans that after so many years their musical magic is stronger than ever.