If you missed these Portland, Oregon up-and-comers in November, don't worry: they will be back to play the Bowery Ballroom on February 27 and the Music Hall of Williamsburg the night after, February 28th.
Review written for WirelessBollinger.com
The live show that Blitzen Trapper put on at Terminal 5 in Manhattan on November 17 was something like watching a road race. The gun goes off and the band fires out of the gate,
with high energy rock songs, well executed but very focused and mostly devoid of emotion. With their sights set so firmly on the track, it’s hard to tell if they’re actually enjoying themselves. But after a few songs, the sextet settles in, finding their own rhythm (which is accented in each of their six bodies in unison) and exposing more and more of their unique sound.
With a combination of shaggy beards and tight hipster jeans, it comes as no surprise that the music from these Portland, Oregon men is a cross between blues/country and rock/funk. Eric Earley sets the mark as the lead singer, who at times croons with the whiny resonance of the best Country singers, only to later bust out a grating opening chorus, screamed into the microphone, flirting with heavy metal associations while maintaining the precision of a classic rock band.
It is not only the vocals from Earley, however, that stand out. Many of Blitzen Trapper’s songs are colored with striking three-part harmonies, pulling the sound back towards blues and country no matter how hard it’s trying to veer away (the occasional introduction of Earley’s harmonica has the same effect).
Their live set was diverse and spanned more musical genres than their typical album; like a sampling of all the options open to them as musicians. This appeared to be more fun for the audience to experience than it was for the young men onstage, as Earley rushed each song’s ending with a cold “Thank you” and the band exited the stage somewhat hurriedly and anti-climatically to allow for Iron & Wine (the headliner) to set up.
For a band that can so clearly hold their own in one of the biggest venues in New York City, they could afford to relish in the moments a little more. Take a lesson from the tortoise: slow and steady wins the race. It helps to make it fun along the way as well.