Leftover Salmon stuffed the Boulder Theater stage with musical friends and family for its annual Thanksgiving holiday homestead in Colorado over the weekend. Friday and Saturday the musical menu featured a pair of meaty, two-set Leftover shows seasoned with folks like bluegrass and Americana legend Peter Rowan and members of Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Billy Strings‘ stellar backing band. It was a veritable sonic cornucopia that overloaded the senses as sure as the previous day’s feasting had overloaded many a stomach.

Having founded Leftover (alongside the late Mark Vann) on a cold Boulder New Year’s Eve in 1989, Salmon head chefs Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt are no strangers to working on holidays. Though the band has added exciting new talents to the crew like banjo wizard Andy Thorn, Swiss army musician Jay Starling on keys (and things), and the amazingly versatile rhythm section of Alwyn Robinson on drums and Greg Garrison on bass to keep things fresh the band has kept the same recipe for success it first served up that long ago New Year’s evening: “Make it a party!”

Related: Leftover Salmon’s Andy Thorn Spreads Holiday Cheer With Collection Of Clawhammer Christmas Carols [Listen]

Make no mistake, Emmitt and Herman always strive to have the very best musicianship on the menu but that doesn’t mean the ingredient list is stagnant or the ambiance remotely stoic and serious. In fact, it’s particularly fitting for a celebration notoriously prone to excessive load-up with all the extras possible.

Joining the aforementioned Rowan on the special guest list was Billy Strings’ noted sideman Billy Failing, on banjo for a majority of both evenings. Fellow five-stringer Dave Johnston (YMSB) and guitarist Dave Bruzza (GSBG) joined family members like Vince’s son Silas Herman and Emmitt’s son Eli who popped up for quick jams as they dropped by for some much-needed downtime hangs.

Thanks to the always reliable live streams from nugs.net viewers around the country could check in on the fun in Boulder while still spending their own holidays at home as well. Both nights were available free to subscribers and gave music fans enjoying a tasty holiday weekend with the family an entertainment alternative to stale movies and lopsided football games.

Leftover Salmon – Boulder Theater – Boulder, CO –  11/24/23 – Preview

Leftover Salmon – Boulder Theater – Boulder, CO –  11/25/23 – Preview

Peter Rowan brought his storied songbook to the table with tunes on both Friday and Saturday. Rowan, former Bill Monroe Bluegrass Boy, cofounder of Old And In The Way alongside the likes of Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead) and David Grisman, in addition to several of his own bands and projects, has created an amazingly diverse swath of material over the 50-plus years he’s spent under stage lights. Both nights Rowan came out toward the end of the opening set with standouts like “Free Mexican Airforce” and his signature interpretation of the Rolling Stones classic “Wild Horses” then knocked back a couple more in the second set with “Land Of The Navajo”. Of course, Herman made sure Rowan stayed handy for the encores including an all-hands-on-deck version of “Midnight Moonlight” on Friday.

Billy Failing and Andy Thorn clearly loved sharing the banjo-picking duties both nights and moments like their runaway jam featured in “Funky Mountain Fog Down” best exemplified the spirit of friendly competition and collaboration between the two contemporaries. That jam also heard input from Silas Herman, with more familial fretboard fireworks to follow from the Emmitt father-son- duo who stood tall on second-night standout “Midnight Blues”.

As generous as Leftover Salmon was with bringing up folks like Johnston for a pick-happy “Hung It Up”, Bruzza on the Bill Monroe cover of the weekend “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin'”, and “beloved eTown MC Nick Forester on “He Had A Long Chain On”, Leftover certainly didn’t just coast on its guest list.

Jay Starling filled both nights with some much-welcomed depth on keys and even broke out the dobro a time or two to widen the musical road. Through all the genre-hopping Garrison and Robinson made sure to provide a wide pocket for the shenanigans while still finding themselves plenty of places for thrills and fills.

Guiding the ever-expanding party throughout the weekend, the seamless pairing of Herman and Emmitt showed just how delightfully symbiotic 30-plus years of making music together can make a duo. Emmitt’s higher pitch and down-and-dirty mado and fuzzy guitar jams contrasted perfectly with Herman’s matchless energy on whatever instrument finds its way into his hands. Tunes like “Liza”, “Aquatic Hitchhiker”, and “Sing Out To The Moon” served as perfect examples of why Leftover Salmon survives and thrives to this day: the band is clearly enjoying itself as much as the fans…maybe more!

Nowhere was that more evident than in moments when Herman utilized his most beloved trait—the ability to lead epic picking parties—as the encore from Saturday night, a chaotic “Reuben’s Train”, erupted with zigs and zags from the likes of Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s impossible to resist the effortless love Herman, Emmit, and their partners-in-crime were making and none of the lucky fans at the Boulder Theater were foolish enough to even try.

With even the heartiest of musical appetites sated it was finally time for the hard-working crew from Leftover’s crew to join the festivities. It’s safe to say they earned their shift brew (or two!) for all their efforts as the fading echoes of cheers and applause died down around them. And around town they and their scattered fans were soon tucked in their beds with visions of next year’s Thanksgiving doings in their heads as they drifted off to welcome slumbers.

Leftover Salmon – Boulder Theater – Boulder, CO –  11/24/23 – Full Audio

[Audio: Eric Wilkens]

Leftover Salmon – Boulder Theater – Boulder, CO –  11/25/23 – Full Audio

[Audio: Matthew Hernandez]

Setlist: Leftover Salmon | Boulder Theater | Boulder, CO | 11/24/23

Set 1: High Country, We’ll Get By, Get Me Out Of This City, Liza, Earnest T. Grass (1), Blue & Lonesome (1), Show Me Something Higher (1), Aquatic Hitchhiker (1), Wild Horses (1,2), The Hobo Song (1,2)

Set 2: Dance With No Shoes (2), Walls Of Time (2), Panama Red (2), Rivers Rising, Euphoria, Powder Dry, Fire & Brimstone, Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’ (1,3), Dear Old Dixie (1), Bend In The River (1), Better (1)

Encore: Midnight Moonlight (Garcia)(1,2,3)

Setlist: Leftover Salmon | Boulder Theater | Boulder, CO | 11/25/23

Set 1: Carnival Time, Down In The Hollow, Boogie Grass Band, Gold Hill Line, Sing Up To The Moon, I Hung It Up (1,4,5), Midnight Blues (1,4,5), Simple Twist Of Fate (1), He Had A Long Chain On (1), High Lonesome Sound (1,2), Free Mexican Airforce (1,2)

Set 2: Fetch Wood Carry Water (1,2), Land Of The Navajo (1,2), Thirsty In The Rain (1), All Night Ride (1), Brand New Good Old Days (1) Red Fox Run (1), California Cottonfields (1), Funky Mountain Fog Down (1,6), Love Please Come Home (1), Pulling The Devil By The Tail (1,2), I’m Gonna Love You (1,2)

Encore: Reuben’s Train (1,2) > Hot Corn, Cold Corn (1,2) > Reuben’s Train (1,2) > Whole Lotta Love (1,2), Reuben’s Train (1,2) > Free Bird (1,2)

(1) w/Billy Failing (Billy Strings) on banjo & Vocals
(2) w/Peter Rowan on mandolin and vocals
(3) w/Dave Bruzza (Greensky Bluegrass) On guitar and vocals
(4) w/Dave Johnston (Yonder Mountain String Band) on banjo
(5) w/Eli Emmitt on electric guitar
(6) w/Silas Herman
(7) w/Nick Forester (Hot Rize) on electric guitar