IF YOU GO
What: Leftover Salmon and Keller Williams.
When: 9 p.m. Thursday.
Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.
Admission: $25 in advance, $27 at the door (additional $3 fee for ages 18-20; ID required).
Venue website: www.track29.co.
Considering he co-founded a band that bridges the worlds of bluegrass and rock, it's appropriate that mandolinist Drew Emmitt was born in Nashville but first heard the instrument through Led Zeppelin, not Bill Monroe or David Grisman.
Long before his mother bought him his first eight-string in his late teens, Emmitt became fascinated by Jimmy Page's use of the instrument on "Led Zeppelin IV."
"When I heard 'The Battle of Evermore' as a teenager, I loved that sound," he said.
Emmitt later would be influenced by progressive acoustic bands such as New Grass Revival, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Hot Rize, but his fascination with rock music lingered long after he started the bluegrass group Left Hand String Band in Boulder, Colo.
In 1989, Emmitt joined forces with The Salmon Heads' Vince Herman for a one-off concert at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, calling the combined group Leftover Salmon.
Except for using drums and electric instruments, Leftover Salmon looked like a bluegrass band, but its sound had more in common with free-ranging jam artists such as Phish and Widespread Panic.
Proving its music's legitimacy was difficult early on, even after a positive reception at Telluride. By putting in time on stages, however, the members surprised themselves by building a fan base.
"It took a lot of getting out on the road and playing a lot of shows," Emmitt said. "I think we were all shocked that it developed into being a viable touring band."
Leftover Salmon has never felt fettered to one genre, preferring to allow songs to choose their own path, whether that meant zydeco, ska, bluegrass or any of a number of other styles.
In recent years, band members began focusing more on side projects, and Leftover Salmon became dormant for about three years.
The band received a newfound lease on life after the introduction in 2010 of new banjo player Andy Thorn to replace Noam Pikelny, who left to focus on the band Punch Brothers.
With Thorn in tow, Leftover Salmon was re-energized. Last year, band members played a pair of mini-tours and began work on their first studio album in eight years, "Aquatic Hitchhiker," which is set for release May 22.
Thursday, a spring tour in support of the album will bring Leftover Salmon to Track 29, where fans will hear a combination of new and old material.
"It's nice to have new songs to play, and we're all really excited about it," Emmitt said. "We're just throwing it all in the mix."
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...