I have a long relationship with Blitzen Trapper. When they released Furr, their breakout 2008 album filled with sophisticated, twangy storytelling, I was won over. Led by the transcendent title track, the album lifted the group from obscurity into the forefront of the Northwest indie scene. But when the followup release didn’t grasp me the same way, I lost interest. Luckily, last year they returned with American Goldwing, an album about travel that had the same burning passion as their breakout record. Last night in Williamsburg, the Portland folkies seemed to agree with me, focusing almost exclusively on material from Furr and American Goldwing.
The band, performing in Brooklyn for the first time in three years, had lots of fun with the small crowd of diehard fans. After asking the crowd if they could “feel the bass in [their] bowels,” they morphed “War On Machines” into the Foghat classic “Slow Ride,” filled with cowbell and all. During the hit “Furr,” the audience sang every single word, almost overpowering the band at times. The band rarely stopped to chat, instead powering through two hours of their heaviest, most rocking material.
Their powerful guitar melodies are plentiful on their records, but really take the cake live. On the “party jam” number, “Saturday Nite,” the twin guitar harmonies left the crowd in awe. Where has all this shredding been in their music? Their inspired cover of Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” added to the guitar-centric feeling. While every instrument was expertly played, it was hard not to see the guitar as the focus of the night.
The vocals. Where do I even start? Singer Eric Earley’s drawl is even more pronounced in a live setting, adding to the Southern-even-though-we’re-from-Portland sound. And the harmonies from drummer Brian Koch and multi-instrumentalist Marty Marquis were more prominent, easily drawing comparisons to fellow Northwesterners, Fleet Foxes.
The show was as good as an old-fashioned rock show can be. No frills, no fancy lights. Just five guys jamming their hearts out for fans that really appreciated it. I can safely say I love Blitzen Trapper more than ever. In the fan favorite “Black River Killer,” Earley asks, “When will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?” Umm, now?