Live review: Blitzen Trapper @ the Bluebird TheaterBy Troy Markgraf | July 21st, 2009 | No Comments »
It’s difficult to pin the Oregon-based Blitzen Trapper to any one music style. Are they indie rock? Progressive? Folk? Alt-country? Just when you thought they were all about new Americana they hit you with a lunar sound effect and a hard rock guitar. It’s almost as if they are Johnny in the movie “Dirty Dancing” saying, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”
Blitzen Trapper’s show at the Bluebird Theater on Thursday showcased this ability to keep people busy with labels.
The group leapt into a subset of songs that were seemingly chosen for their pop vocals and upbeat grooves. They included the organ-infused synthesizer and rhythmic drumming of “Sleepytime in the Western World.” Immediately after that ringer, we heard the funky “Saturday Night,” followed by the catchy, melodic verses of “God & Suicide.”
At this point, Blitzen Trapper seems easy to define. They’re an indie-rock power pop band, right? Hold that thought.
The band moved onto a completely new genre in their next subset, beginning with “Stolen Shoes & a Rifle,” a song with a twangy peddle guitar and some nasally country vocals. Not too much later came “Black River Killer,” with its narrative lyrics and old-country sound. At times you might have caught yourself making those forbidden comparisons, relating Blitzen Trapper lead singer Erik Early to Dylan and sometimes Petty.
With few exceptions, it doesn’t seem to matter what Blitzen Trapper is playing. Their songs are catchy and addictive to even those new to their sound. Their alt-country tunes and power pop melodies translate well for live music and can win over even the most skeptical of fans.
The highlight and clear audience favorite of the night was the title track from their latest album, “Furr.” As Eric Early steadfastly narrated his way through the vocals and harmonica of the self-proclaimed “coming-of-age parable,” you could distinctly hear a captivated audience singing along to one of Blitzen Trappers most memorable and haunting songs to date.
Equally as impressive was drummer/vocalist Brian Adrian Koch’s beard. There have been many great beards in the indie rock/folk music scene. They apparently mark the degree to which you are country and folksy. Whereas most indie rockers’ beards skew on the less manicured and tufted end of the beard spectrum, Koch’s beard is manicured while still holding that mountain man appeal. A complete masterpiece! So much so that the band played a tribute to the beard between songs.
Oh yeah, he’s also a pretty damn good drummer.
Lowlights of the show included the overpowering conversation of audience members at the back of the Bluebird. This was made more apparent and obnoxious when Early cleared the stage of other band members and played several solo songs, one of which Early had “played only four other times.” Aaah so endearing. But not enough to quiet the unappreciative audience members.
Another detractor was the seemingly endless “Love U.” Early was clearly more entertained with the song than his audience seemed to be. The slow moving blues guitar and multiple interludes seemed to bring the concert to a crawl at just the wrong time. At times, you wondered when, or if, the song would die.
But these events did little to diminish the overall catchiness of the concert as a whole. There is something appealing and downright easy to love about a band dressed cowboy-chic, the twang of a steel guitar and the melodies of old music revived and mixed with new progressive sounds. Blitzen Trapper seemed to have something for everyone that night.
Troy Markgraf is a Denver freelance writer and regular contributor to Reverb.