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Blitzen Trapper @ Turner Hall Ballroom

Oct. 6, 2015

Oct. 7, 2015
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Photo credit: Kellen Nordstrom
The decline of Blitzen Trapper’s popularity over the past several years is less about diminishing creative returns and perhaps more a result of poor timing. The Portland, Ore. band first picked up steam with 2004’s Field Rexx, a dazzling, self-released, rough-around-the-edges alt-country album coated with a layer of tape hiss that took cues from Pavement’s Wowee Zowee. Unfortunately, the record came out during a time when precious indie-folk music was bubbling to the surface (thanks in large part to a soundtrack from a certain New Jersey-based film). Its breakthrough roots rock record on Sub Pop, 2008’s Furr, was released just one year before Mumford & Sons triple platinum debut and the Avett Brothers’ Rick Rubin-produced I And Love And You. In 2009, folk music had once again hit mainstream pop radio, and Blitzen Trapper was left in the dust. 

The band settled into its comfortable backwoods groove on 2011’s American Goldwing and 2013’s VII and just celebrated the release of its eighth studio album last week, All Across This Land. The record, which has largely been ignored by the national music press, is one of the Blitzen Trapper’s strongest efforts to date. Lead singer Eric Earley wrote narrative-based songs that evoke the working class soot of Bruce Springsteen and the keen, steely gaze of Neil Young. Earley and company leaned heavily on this new album, but still threw in some surprises during its sparsely attended Turner Hall Ballroom show on Tuesday night. 

The mercurial musical influences of Blitzen Trapper causes their live performances to sound like walking into a Tennessee bar, putting a 10 dollar bill in the jukebox and pressing the random button. The set started raucous with "Rock and Roll (Was Made For You)," as Earley, in a sleeveless flannel shirt, sang with a country twang and hammered through a blistering closing solo. On “These Nights Were Made For Love” and “Cadillac Road” he conjured the fiery spirit of The Boss. “Thirsty Man” brought across the group’s jam band roots, with its atmospheric solo that morphed into a spacey cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together.” The range of styles kept the night interesting. 

The only flub came during the encore when Earley had to halt the song when he forgot the first words to a verse to All Across This Land closer “Across The River” during the encore—an understandable miscue as the band just kicked off its tour behind the record. The mistake only seemed to enliven Earley, who took the opportunity to pay back the crowd by taking a few song requests. When the night seemed to be over, Early asked keyboardist Marty Marquis, “You wanna play one more?” He obliged, and the band rocketed through Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak.” The jukebox was rocking tonight.

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