Blitzen Trapper at the Commodore Ballroom, 9/15/18
Last night’s Blitzen Trapper show at the Commodore Ballroom had a small audience, but an adoring one.
The beloved ‘these-guys-could-be-my-pals’ group from Oregon had some stiff competition from Vancouver’s Westward Music Festival. But they didn’t need a packed venue. They just needed a crowd that knew all the words to their songs. And that’s exactly what they got.
The Blitzen Trapper boys had just played Victoria’s Rifflandia Festival, and seem to be sliding into their new tour nicely. The tour is celebrating 10 years of their arguably most beloved album, Furr. They just released an anniversary edition of the record, and are playing the album in its entirety throughout the tour.
It was a nice gift to play the tracks in order, from “Sleepytime in the Western World” to the “Lady On the Water.” While this meant that the iconic “Furr” came early in the evening, it helped get the audience singing along and swaying from the get-go. Wolf howls from the band and fans set a kind of whimsical tone for the evening.
The whole evening was mega-chill. But that’s not to say that the band was not rock and roll. Frontman Eric Earley was in fine form both vocally and guitar-wise. He more than shredded it onstage for the modest crowd.
Part of Blitzen Trapper’s strength are the story-telling aspects of their lyrics. When Vancouver Weekly spoke with Earley last year, he admitted to loving “dark American stories” – a fact that pops up in the lyrically stunning, western-inspired “Black River Killer.” That and “God & Suicide” really kicked up the energy early on.
Once Furr was played its entirety, the group carried on to samples from the rest of their discography.
The night had lovely moment after lovely moment, with Earley taking the stage alone for awhile, save for his guitar and harmonica. “Stranger in a Strange Land” really shows off the careful vocal balance he has perfected between country and folk. But the greatest point in the evening, came in the form of some top-notch harmonizing for a cover of the Beatles’ “Because.” This is a new setlist edition for Blitzen Trapper, and Earley and keyboardist Drew Laughery blended their vocals together perfectly. The audience couldn’t help themselves, and and all of the Commodore was harmonizing up until the very last “Love is old, love is new.”
“Wild Mountain Nation” sums up the band itself and the fans they have gathered since 2000. Blitzen Trapper has never been a group that needs to pack a room or be on the cover of every magazine. They’re hometown boys and wear their love of music on their sleeves.
Celebrating the anniversary of Furr was about more than the album, it was about celebrating this aesthetic that Earley and co. have so effortless created with their obvious love for the wild outdoors, and the rich characters in their songs.