It's been my experience that many times fans of a particular band tend to have a propensity to take after the band that they love. Whether it's their general attitude, the way they dress, the way fans (particularly male fans) subconsciously copy the hairstyle of the lead singer, or even their behavior at the show, these fans somehow emulate the general spirit of the group they admire.
In a subtle way, last night's Blitzen Trapper show was no exception. Musically, the night was full of spot-on harmonies, and the sweet, smooth, textured sounds that Blitzen Trapper is known for. What was most striking though, was the demeanor exuded from the band, specifically frontman Eric Earley, and the audience's response.
After the show in casual conversation one of Earley's band mates described him as enigmatic. The more I thought about it I realized that this really was the most apt description. He possesses a certain Leonard Cohen-like quality -- an inexplainable commanding presence that requires your quiet attention. While he recounts his thoughtful, many times symbolic songs, his often stoic, hard to read face and understated mannerisms mesmerize the crowd. While other band members were pretty lighthearted, Earley stood in contrast, in an unpretentious and sincere manner, but still only cracking a smile a handful of times throughout the night.
Watching the crowd respond to this was remarkable. While upon first looking around I assumed that the fans didn't know the words to much of the material, as I saw few mouths muttering along, I later realized that this wasn't the case. It seemed that the crowd was simply taking after their admired.
When the show ended, everyone stayed put, demanding an encore. Without requiring an overpraising, Blitzen Trapper still made sure that the encore was in fact requested before returning to the stage. Once they did, people began calling out for songs from their entire catalog of material.
Throughout the night they played much from their brand new release, Destroyer of the Void, but they made sure to get to fan favorites from older albums as well. Even if the Leonard Cohen comparison seemed a bit of a stretch earlier, when the band geared up for their most well received single, 2008's "Furr", they took their time beginning the song. They knew it was one of the more anticipated tunes of the night, and once they began playing their woodsy sound effects, they knew that we knew that this is what they were getting ready to do. Just like Cohen at the famed 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, Earley and the band felt no pressure from the crowd. He casually sipped some water and turned to his band mates for several long pauses before beginning a beautiful, restrained, slowed down version of the song.
Even if their fans aren't outwardly ecstatic, the internalized joy that radiated from the show was palpable. And in a day and age when glitz and anything over the top gets massive amounts of attention, this was a nice, refreshing change.
Last Night: Blitzen Trapper at The Clubhouse.
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Better Than: While Damien Jurado may have put on a good show, I suspect that people that didn't see Blitzen Trapper have no idea what they missed.
Random Detail: Not only did they do a gorgeous, seamless cover of Neil Young's "Old Man," (the perfect song for them to cover if they had to pick one,) but they opened with their original tune "Black River Killer", which Earley told New Times was inspired by Arizona's landscape.
Random Detail: The Moondoggies from Seattle opened, and they were fantastic!