Blitzen Trapper (photo: Joshua Huver)
On Tuesday, October 25, the Pacific Northwest’s psychedelic Americana band Blitzen Trapper headlined The Atrium, the front room of Santa Cruz’s downtown live music venue The Catalyst.
The energy of the building was high — The Pixies played in the back room and finished shortly after Blitzen Trapper started. But the Pixies’ crowd, for the most part, did not filter over: Blitzen Trapper had a packed room on their own accord.
Blitzen Trapper is a unique band, especially in that while they might do reasonably well in larger clubs, they choose smaller rooms more often than not. But the five-piece group consisting of Marty Marquis on keys and vocals, Michael Van Pelt on bass, Brian Koch on drums, Erik Menteer on lead guitar, and lead vocalist/songwriter Eric Earley on acoustic, kept things invariably light and open for their Songbook 2016 tour.
The band opened the evening with “No Place To Fall,” a song from Townes Van Zandt’s 1978 album, Flyin’ Shoes. They then moved into “Furr” from the 2008 album of the same name. In case you haven’t heard the tune, check it out below. As our writer Will said last week, it is arguably the best song about a werewolf in decades, and puts up a hell of a fight with Warren Zevon’s more famous werewolf-themed composition:
They continued with “Across The River” from their 2015 release All Across This Land, before moving into what Earley described as a science fiction ballad: Neil Young‘s “After The Gold Rush” from his 1970 album of the same name. The covers kept coming, as they moved into the “truly transcendental experience” that is Gillian Welch and her song “Look At Miss Ohio.”
They then moved on to the first of several selections from their 2011 record American Goldwing with “Love The Way You Walk Away” before reaching way back in time to their first LP under the Blitzen Trapper name, 2003’s Blitzen Trapper, for one of the highlights of the night: “Texaco.”
They didn’t stay in the past for long, and returned to All Across This Land for a pair of songs: “Even If You Don’t” and “Nights Were Made For Love,” the latter of which was dedicated to the band’s days in high school.
“This is the time of night where we get nostalgic,” Earley said following his dedication to high school band class. Earley went on to recall a Neil Young show that Pearl Jam and Blind Melon opened for. “We were arguably more interested in the openers, but it was a dangerous time. We barely lived through the show, there used to be this thing called moshing…people used to die. Brian almost died.”
Koch chimed in: “I almost paid the ultimate price, and for what? Because I love Eddie Vedder?”
They moved into a medley of ’90s nostalgia that bridged Pearl Jam’s “Elderly Woman” into The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today,” Nirvana’s “About A Girl,” and Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.”
Blitzen Trapper continued their songbook by dipping into the catalog of one of the most troubled musicians of recent past, making Elliott Smith’s “Alameda” from his 1997 album Either/Or for their final cover of the evening.
The rest of the evening produced five songs across three albums, including the encore. “Black River Killer” from Furr led into the lone selection from 2013’s VII for “Thirsty Man.” The tune had the ultimate vibe of something Widespread Panic might bust out late in a first set, with a crescendo of violin sounds and weightless feathered flutters with a heavy rock and roll ending before closing the set with “Fletcher” off of Goldwing.
For the first song of the encore, Earley took the stage solo with his guitar and harp to perform the Goldwing track “Stranger In A Strange Land” before the rest of the band slowly filtered back into place for “Lady On The Water” off of Furr.
Although they have not seen the same elevated level of success since they left Sub Pop for Vagrant, but they are without a doubt enjoying themselves, and so are the fans that pack the intimate rooms.