You need some stonewashed jeans and a time machine, sang Eric Earley at the Record Bar last night.
Given Blitzen Trapper's band's effortless melodies and crystalline harmonies, he's right: as much as the band is adored by fans of the band's burnished, roots-rock sound, Blitzen Trapper is not of this era. Instead, the band is known for
experimenting with the echoes of the Laurel Canyon folk sound of the late '60s,
rolling a colorful bunch of influences into a folky feast of sound.
The Portland band journeys from their pruned California
folk aesthetic found on Furr to a more
expansive, proggy sprawl on the band's latest release, Destroyer of
the Void. The band's fifth album finds the
band yet again finger-painting with genres in a vivid pastiche of sounds, eras,
and story yarns.
The band launched into a twangy, fiery version of "Black River
Killer" that boasted some serious 'tude. Hiking up the charisma, frontman Eric
Earley nixed the dry delivery found on his records and, instead, used his
Dylan-like rasp to hammer through lyrics with a spoken-word fervor. A funky,
soulful instrumentation sped up the tempo and loosened up Blitzen Trapper's
buttons. It showed the packed, sweaty crowd early on that Blitzen
Trapper was no one-trick pony -- an endeavor that the band would continue in the
next few numbers, where the sound ping-ponged from laid-back folk-rock to Southern fried rock and a dash of grunge.
Bright pop melodies were enriched by faultless
harmonies culled straight from Folk Rock 101. The band nailed each tempo, hammered-on
note and chord change with a professional, serious precision: there was no room
for sloppiness in Blitzen Trapper's schizoid set. It's rare to find a band that can inject soul into this meditative accuracy, especially in a sweaty cavern like the Record Bar.
(Though, as Blitzen Trapper mentioned, we're pretty sure that St. Louis' show
was a helluva lot hotter.)
Blitzen Trapper's tunes still retained the
brightly burning folk-rock ferocity, regardless of what flavor the guys set
their fingers to. There was absolutely nothing diluted about
Blitzen Trapper's culling of influences from older sources. In fact, imitation
isn't a fair word at all; aspiration is the correct description for Blitzen Trapper's
faithful -- even hopeful -- replication and synthesis of roots-rock tropes.
Inevitably, the loud-talkers in back began sermonizing
to the people next to them during Blitzen Trapper's quiet numbers. The most notable was the band's rendition of
"Heaven and Earth," which was mainly comprised of Earley on piano. Rather than
letting the Lennon-like melody run its course, Earley muscled depth and breadth
into the frail, delicate tune -- in fact, he played and sang with such ferocity
that one would guess he was actually trying to shut us up.
Ethereal tones towards the end of the night lulled into a
folk-rock fugue (which could be blamed on the fact that Blitzen Trapper cranked
out a 20-plus song set that spanned over an hour and a half.) But the
guys showed no signs of flagging, either in energy or precision, despite the
sweat and grueling pace: "Wild Mountain Nation," the last tune before the band's encore, sounded just as fresh, jangling and crisp as the first.