Blitzen Trapper @ The Pabst Theater
July 20, 2009
From the first guitar chord that burst from the amplifiers, watching Blitzen Trapper was like taking a ride in a time machine with the date set to 1970. Other than the standard instruments—drums, bass, guitars, keyboards—the band broke out a harmonica, melodica, maracas, and yes, even a cowbell, and at various points of the set, they evoked classic bands like the Lovin' Spoonful, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult and, most notably, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, because of singer/guitarist Eric Earley's vocal style—and they somehow managed to do all of this and still sound wholly original.
After eight songs, the band left Earley on stage by himself—"They're taking a beer break," he said, "I don't get one, but that's okay"—and he played two songs solo, one a haunting murder ballad called "The Man Who Would Speak True," just he and his guitar and harmonica, bringing a tiny bit of Bob Dylan into the show. When two of his bandmates returned to stage, Earley switched to keyboard as they backed him up with a two-part harmony while he sang a song about lost love.
It was back to wall of sound, breakdowns and searing guitar solos when the full band returned. They blasted through five more songs, and then came back for a three-song encore in which they played two of their tunes and a cover of the song "Last Thing On My Mind." Though "Dolly Parton made famous," they said, "we're gonna make it more famous, right now." I think they succeeded. Some might call them throwbacks, and I guess they are, a little—but they are throwbacks to the days when the world still believed in the power of rock 'n' roll, and in my book, that's a good thing.
Photo by CJ Foeckler