| Barbara Lawlor • Nederland |
Sending off an icon demands a legendary march through downtown Nederland, with a raucous group of Mardis Gras type dancers, a zydeco sound from the band and kazoo bird calls. It calls for twirling capes and swishing strands of bright beads, beaked masks, feathers, French horns, accordions, a moveable organ, happy children skipping behind a float belching bubbles and the king of bacon himself.
Shortly after 3 p.m., on Saturday, Sept. 22, when the Nederland traffic was at its height with jammed up aspen viewers trying to get through town, Nederland police brought the stream of cars to a standstill as the parade left Planetmind, cavorted across the highway and frolicked down First Street.
Tourists climbed out of their parked cars to see what was happening and laughed at the parade, two vehicles and almost 100 revelers, playing instruments and waving their arms, lost in the their own moment, one where sadness and joy intertwined.
Nederland’s music guru, Vince Herman, of Leftover Salmon and American Taxi is moving to Oregon and the mountain music scene will never be quite the same. Herman is moving to Oregon. Why? Because of Marisa and Ruby, he said, because of love, but he is not disappearing, just whoosh, gone. He will continue to play music and lead the bands that remain in the mountains. Sunday’s parade was a celebration of Herman’s life and music. His address is changing but his passion for his sound remains in the mountains where it began.
In 1985, 27 years ago, Herman and Drew Emmitt met in Boulder and brought together the Left Hand String Band and the Salmon Heads. By 1989, they were ready for a concert in Crested Butte, and soon The Left Over Salmon was a mountain household word and Nederland musicians were proud to join Herman on stage in his various fundraising, for the community, performances. Always willing to support a cause, to help a friend or to bring happy music to an event, Hermann’s journey in the music world became part of Nederland renaissance of music.
Left Over Salmon defined the jamgrass genre, a combination of ethnic music and bluegrass traditionalist, creating the polyethnic Cajun slam grass, which blends calypso, Cajun and reggae. When banjo player Mark Vann died of melanoma in 2002, the band faltered, needing time to heal. The band members took off on diverging roads. Herman formed the Great American Taxi and thrived, growing in his music and forming an expanding network of musicians.
In 2007, the band reunited for a gig at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival billed as Drew Emmitt, Vince Herman and Friends. It took a few years, but the Leftover Salmon band members seemed to reform naturally into what they once had with the added incentive of what they had learned in their hiatus.
In May, Leftover Salmon hosted a block party in Denver where it released Aquatic Hitchiker, its seventh studio album and its first since the band split up. At that time Herman said he wanted to build a sense of community and of street music that causes good things to happen. He wanted to encourage people to be alive and be happy to be alive.
On Saturday, he sat on his throne in the back of a pickup truck with a few musicians, and dipped strips of bacon into chocolate. He threw back his graying head topped by a crown and laughed and laughed, watching the dancers, the musicians, playing their instruments and marching through town oblivious to impatient tourists but aware of how the spectators were lured into the festivities.
The parade went down First Street, crossed the highway, again with the help of the Nederland Police Department, and ended up back at PlanetMind where the celebration took place. Many of the players who have been a part of Herman’s bands, his jams, his parties and his music over the years, joined him in a potluck dinner next to the creek and a night of speeches and good natured jokes, poems about the man and, of course, the making of music — always the music.
It was a fitting and proper way to send Vince Herman off to another adventure and to acknowledge the impact he has had in resurrecting mountain music.