Blitzen Trapper with Fruit Bats, Pearly Gate Music
House of Blues
October 14, 2010
Better Than: The Houston show, it appears.
Blitzen Trapper opened with "Wild Mountain Nation," which is about as good a show opener as it is possible to have in your catalogue.
Yet they do not always use it--a piece of evidence that this band loves Dallas.
Another piece of evidence: They said it. Specifically, guitarist/backup vocalist player Marty Marquis told us about a third of the way through the show that Dallas was their favorite stop on the tour aside from some place I didn't recognize and will therefore assume is in Canada, where the tour started.
And Dallas loves Blitzen Trapper.
Maybe not universally--let's just say there was plenty of elbow room--but fervently. There was raucous applause, eager recognition of stuff from the back catalogue, dancing, etc. There were also a few yawners and side-conversationalists in the back, but the general consensus from the crowd seemed to be that this was a fantastic show.
And it was.
Much has been made of Blitzen Trapper's stylistic schizophrenia over the years. Perfectly accurate reference points include, depending on the song and/or album, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Sonic Youth, Queen, The Beatles, the Grateful Dead, any number of their Sub Pop label mates, and on. For a lesser band, this might mean a lack of originality or identity. It doesn't feel that way for Blitzen Trapper.
Credit songwriter and lead singer Eric Earley's. He frequently cites authors as his main influence, which implies that he starts with what's happening ideologically or emotionally in a song before coming up with the actual music. And he is rarely telling the same sort of story--even within this year's Destroyer of the Void is a song about a couple growing up and growing old together ("The Tree") and another about a man who kills his wife ("The Man Who Would Speak True"). So the wide array of musical styles are all tools to be employed: Sometimes they need post-punk feedback to deliver a song's intent and sometimes they need an acoustic guitar and a harmonica.
Both "The Tree" and "The Man Who Would Speak True" were highlights of Blitzen Trapper's set at House of Blues. This is a decade-old band on its fifth full-length, still capable of creating new songs that are as arresting as their old ones - a rare feat, and almost certainly a result of their musical versatility. There's plenty of fertile ground when your territory is this big.
First opener Pearly Gate Music is currently most well-known--inasmuch as it is known at all--as the musical project of Fleet Foxes' drummer's brother, Zach Tillman. A tenuous claim to fame, granted, which is all the more reason to ignore it: Tillman doesn't need the association. He played a striking set of songs, sparsely composed and markedly more guitar-heavy than on the album.
Fruit Bats followed. The formula hasn't changed a whole lot in the 13 years of the band's existence: Theirs is workmanlike, exuberant alt-country stuff. Lately it's gotten a bit more proggy--their set started concise and ended in jams, Led Zeppelin Lite transitioning (briefly) into a Harry Nilsson cover, and thus began fifteen minutes of mashing.
Personal Bias: I realize they brought this on themselves by choosing the name Blitzen Trapper and calling their breakthrough album Wild Mountain Nation, but this band absolutely does not belong in the category of woodsy indie folk. There is way too much rawking going on for that--a fantastic thing, as far as I'm concerned.
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Random Note: Fruit Bats propped incense in the tabs of open cans of Shiner Bock for the duration of their set. For what it's worth.
By the Way: House of Blues mikes the crap out of floor toms and kick drums. This is awesome for something like 15 seconds and then sort of terrible the rest of the time.
Wild Mountain Nation
God & Suicide
Love and Hate
Destroyer of the Void
Black River Killer
The Man Who Would Speak True
Taking It Easy Too Long
Lady On The Water
Below The Hurricane
Sleepytime in the Western World
Fire & Fast Bullets