Blitzen's Bag of Tricks: Desiree Weber reviews Blitzen Trapper
7th St. Entry, April 9
Review by Desiree Weber
Photos by Daniel Corrigan
Blitzen Trapper, with their mix of classic guitar riffs, tambourines and more space-aged gadgets, whipped the sizable crowd at the 7th Street Entry into a jam-band induced frenzy. “Everything but the kitchen sink” seems to be a mentality that this Portland band takes to heart, especially on its latest album Wild Mountain Nation.
Run, Donner! Blitzen Trapper rock the Entry. More photos by Daniel Corrigan.
A description of the sheer number of pedals or the actual bag of maracas, cowbells and other assorted noisemakers doesn’t, however, do justice to the layered, light-hearted vocal styling of front man Eric Earley or the intricate interaction between old-school sound, off-kilter beats and fits of dissonance. Blitzen Trapper embodies as much the “digital brat” they sing about in stand-out Sci-Fi Kid as their more harmonic (and harmonica infused) country forbearers. And somehow it works.
Opening-number Miss Spiritual Tramp was reminiscent of Beck, circa Odelay, with fuzzy guitar loops and despondent vocals. But somehow the transition into Country Caravan, which sounds like what its name implies (think Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), is seamless. As was the album-opener Devil’s A-Go-Go, which came next in the set list and had the crowd bopping along to the likes of an off-kilter Beatles song. It seems that the six members of Blitzen Trapper have mastered the formula of not having a formula; rocking out within tightly scripted sonic bounds while not letting on that there are boundaries at all. (One could even say that they live up to their name, with a sound as whimsical as actually trapping lightning.) On Jericho, a featured song from their previous album, the sextet exemplified the range of influences and techniques – but the title track to their latest album was clearly an audience favorite.
The rollicking energy that spurred the audience from one song to the next was refreshing – but made me wonder whether that was the element I found missing from the recorded version. A song like Woof & Warp of the Quiet Giant’s Hem, which on the album could be mistaken for a group of adolescent boys jamming in their garage, takes on a much more vibrant and energized persona when performed live. The toe-tapping pulse throughout the set was brought to a fitting close with Blitzen Trapper letting it all hang out – with help from members of Fleet Foxes and even some audience members.
While the overall sonic landscape may be hard to nail down, you certainly have to credit Blitzen Trapper with achieving a fluid sound while challenging your ears.
-- Desiree Weber