Westword Music Showcase

Celebrating 25 Years of the Westword Music Showcase: Leftover Salmon

Leftover Salmon remembers the Westword Music Showcase.
Leftover Salmon remembers the Westword Music Showcase. Bob Carmichael
On June 29, we'll present our 25th Westword Music Showcase. The event has grown dramatically since it was founded in 1995, with just a handful of bands playing around LoDo.  In 2019, more than 75 local acts will fill venues throughout the Golden Triangle, while national headliners CHVRCHES, Jai Wolf, JAUZ, Bishop Briggs, Crooked Colours, lovelytheband, the Knocks, the Wrecks and SHAED will play the two main stages.

Many of the artists who have participated in the Showcase have gone on to worldwide success, while others continue to perform for loyal local audiences. And some have cashed it in and left music altogether.

As part of our 25th Showcase celebration, we're checking in with 25 of the bands and musicians who have played the festival over the years, asking them to share a few Showcase memories as well as their thoughts on how Denver's music scene and their own music has changed.

The Colorado-born bluegrass act Leftover Salmon has built a steady following with its innovative mix of Cajun music, Americana, bluegrass and more; over decades, the group has garnered one of the largest and most loyal group of fans of any act out of Colorado. This year the band turns thirty, and its story will be told in Leftover Salmon: Thirty Years of Festival, which comes out in February.

Despite the musicians' busy schedule, longtime bassist Greg Garrison took time to share his recollections of playing the Showcase.

Westword: What memories and stories do you have of playing Westword Music Showcase?

Greg Garrison: I think it snowed that day. [Editor's note: The Showcase wasn't always in June.] We were supposed to perform outside, but they moved the show into the Soiled Dove (which used to be in LoDo). I remember it being very crowded and loud in there!

How has your own band evolved since playing Showcase?

We’ve gone through a hiatus, membership changes, and the death (from melanoma) of our original banjo player, Mark Vann. We’ve released several albums since then and have continued to organically grow our audience and business. While we still certainly play our version of bluegrass (or poly-ethnic Cajun slamgrass, as it’s been called) at shows, our sound has evolved into more of an all-encompassing Americana type of thing with a lot of improvisation.

Denver's music scene has changed a lot over the past 25 years. What are your thoughts on its evolution?

It’s been amazing to see the growth, especially over the past ten years or so. There have always been great musicians and bands in the region, and now we have the audience and venues to support them. Fortunately for us, bluegrass and jam-based (boy I hate that term!) music has a strong culture and following in Denver. As a live-music consumer myself, I’m thrilled by the access we have to top-notch artists at amazing venues like Red Rocks, Dazzle, the Bluebird, etc. And Westword has always played a huge part in the scene, so thank you!

The 25th Westword Music Showcase will sound off in the Golden Triangle on Saturday, June 29. Get your tickets and more details now at westwordshowcase.com.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris