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Blitzen Trapper sets milestones in Urbana

October 20, 2009

Blitzen Trapper
October 16, 2009
Canopy Club – Urbana, Ill.

A strong westerly blew Portland, Ore. folk-rock sextet Blitzen Trapper in to the Canopy Club in Urbana Friday night. It was the band’s first trip and by their own admission, a memorable one.

Fellow Oregon rockers The Shaky Hands opened the evening’s festivities with their own brand of roots rock. Their music is akin to that of the rawest of My Morning Jacket songs, giving off a good old-fashioned rock and roll vibe.

The Shaky Hands served their purpose well and primed the audience with a dose of music not too different from that of the headline act.

Overall their set was enjoyable, but it didn’t manage to pry my wallet open back at the merchandise table.

The amount of hair that the members of The Shaky Hands and Blitzen Trapper sported led me to wonder whether or not they were competing for the “Hairiest Bands to Play the Canopy” award. Between their hair beyond the shoulders and the beards that draped ever further down, I believe that they stood a good chance of winning such a title.

The music that Blitzen Trapper creates encapsulates that rugged, outdoorsy, Pacific Northwest vibe very well. My only criticism of their latest record, and first on Sub Pop, “Furr,” is that it tends to sound over-produced and super slick. Their live performance, however, has all the rough edges that a fuzzy, indie-folk band should have.

Hearing the songs from their 2008 record come to life on stage made them even more special than they had been on the record.

The band kicked their set off with opening track from Furr, “Sleepytime in the Western World.” They began the song a capella letting their sweet harmonies echo above the din of the room. I would venture to say that their harmonies sounded even better than on their record; a true testament to their musical muscle.

They rolled straight through the beginning of their set with several fast paced rock songs like “Wild Mountain Nation” and “Gold For Bread” among others. Their vocal presence continued to impress as lead singer Erik Earley’s primal scream on the intro to “Love U” resounded like a canon shot within the spacious hall of the Canopy.

After starting their set with a bang (and a scream), the band slowed their tempo a bit through the middle of their performance. The most memorable part being the part-a capella, part-full band version of the song “Furr” which encited a bit of crowd-surfing from an enthusiastic fan. Guitarist Marty Marquis admitted that the crowd surfing was a first for a Blitzen Trapper concert, and expressed his gratitude for such a response.

After their rollicking version of “Furr” concluded Earley was left alone on stage to play a few songs solo.

After a couple songs from their pre-Sub Pop days and one unreleased song the stage began to fill once again with Trappers. The band then launched into a pepped-up version of “Black River Killer” featuring each member of the six-piece. I was a bit conflicted by this rendition. I did not hate this take on the song, however, I felt it stripped the song of its eeriness. It was an interesting take and I did enjoy hearing one of my favorite songs of theirs refreshed and done differently.

The set rose again with a few of the more up-tempo songs from Furr before the band called it an evening. Luckily the first goodbye didn’t take and the band graciously reclaimed the stage to perform a few more before everyone headed home.

Their encore began slowly and in the second song, a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest,” many opportunistic fans took it upon themselves to climb on stage and waltz alongside the band. Earley and the rest of the band couldn’t hide their laughter as the couples danced through their song and claimed it to be yet another milestone in Trapper tour history.

The encore got funky with “Saturday Night” and went out with a bang with “Big Black Bird.”

Overall, these Oregon bands left the fans at the Canopy Club feeling more than satisfied – a kind of warm, fuzzy satisfaction, like having an abundance of facial hair.

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