Watching Blitzen Trapper perform live is a treat for any fan of heavy drumbeats, twangy guitar and wailing harmonica. Just don’t expect the Portland, Ore. group to conform to expectation.
The band swung through Louis’ Pub on June 17 during the last leg of a tour that lead singer and songwriter Eric Earley said favoured more intimate shows in smaller areas.
“It’s been good. It’s been an interesting one because we’re hitting all these markets we haven’t been to for, like, two to four years,” Earley said. “We’re kinda at the end of the record cycle, so we’ve hit all the major cities and all our usual places. So we’re like, ‘Let’s do a tour where we go to these places we haven’t been in a while — just for fans.’”
The evening marked Blitzen Trapper’s second last show touring with opening act the Parkington Sisters. The trio of ladies from Wellfleet, Mass. saddled up on stage and got things started on a high note. Though the crowd spent the first few songs idling along the dimly lit fringes of the bar, there was little room to stomp your feet by time the three were joined by Brian Adrian Koch and Marty Marquis — the headlining act’s drummer and keyboardist, respectively — for a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” to close out their set and leave fans abuzz with anticipation for the main act.
Seven records into their career, Blitzen Trapper’s sound has never settled into a single definitive genre. While a clear southern rock influence echoes through much of their catalogue, each album sports a unique sound all its own. From the indie-folk campfire songs of Furr to the road-ready, hands-on-the-wheel grit of American Goldwing and latest release VII’s splash of funk, Blitzen Trapper knows how to keep things fresh — and Earley is quick to acknowledge the band’s fluctuations in style.
“I guess I’m always trying to create our own thing. I feel like with our music has common threads throughout all of it,” Earley said in a pre-show interview. “I get bored easily. I just like to try different things all the time.”
Earley’s boredom has resulted in a band whose onstage presence never stagnates. Whether they’re kicking things into gear with opening number “Fletcher” or riffing with a borderline psychedelic breakdown midway through “Thirsty Man,” to hear Blitzen Trapper live is to enjoy a band that’s right at home lending their own tinge of southern-fried sound to any number of rock ’n’ roll styles.
Despite such a varied repertoire, the crowd was eating up every word Earley snarled into the microphone and got particularly into things for a few stand-out songs. A folky number with an indie sensibility that’s turned it into one of the band’s biggest hits “Furr” was met joyously by a crowd that had clearly been looking forward to hearing the whimsical tale all night. Shortly after, the group launched into “Shine On” and encouraged everyone to sing along with them as they see-sawed the titular lyrics back and forth with their fans.
Ducking back under the lights with a four-song encore — including a swampy cover of Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” — Blitzen Trapper bowed to hoots and hollers from the crowd.