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Trampled by Turtles 10th Anniversary show at First Avenue, 4/17/13

Trampled by Turtles 10th Anniversary show at First Avenue, 4/17/13
Photo by Erik Hess

Trampled by Turtles
with Actual Wolf and Fever Dream
First Ave., Minneapolis
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Minneapolis isn't Trampled by Turtles' hometown, but this city sure loves the band. Opening the first of three sold-out shows at First Ave., the band celebrated their ten-year anniversary being together, which in band years is the equivalent to 50 people years. Over the course of the night, the group revisited a decade-long story of music that has deep roots in Appalachian bluegrass -- and added a cello to the arsenal for several songs.

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The show opened with the lilting "Methodism," a quietly moving piece that could have been pulled from a Neil Young or Pink Floyd album. Being in celebration of their anniversary, the band's set pulled from their entire catalog. Much of the songs were prepped for dancing shoes and drinking, but they surprisingly played quite a few slowed-down tunes that -- while intimate and heartfelt -- had the beer-guzzling crowd talking over them, waiting for the next rousing song.

Trampled by Turtles 10th Anniversary show at First Avenue, 4/17/13
Trampled by Turtles 10th Anniversary show at First Avenue, 4/17/13
Photos by Erik Hess

Although the band has commonly been compared to the Avett Brothers, they might seem a better comparison with Scottish band Frightened Rabbit. As with most bluegrass bands, the quintet focuses on stringed instruments, yet they are so enchanting, you don't realize you are missing the percussion until they are well into their set. They didn't have Minneapolis's and Duluth's body-surfing mayors in attendance tonight, but they did have beach balls during their upbeat songs.

The well-known "Victory" had the crowd happily singing and dancing along to the frenzied, melodic fiddle, quickly followed by an acoustic instrumental. Overall, the band didn't talk much from the stage. Still, they felt completely at home, moving at a steady pace for their hour and a half set. One big sign of TBT playing together for ten years is their ability to non-verbally communicate on stage. They blend together so well, one has to strain to hear each individual part. With Erik Berry's signature mandolin taking center stage for haunting "Nowhere to Hide," the group said a quick "Thank you," raised their glasses, and moved into a cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" -- although TBT's cover was modeled closer to Gary Jules' interpretation of the song.
 
A three night run can go a few different ways, either the group can feel out the crowd and explore some rarely played songs, or they play the hits and throw in one or two hidden gems. While their professionalism and talent never wavered, the latter seemed to be true, as if the band was holding back a little, waiting to bring out the big guns for another evening. This may be disappointing to some people in the crowd -- those that only can make it to one night -- but to others, it runs a parallel to what this band's career may look like: not to be taken quickly like a shot of Jager, but to be savored and appreciated like a fine brandy. 

Trampled by Turtles 10th Anniversary show at First Avenue, 4/17/13
Trampled by Turtles 10th Anniversary show at First Avenue, 4/17/13
Trampled by Turtles 10th Anniversary show at First Avenue, 4/17/13
Photos by Erik Hess

Critic's bias: This was my first Trampled by Turtles show, and I can easily understand how they have such a dedicated fan base.

The crowd: Drunken hard-core TBT fans.

Overheard in the crowd: "This is my tenth Trampled show."

Random notebook dump: TBT took over both the Mainroom and the Entry (Fat Kid Wednesdays, Sans Souci Quartet, and Next of Kin). It's not often that a band can do this and sell out all three nights.

Setlist:

Trampled by Turtles 10th Anniversary show at First Avenue, 4/17/13
Photo by Erik Hess

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