Andy Thorn (second from left) grew up driving from N.C. to The Windjammer to watch Leftover Salmon as a fan | Photo provided

For Colorado-based banjo player Andy Thorn, things will come full circle this week. Thorn grew up in North Carolina, making trips down to catch concerts at The Windjammer, including some stellar sets from iconic Americana act Leftover Salmon. The only difference is that when its members hit the stage there this week, Thorn will be among their lineup instead of standing in the crowd.

This feel-good story has been in the making for quite some time. It actually began for Thorn around the age of 12. 

“I was drawn to a neighbor’s yard sale one day, and while I was there I impulsively purchased my first banjo,” Thorn recalled. “That was my starting point, I guess, and it’s safe to say that I haven’t really wanted to put the instrument down since then.”

He did, however, manage to pick up a degree in jazz guitar, of all things, while attending the University of North Carolina. “They didn’t offer one in banjo,” he said. Still, this academic endeavor taught him a lot about artistic improvisation. Plus, outside of the classroom, Thorn said that he continued his education in Appalachian musical themes as a part of the Chapel Hill group known as the Big Fat Gap. 

After graduating from UNC, Thorn headed west to hook up with the Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band, a short-lived acoustic outfit in which he further cultivated his fast and furious picking style alongside such like minded musicians as Anders Beck, now with Greensky Bluegrass, and Travis Book, founding member of Infamous Stringdusters. 

From there, Thorn was briefly drafted by some other notably eclectic ensembles like Larry Keel’s Natural Bridge and the Emmitt-Nershi Band. It was, in fact, the latter gig that led to Thorn getting an invitation from Drew Emmitt to come over and join him full-time in his other project, Leftover Salmon, and to put down roots in the Boulder area.

When Thorn was welcomed into the fold 10-or-so years ago, Leftover Salmon already had a long history and carefully curated reputation within the jam band scene. Famous collaborations that bandleader Vince Herman had set up with the likes of Taj Mahal, Sam Bush and Waylon Jennings had already taken place. That said, this new chapter was to be an important one in the Leftover Salmon odyssey, as evidenced by the latest string of groundbreaking studio albums that were all leading up to this year’s soon-to-be classic LP, Brand New Good Old Days.

As fantastic as the energy is on any given recording, Thorn insists Leftover Salmon does its best work in front of a live audience. Interestingly, although the group has always exuded joyful noise wherever they are, these days, it feels like the Leftover Salmon crew is working from a deeper, richer, more flavorful palate than ever before. Thorn said he credits the band’s highly evolved state to a combination of hard-earned shared experience and a decidedly light-hearted approach to music-making. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously. Honestly, I think we’ve achieved the perfect blend of fun and professionalism,” he said. 

There are elements of bluegrass, blues, folk, jazz, cajun, country, rock and funk splattered throughout a typical Leftover Salmon performance and all of the pieces that each of the individual members are responsible for fit together tightly. 

“They used to jokingly refer to our sound as ‘polyethnic-cajun-fusion-slamgrass’, but there’s really never been a good label for what we do,” Thorn said. “The fact that we have a song list that now encompasses 400 tunes also keeps folks guessing night after night, ourselves included.”

According to Thorn at least, you never know what you are going to get with Leftover Salmon, other than a mind-blowing show.

Leftover Salmon plays The Windjammer on Isle of Palms 7 p.m., July 25. For ticket information visit

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.