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Week in Rock: Blitzen Trapper Keeper Edition

<strong>Band Of Horses at Grand Central Terminal</strong><p>Every so often, a band plays in a space that couldn't seem more suited. Last night's free <a href="http://www.myspace.com/bandofhorses">Band of Horses</a> pop-up show at Grand Central's Vanderbilt Hall was one such time. The show, announced scarcely more than 24 hours earlier, was packed with diehard fans, but "packed" in this case is only relative to the unique size of the venue, made genuinely intimate in the roped-off hall. Grand Central's enormously high ceilings and stone walls created a larger-than-life reverb seemingly made for Ben Bridwell's lush, echo-y vocals belted over Tyler Ramsey's driving, twangy guitar.</p><p></p>The show started exactly as the station clock behind them struck 6:30, with the band playing a mix of favorite songs shouted out by fans and tracks off their month-old album, <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/infinite-arms/id371190956"><em>Infinite Arms</em></a>, many of which were sung along by the crowd just as fervently as the older ones. The audience was visibly appreciative of the more-than-expected free show, cooing "awws" when Ramsey took lead vocals for a whispery, tender acoustic duet of "Evening Kitchen" with Bridwell. Audience members shouted out "THANK YOU!" between songs which a delighted Bridwell returned tenfold, apologizing for the sold-out show this Sunday with Grizzly Bear at Williamsburg Waterfront. Ryan Monroe on keyboard for "Compliments" was an exercise in pure enthusiasm, booming powerfully through the vast hall and giving contrast to the crisp, carefully quiet "Monsters" which followed later in the set, whose pauses again confirmed the space's crazy reverb. The band ended with "The Funeral," the loudest song of the night. No one seemed to mind the unsuccessful encore, filtering out on to Lexington Ave in orderly non-Drakeian fashion amidst appreciative murmurs and happily hummed strains of despondent lyrics, "...at every occasion, I'm ready for a funeral..." <em>— Zoe Schlanger</em>





<p>Photo courtesy of AdamFarber. To see more images from thisevent, visit <a href="http://www.adamfarber.com">www.adamfarber.com</a></p>


Blitzen Trapper at Webster HallAfter years of moving farther toward the outskirts of indie rockdom, a recent wave of bands have emerged, embracing and emulating classic rock in it's most unironic forms, without fear of acknowledging those heavy debts. Bands such as Midlake, Besnard Lakes and Dr. Dog are often only as good as their foremost influences and references, whether they be late '60s The Band, Fleetwood Mac or White Album-era Beatles. And while they risk being derivative, or being accused there of, they also tap into a vein of songwriting that offers a rich frame for innovation, if given the right personalities. Portland, Oregon sextet Blitzen Trapper, who played Webster Hall Wednesday night, are teetering on that precipice between wearing their influences and absorbing them. Blitzen Trapper boldly opened their set with their best known song, the murder-ballad with a touch of wheezy-synth single "Black River Killer." Although they have released five full length albums over the last decade, they played a generous 20 song set mostly plucked from their latest album, Destroyer of the Void, and 2008's Furr. On those newest albums, singer/songwriter Eric Earley moves the band toward '70s classic rock, from the Queen piano breaks in proggy "Destroyer of the Void" to the Lynyrd Skynyrd guitar breaks in "Dragon's Song," from the "Cold Turkey"-era Lennon of "Love and Hate," to early '70s Neil Young in "Not Your Lover." At their best, on tracks such as "Sleepytime in the Western World," "God and Suicide" and "Wild Mountain Nation" (you can see a video of the later below), they are playful with their influences, enlivening the tunes with a wacked-out sense of excitement and unexpected twists; at their least interesting, they move toward more "traditional" (re: unimaginative) arrangements that reveal lyrics that are lacking. Earley writes uniformly strong, McCartney-like melodies for his Jeff Tweedy-like vocals however, which helps even the weaker songs rise above the din. And sometimes the simpler songs work gorgeously, as on "Furr" and "The Tree," both heavily influenced by John Wesley Harding-era Dylan.