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Blitzen Trapper
Bowery Ballroom
March 29, 2008

Written by John Hashop
Photographed by Amy Davidson

Let’s begin this article with a caveat: it had been a long time since I’d been as excited to review a band as I was when I headed down to The Bowery Ballroom this past Saturday to see Blitzen Trapper.

Blitzen Trapper

Let’s also, evidently, begin this article with a poorly-phrased, awkwardly-structured lead-in. Moving on.

Blitzen Trapper

For those of you unfamiliar with the Portland-based sextet – and from the blank looks of my well-listened friends when I invited them to the show, I’m going to assume it’s a fairly decent percentage of you – this is your wake-up call to check them out. Blitzen Trapper judiciously mixes rootsy Americana with an – occasional – hint of synth and wraps it all up – sometimes – with a crunchy lo-fi sensibility. Critics of last year’s release of Wild Mountain Nation and 2004’s Field Rexx point out these "inconsistencies” in tone, calling the band out for wandering all over the map. While these claims are not completely unfounded, Blitzen Trapper doesn’t so much wander stylistically as it does gleefully romp – one song all harmonica and twang and the next filled with fuzzy guitars and a driving bass line.

Blitzen Trapper

So it was with great anticipation to see which band would show up that I settled into my balcony seat and waited for the opening acts to hurry the hell up…which makes how much I enjoyed the opening band Fleet Foxes all the more impressive. I hadn’t planned on including them here, but I can say with zero hesitation that Fleet Foxes is the best opener I’ve seen in the past four years. They certainly don’t carry themselves like an opening act, bantering with the audience, giving away an unwanted mandolin (literally) and effortlessly pulling off their “baroque pop” with sweet harmonies and crisp guitars that evokes Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at their 4 Way Street best. Enough. Run, don’t walk (figuratively) to their web page linked below.

Blitzen Trapper

On to the headliners. When I played the title track off of Blitzen Trappers Wild Mountain Nation for a friend I was bringing to the show, the first three words out of her mouth were “Ugh. Jam band” (which made me immediately question both her taste in music and my taste in friends), and if you went strictly by appearances as the sextet, in varying states of shagginess and slackerwear, were setting p their myriad instruments (from cowbell to mini-Casio) you might think she was right. Upon hearing BT live, however, you find they rarely abandon the structure of the song, no matter what instrument they’re currently holding, and that their sonic overlays owe much more to Floyd than they do to Phish. Having said that, they have an assuredly-American alt-country sound to which they return no matter how far they mosey into lo-fi or prog rock.

Check them out, buy some songs and definitely be sure to catch them next time they’re in town. Or if you want to catch them next week in Omaha, I know some folks who’ll let you crash.

Fleet Foxes are on the net at

Blitzen Trapper can be experienced at or

John Hashop enjoys going to all of NYC’s venues, taking in lesser-known bands, and trying to stretch “They were good/bad/okay” into 500 words. He may be harassed

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