Drew Emmitt returns to Steamboat free concert series with Bill Nershi | SteamboatToday.com

Drew Emmitt returns to Steamboat free concert series with Bill Nershi

Nicole Inglis

Bill Nershi, left, of the String Cheese Incident, and Drew Emmitt, right, of Leftover Salmon, play at the Free Summer Concert Series at 7 p.m. today on Howelsen Hill as the Emmitt-Nershi Band.

— Although he's been playing his mandolin and touring across Colorado with various bands for 30 years, Drew Emmitt's Steamboat Springs memories stretch back to when he was a small child.

His father used live near Strawberry Park Hot Springs in the 1930s and ride his horse to the pools. He took a young Emmitt there to experience the beauty.

Tonight, Emmitt will return to Steamboat, but he'll be on stage at the Free Summer Concert Series, mandolin in hand, standing next to Bill Nershi, of the String Cheese Incident.

The Emmitt-Nershi Band will play the final installment of the Free Summer Concert Series at 7 p.m. at Howelsen Hill, following local acoustic folk rockers Trevor G. Potter with Rural Wreckage.

Concert series co-founder and promoter John Waldman said the final concert would have strong roots in high-energy acoustic bluegrass.

"It's two members of legendary jam bands in Colorado," Waldman said. "Both bands have a long history in Steamboat over the years, and I expect it to be a huge turnout."

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Emmitt is celebrating his 20th year with the band Leftover Salmon, which has played several times in Steamboat.

But even after so many years in the live music scene, and as different waves and genres reemerge, Emmitt has found a way to keep his bluegrass jams fresh.

He consistently tours with three bands: Leftover Salmon; his own Drew Emmitt Band, which played at the Free Summer Concert Series two years ago; and Emmitt-Nershi Band, a joint effort with Nershi.

Andy Thorn on banjo and Tyler Grant on guitar round out the acoustic group.

"He brings his own flavor to the band," Emmitt said about Nershi. "And, of course, the String Cheese influence. I guess the bottom line is it's nice to have another person to play off of, another singer, another front man."

The two wrote several songs together on a three-day retreat in Rocky Mountain National Park and released an album, "New Country Blues," in late 2009.

"It's been really fun, and he's a great guy," Emmitt said about Nershi. "It's fun bringing in the two camps, the Leftover camp and the Cheese camp. In a way, they're similar, but a lot of the Cheese people have not seen Salmon and vice versa."

Both bands came out of the live music boom of the 1990s, he said, during which anyone with a guitar, an amplifier and a band could go out on the road and make a living.

"And they did," he said.

Leftover Salmon and The String Cheese Incident survived the overflowing scene with relentless touring and dedicated fans.

Emmitt said he's excited about his return to Steamboat because he was surprised at the turnout his last time around and expects a larger crowd with Nershi by his side.

"I think (Steamboat) is my second favorite place in Colo­rado," he said about his home state, which provides a large base of bluegrass fans. He said the genre sometimes goes through waves and seems to become more mainstream, at times.

But, he, Nershi and their musical endeavors will keep pushing through.

"Bluegrass just keeps happening," Emmitt said.