The rumors are true: There's nothing like a Minnesotan man. Better yet, there's nothing like a group of Minnesotan men gifted with knowledge, skill, and artistic sensitivity performing exciting and powerful music.
This might sound like a cheap generalization, there's no way to better simplify last night's performance by Duluth-bred "speedgrass" quintet, Trampled By Turtles. And let's just say, this means a lot coming from a happy-music hating elitist like myself.
Going into the show, I had no idea what to expect. Do people in Phoenix listen to the kind of "jam band/ hippy-dippy" kind of music I anticipated from Trampled by Turtles? If so, what the fuck will that look like?
Not only had I never seen a Phoenix audience so diverse in style and mixed in age, I've also never felt so much genuine happiness and musical comradery in a local venue. From a prompt 9 p.m. start by opening act Honeyhoney, to a 12 a.m. finish by the mighty Minnesotan headliners, there wasn't an ounce of pretension felt within the room -- just nice energy igniting from smiles worn on the faces of the enormous crowd.
Kicking things off right, opener Honeyhoney quickly owned hearts with carefully honed harmonies and an endearing stage presence between vocalist, banjo/fiddle player Suzanne Santo and her sexy "Where's Waldo" looking male counterpart, guitarist Ben Jaffe. Moments before members of TBT joined the band onstage for a surprise cameo and performance of "Angel of Death," the gorgeous and gifted front-woman admits her 28th birthday will be approaching midnight.
By the time TBT took the stage, the crowd had tripled in size (and tripled its buzz). Opening with a song titled, "Victory," the band's punk rock roots begin to make sense. By the third song, we were all convinced. As weird as it sounds, Trampled By Turtles is punk-rock...in a totally weird, cathartic, passionate, hillbilly sort of way.
Beyond the breathtaking harmonies by lead singer/guitarist Dave Simonett, banjoist Dave Carroll, and bassist Tim Saxhaug, the sheer instrumental prowess by mandolin player Erik Berry and fiddler Ryan Young inspired raw happiness and rare beauty. The talent working here is undeniable.
Taking the stage for a two song encore, plus a crowd participating "Happy Birthday" sing along for Santo, frontman Simonett stated the obvious: "Im gonna go out on a limb here and say this was a lot of fun."
See Trampled by Turtles' setlist and notes on the next page.
Trampled By Turtles Setlist
Victory Walt Whitman Risk Keys to Paradise Separate Its a War Help you Empire Bloodshot Eyes Alone Nobody Else Wait So Long Codeine Still in Love with you Darkness and the Light
Last Night:Honeyhoney and Trampled by Turtles
The Crowd: lesbians, highschoolers, hip twenty-somethings, grays, gays, bros, bandanas, cowboy hats, middle-aged couples, tie-dye, a family of three.
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Personal bias: The first thing I knew about TBT was that I hated their cover of the Pixie's "Where is My Mind".
Overheard in the Crowd: Yeehaw!