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Kateri Town
Blitzen Trapper's Marty Marquis
Blitzen Trapper


The Belle Brigade

The Neptune Theatre

Friday, November 11, 2011

Co-headlining tours can be the strangest


Blitzen Trapper and Dawes Cruise Different Roads At The Neptune

Thumbnail image for 9blitzen.jpg
Kateri Town
Blitzen Trapper's Marty Marquis
Blitzen Trapper


The Belle Brigade

The Neptune Theatre

Friday, November 11, 2011

Co-headlining tours can be the strangest things. Two bands with separately established fan bases touring together can make for an almost unification of the bands, or quickly spiral out of control into a giant chest-puffing contest. In the case of Blitzen Trapper and Dawes, it appeared to do neither, but it did show two bands with a similar swath of influences displaying two very different schools of output.

After making what felt like a pretty brilliant recreation (and slight reimagining) of the Laurel Canyon sound on their debut LP North Hills, Dawes has progressed into much more milquetoast territory with the material on their second record (Nothing Is Wrong). Maybe it's signing with Dave Matthews' label, ATO (those are frat letters, right?), maybe it's playing backing band to Robbie Robertson, or maybe it's just spending too much time thinking instead of doing, but their new material feels a bit forced.

Whereas singer Taylor Goldsmith's rich voice and lyrical maturity extended way past his years on North Hills, his songwriting (and the band's persistent desire to lean back on more formulaic song structures) start to feel less genuine at times. Songs like "Fire Away" and "Little Bit Of Everything" attempt to be these verbose, universally affirming anthems of everyman struggle, but end up feeling heavy-handedly crowded with words. That isn't to say that Goldsmith doesn't have a hell of a songwriter in there somewhere; "Time Spent In Los Angeles" and the bursting-with-life "When My Time Comes" manage to balance those epic qualities with immediately catchy choruses whose hearts pump with thick, red American blood. Drummer Griffin Goldsmith showed the most life during their cruise-along set, playing the Levon Helm role in the band by holding down airtight harmonies and dropping far-from-textbook fills into all the right spaces. However, be it inexperience, lack of effort, or just some sort of slump, it just seems that Dawes spends most of their time treading in familiar territory musically, lyrically swinging for the fences while only occasionally rounding the bases.

While Dawes is your uncle that occasionally gets wild by wearing socks and sandals, Blitzen Trapper is that great, weird uncle who occasionally rolls up to family dinners (invited out of obligation by your parents) in a skunky custom van with a wizard on the side that you're pretty sure he lives in. Following Dawes' middle of the road meanderings, Blitzen Trapper's eclectic set sounded downright revolutionary. While there is some definite common ground in influences between the two, Portland-based Blitzen Trapper manages to push past the predictable trappings of Americana and into weirder, spacier territory. Sure, singer Eric Earley is still a storytelling songwriter at heart, and the band's last LP (Destroyer of the Void) was dominated by a bulk of Earley's sedate acoustic numbers and some more sprawling, expansive numbers, but it never really felt like a cohesive piece of work. Their most recent LP (2011's American Goldwing) still shows off Earley's gift for storytelling, but show the band finding a good balance between Earley's more stark, solo material and their joyous take on chicken-fried Southern rock, with songs like "Might Find It Cheap" and the filthy "Street Fighting Sun" standing a few beard hairs/acid trips away from some of Skynyrd's catalog. Blitzen Trapper has always proudly displayed their diverse influences, but for some reason, this tour has found the band with all cylinders firing at once, sounding weirder (and more confident) than ever. Their set played out like a tweaked out Nuggets mix, with the band never sitting still in one place long enough to let anyone get too comfortable. While the audience was ecstatically polite for Dawes equally well-mannered set, Blitzen Trapper tossed out a challenging set, rewarding those who stayed through til the end with a Trapper-field cover of Led Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times" that made the Neptune feel like the Filmore for just a few minutes.

Random Notebook Dump: Openers The Belle Brigade showed the kind of hungry teeth that an opener should show off. Siblings Barbara and Ethan Gruska harmonized in that weird way that only relatives seem to be able to pull off, and you could feel it in your bones. While there were moments of their set that felt as saccharin as any modern day radio country, they layered on enough wide-eyed conviction in their set to give most of the crowd goosebumps.

Dawes Setlist:

The Way You Laugh

If I Wanted Someone

God Rest My Soul

Million Dollar Bill

Fire Away

Peace In The Valley

See How Far We've Come

Coming Back To A Man

Little Bit of Everything

When My Time Comes

Time Spent In Los Angeles

Blitzen Trapper Setlist:

Sleepytime In The Western World


American Goldwing

God And Suicide

My Hometown


Might Find It Cheap

Love & Hate


Love The Way You Walk Away

Black River Killer

Girl In A Coat

Miss Spiritual Tramp

Big Black Bird

Street Fightin' Sun

Wild Mountain Nation


Fire And Fast Bullets

Good Times, Bad Times (Led Zeppelin cover)

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