Leftover Salmon and Elephant Revival - amazingly both from tiny Nederland, Colo. - hit The Depot on Saturday night, much to the delight of the the tie-dyed, dancing crowd.
It was likely a flashback - pun intended - for many in the crowd as ages ranged from early 20s to early 60s among the audience which had gathered for what would be a roughly five-hour night. Last February, Leftover Salmon celebrated its 20th anniversary and while they play relatively sparingly these days - frontmen Drew Emmitt and Vince Herman both primarily tour with the Emmitt-Nershi Band and Great American Taxi - Saturday marked the second straight February they've hit Utah. Salt Lake City was the only non-Colorado city on the band's six-date run that was slated to end Sunday in Aspen.
The night's event began with Elephant Revival's 65-minute opening set that made me again wonder why anyone would call this quintet a jam band. The group is much more traditional folk and bluegrass. There were no lengthy solos or free-form improvisational flights. Just rootsy acoustic music that had the crowd dancing from the start.
The group is anchored by the soulful vocals and spirited washboard playing of Bonnie Paine. She sings effortlessly and is one of the few performers who commands complete attention when she sings. Her song "Drop" was arguably the highlight of the entire night. The band's two male vocalists sang somewhat less inspired compositions, that were still warmly received by the crowd.
But the main attraction was Leftover Salmon, which hit the ground running with spirited takes on classics including "Walk and Don't Look Back" and "Wandering." Dancing in front of the stage hit a fevered pitch early on and never lost stride as Salmon rolled into the funky New Orleans staple, "Junco Partner." The hour-long first set hits its peak with Herman yelling the old LOS war cry of "Festival," and launching into the Townes Van Zandt classic "White Freight Liner."
Interestingly during the setbreak, much of the conversation reverted back to Elephant Revival and Paine. Salmon returned to more war whoops and dancing, but it had become clear who had really won the night.
Contact Salt Lake Magazine arts and entertainment writer Scott Murphy via e-mail at email@example.com and follow him on twitter at murphyinfo.