Monday, November 4, 2013

Blitzen Trapper LIVE REVIEW (Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee)

Photo Credit: Ben Wick

They have openly described themselves with the phrase, "Open Rocky Mountain Whoop Ass," which seems strangely fitting for the Portland based group Blitzen Trapper, as they pull from an array of genres ranging from folk, country to hard rock. It's almost like one minute you're listening to Bob Dylan, The Band or even Led Zeppelin until you snap out of it and realize it's Blitzen Trapper, which is a pretty bold statement but they literally write something for everyone and that's something I admire about the group.

Photo Credit: Ben Wick
Currently on tour in support of their seventh studio album titled VII, which largely reflects the term coined above (Rocky Mountain Whoop-Ass) by close associates to the band. Regardless, the album reflects memories of Oregon, which can be heard on the albums funk infused opener "Feel the Chill," where frontman Eric Earley describes an old shack they used to drink at, still capable of giving one a chill several years later. 

"Oregon Geography" continues to incorporate multiple genres and instruments into one with a banjo and harmonica prominent throughout, but also accompanied with a heavy bass line. "Ever Loved Once," one of the albums most promising songs, is another heart felt Blitzen Trapper love song that frontman Early seems to "keep writing," touching on the subject of regret and tragic lost love. Overall, the album seems to take you on a journey portraying how small ideas or memories, can be widened into something larger, such as a song.

It was about three years ago at the Newport Folk Festival where I first discovered myself captivated by Blitzen Trapper and then again at the Treefort Music Festival a few years later in Boise. It seemed as if both shows blew me away more than the last and this time around was no exception. The group have an indescribable ability to carry over there songs into a live performance, which those at Turner Hall in Milwaukee were lucky enough to witness. 

Photo Credit: Ben Wick
The group opened up with an explosive performance of "Sleepy Time in the Western World," from 2008's Furr, before playing "Thirsty Man," from VII, which Early describes as a song," where love like rain falls in the wasteland and slips through the finger for love is a thing that cannot be held but only felt and released." 

You never seem to know what you will get with a Blitzen Trapper set, showing that they really know their songs. With seven albums out they tastefully bounced around playing a few more from Furr, such as "God and Suicide" and "Black River Killer," one of their most well known songs for good reason. "Valley of Death" and "Shine On" were among the set of new songs performed. One of the nights many highlights was when the guys decided to let their folk side show, temporarily slowing things down to perform a handful of acoustic songs, such as "Lady on the Water" and "Furr."

Overall, Blitzen Trapper never ceases to amaze me not only with the diverse, energetic and positive set they continually bring, but also with the quality of the performance. Capable of hitting every note the sound couldn't have been more in sync, which is constantly the case with the Oregon based group. I read a quote in reference to VII, as stated by Early, "May these songs minister in ways mysterious and eternal, or at least maybe make you shake a hip," which is precisely the all around end result. Do yourself a favor and attend a Blitzen Trapper show.

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