Blitzen Trapper @ In the Venue

Posted November 3, 2009 in
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Blitzen Trapper
In The Venue
with Mirah, Wye Oak and Norfolk & Western

This is quite probably unfair of me, but generally when I know I’m going into a show that has three openers before the band I came to see, I resign myself to sitting through at least one shitty band or I just skip the openers entirely.  It’s rare these days for me to go to a show and remain impressed, engaged and enthusiastic throughout every single set.  So I was quite pleasantly surprised by the recent Blitzen Trapper and Mirah show, which gave me a solid four hours of awesome live music.

I arrived about halfway through Norfolik & Western’s set, which was unfortunate because what I did see convinced me of their awesomeness so thoroughly that I purchased their latest album on the spot.  Vocalist Adam Selzer (who is also a part of M. Ward) has one of those straightforward, clear and beautiful voices that can probably make any band sound great—which is not to say that this band necessarily needed it, because every musician onstage performed skillfully.  Beyond just being competent, they worked incredibly well as a cohesive unit, hitting just about every song they played out of the park.  Mostly their repertoire seemed to be indie, piano-driven pop songs, but with a roughed-up edge that made them suitable to open for a band like Blitzen Trapper.

The next opener was the grunge-y boy-girl duo Wye Oak.  They had a fun stage presence and played an energetic, perfectly enjoyable set, but their music wasn’t as memorable as the other three acts, and I don’t have a whole lot to say about them.  Possibly I was too distracted during their set by the anticipation of seeing Mirah—she’s been a favorite of mine for years, and I found myself cruelly shut out of her last sold-out show in Salt Lake. 

Mirah is one of those artists that I imagine might not be immediately understood by everyone.  When you first hear one of her songs, it’s easy to think, yeah, pretty voice, calm mellow pretty songs, and leave it at that.  After a few deeper listens of her material, you start to realize that actually she has an amazing, one-of-a-kind voice, and her songwriting is subtle and twisty in a way that few other artists can claim. 

And of course, she’s excellent live.  I mean, she tours with an oboist and a violinist in addition to the standard guitars and drums, of course she’s going to be something else.  Which isn’t to say that she was merely eclectic or god forbid quirky—she has a magnetic stage presence even at her most mellow, and her powerful voice combined with the richness of the aforementioned oboe and violin made for an exceptionally moving set. 

Blitzen Trapper were, simply put, glorious.  They immediately dug into their set with relish, enlivening the club with their particular band of rowdy Americana.  I was expecting a good show, but I admit that I wasn’t prepared for just how hard my face was to be rocked off.  The band seemed to be in a great mood, as if they knew they were giving their audience far more liveliness and cheer than we were used to. 

Blitzen Trapper of course get a lot of their signature sound from old-timey blues, folk and country.  What sets them apart from being just your standard indie Americana band is that they add their own odd flavor of discordance and southern gothic flair, keeping things exciting rather than just familiar.  They got everyone in the club stomping and hollering, but definitely kept their own unique sound throughout the set.