Dawes and Blitzen Trapper Crescent Ballroom Monday, October 10, 2011
When you catch onto a band in its early stages, they become bigger in your head than they actually are in real life. For me, one of those bands has always been Blitzen Trapper. Their indie folk sound is exactly in line with what's popular in music today, yet the band is still breaking in smaller venues like Phoenix's new Crescent Ballroom.
It just makes it all the better when you show up to a show and it's far more intimate than you imagined. But, if you look at it as a competition, co-headliner Dawes stole the show. Fronted by Taylor Goldsmith, who seems to worship at the Vocal Alter of Springsteen, the band belts out folky tunes covered with grime and authenticity. Lyrically literal and a bit trite, the band played a combination of songs from their 2009 disc, North Hills, and this year's Nothing is Wrong.
Each member of Dawes showed off their musical "O" face. Crinkled noses and facial muscles worked overtime as drummer Griffin Goldsmith pounds out tune after tune. Got a heavy bass lick? Bassist Wylie Gelber has an expression for that. These guys were feeling Phoenix just as much as the crowd was feeling them, and it was written on their faces.
A smirk crossed Taylor's face during an especially spirited, shred-worthy rendition of perhaps their most popular, commercial-worthy song, "When My Time Comes." He noticed the crowd was singing nearly as loud as he was, and recognizing that, turned the mic around and let the crowd shout the lyrics back to him as he beamed in the glory.
As much as I hate to say it, Blitzen Trapper's post-Dawes appearance briefly brought the mood down. Lead singer and songwriter Eric Earley strikes me as a shy guy. He prefers to let his bandmates take on most of the chatter while he worries about saying something meaningful with the lyrics. The mood drop didn't last for long. Even if he's on the quiet side, Earley's excitement reads on his face as he blends his hyper-literate lyrics with drugged-out country folk.
Of course the crowd knew "Furr" and "Black River Killer," two of the band's biggest hits to date they're yet to match, but they still stood in awe of Earley's heavy guitar skills during "Big Black Bird."
If you didn't stick around for the encore, you missed the greatest part of the show. The band played a song called "Jericho," which isn't on any album. It was a unique treat for Phoenix, who the band dubbed "more respectful" than Los Angeles or their hometown of Portland. It led into the highlight of the night - a respectable cover of Led Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times."
Blitzen Trapper might not be as big as they are in my mind, but at least last night's performance proved that they easily could be.
Last night:Dawes and Blitzen Trapper at Crescent Ballroom
Personal bias: I may or may not have developed a small crush on Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith, though I don't think that's tainting the review.
Random notebook dump: Hey, douchebag. They're not going to play your song, no matter how many times you shout it. Or how many distracting cell phone pictures your girlfriend with the tasteful boob job takes of the band. See that piece of paper on the ground? That's called a set list, and they stick to it. Also, you dance like a dick.