Blitzen Trapper at First Avenue, 7/27/10

Blitzen Trapper
July 27, 2010
First Avenue Mainroom

It was spring 2008. Fresh out of a relationship, not yet "educated" enough on how to be slutty and pick up dudes but desperate enough to at least shoot men coy glances, I was at the 7th St Entry to see my friends Kelsey and Jacy of the formerly local band THEMES (now of Portland) open for a couple out-of-towners. And to shoot as many coy glances as I could muster at their, like, totally cute new bass player.

So those out-of-towners. They soon thereafter made it pretty damned big. Second-billed that evening was the now widely-acclaimed Fleet Foxes. That April evening, I thought they were boring as hell, and I can remember trying to goose Jacy during their set and being scolded by Kelsey, who told me I'd best not distract Jacy because he really liked this band. Both THEMES and Fleet Foxes were opening for Portland band Blitzen Trapper, who had the previous year self-released the (eventually picked up by Sub Pop and praised by Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Spin, et al) album, Wild Mountain Nation.

For a good 45 minutes, I was entirely distracted from my calculated methods of shooting the coyest glances at cute bass players by what to me turned out to be a really awesome band. They day after the show, I picked up Wild Mountain Nation, their third release (their releases as of publication numbering five plus one EP). And so while I'd lost track of them in the ensuing years, I was excited to see Blitzen Trapper again Tuesday night, this time in the Mainroom.

I don't know if it's a testament to the Entry specifically or to small venues in general (likely both) but damn. A band like Blitzen Trapper really makes their awesomeness more strongly felt in a crowd of few where you're packed in like tin fish (Entry, '08) than in a crowd of many where you have plenty of elbow room (Mainroom, '10).

Touring now in support of Sub Pop release Destroyer of the Void, Blitzen Trapper played a set heavily focused on that album, an album which has, y'know, evolved since their third release. As bands like to do.

To these ears, in their switch from small venue to large, from self-released to label-issued, the band has gone from silly folksy fun to irreverent fantastical, like that certain vein of the Beatles' output that sounded like the band was just fucking around yet had the totally ridiculous production of George Martin paired with out-of-hand studio orchestration. There are no violins or cornets here, of course, but the band is definitely, two years later, stretching for something bigger.

Do they reach it? Not quite. None of their songs really grab you, but it's important to note that the audience remains captivated.


Clearly that means this audience heard 'em on the Current, downloaded their album, and knows the words to every song. Right?

Yep. I see people in shorts (it is hot outside) and so it's easy to notice pasty white knees bending, hither and thither. Bending with soul. Bending like they mean it. And yes, heads are nodding and yes, people are singing along. But these songs are... you know, the kind you'd only bend your knees to soulfully if you'd played them on your car stereo fifteen times in a row on some longish car trip but only because you were sick of listening to the Current that week and didn't have any other burned CDs in your car, and your iPod was (as they always are if you leave them in the car during more than one long winter) broke as a joke.

Blitzen Trapper at First Avenue, 7/27/10
Blitzen Trapper at First Avenue, 7/27/10
Blitzen Trapper at First Avenue, 7/27/10
Photos by Nick Wosika

That said, the band's good. They perform well. But they sound to me like the Band meets untreated narcolepsZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. I miss the schmaltz and quirkiness of the performance I saw in '08 at the Entry. I got bored forty-five minutes into the set, wandered into the Mainroom's foyer and spent twenty minutes reading's
"List of lists" so I could have some form of distraction while listening to the band finish their set. If that says anything.

But don't listen to me, Blitzen Trapper dudes. I'm old and crotchety. And - gasp - quite possibly totally out of touch. You, on the other hand, have got a room full of people, totally rapt. You must be doing something right.

Wander back into the live room after learning that Mason Jennings is still one of readers' "must see local bands" (nice guy, but when does he even play 'round here anymore?), and I see that Blitzen Trapper has returned to the stage for their encore. By this point, I have also learned that the Independent is the number one place in the Twin Cities to "get it on in a public restroom." Thanks, readers! I'm thrilled to learn that I can give some guy a shitty blow job in the bathroom during weekend breakfast buffet and perhaps regret it less than the restaurant's room temperature eggs Benedict.

Critic's Bias: Cries like a little baby when formerly less-well-known bands once played smaller venues but are now more-well-known and play larger venues. O, the injustice.
The Crowd: Some (most?) likely won tickets by calling/writing in to co-sponsors and the Current.
Overheard In The Crowd: "This guy should be up there. He's got more stage presence than any of them." In reference to the older, balding man in a short-sleeved dress shirt who walked in midway through Blitzen Trapper's set, and was inexplicably and passionately karate chopping the air in time to the music.
Random Notebook Dump: "I kinda stopped keeping track of Sub Pop many years ago because, well, I stopped keeping track of shit like that - when you're a music geek and 16, who's on what label and why and how is important; when you're rounding the corner of 30 it sure as hell ain't. But at any rate, they (openers Avi Buffalo) sound a lot like what I remember a Sub Pop band sounding like, for what that's worth."

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