Monday, December 1, 2008

Blitzen Trapper and The Parson Red Heads at The Echo

November went out with a bang on Sunday (November 30, 2008) at one of the month's best concerts. I've been hearing about Blitzen Trapper for a while now, but avoided them because, well, my plate is full. Sometimes I just want to avoid learning about a new band that I know I'll like since life is not eternal. Then again, I don't want to miss anything.

So, knowing that Blitzen Trapper were Seattle cohorts of Fleet Foxes, and of our transplanted Parson Red Heads, who were opening for them at The Echo, I took the plunge and bought a ticket. I also knew it was one of the most talked about upcoming shows I'd been hearing about out at the clubs.

I picked up Furr, they're newest CD, the other day and I can't stop playing it. Surely, it's one of this year's finest releases, jam-packed full of great songs with memorable hooks, glorious singing, smart, thoughtful lyrics and irresistible melodies.

They remind me of Super Furry Animals, The Parson Red Heads, The New Pornographers, Okkervil River, The Kinks (of course), some Beatles, even some Dylan-esque touches here and there and a whole host of others. Yet they make their own sound, creating something wholly original in the process. It all revved up my enthusiasm to a fever pitch.

As it was the end of long holiday weekend and tomorrow it's back to work, I was glad it was an early show and only the two bands. The first act didn't appear.

Just getting out of Hollywood because of the god-damned Christmas parade was problematic, but I left plenty of time to negotiate my way to Silverlake. Arriving around 7:30 the place was half full already but the only people I knew were The Parson Red Heads, so we exchanged pleasantries and they had to take to the stage by 8 to cover for the missing act.

Beginning with "Time is Running Out" they got me. The honest emotion and pure beauty of that song's melody and harmonies always catches in my throat, and catches me off guard. I kind of melt as they wrap me up emotionally with that first song, and they just don't let go. Performing as a seven-piece this night they all played and sang their hearts out. And their obvious joy in playing with each other is infectious. The genuine good will spills off the stage.

"Got It All" is always a pleasure to hear and "Out To See" sounded great. They even sang a great cover of Neil Young's "From Hank To Hendrix", which the crowd just ate up. They have never sounded better, and I say that every time I see them, but judging from what I overheard, a lot of the audience agreed with me. The Parson Red Heads were a perfect opener for Blitzen Trapper, as their solid '60's sound is a terrific lead in to the second band's reworking of '60's elements mixed up with indie-rock.

I'd spotted Rob Danson And Nick Ceglio of Death To Anders, Elaine Layabout and Travis Woods (Web in Front), along with Jordan Hudock (Marvelous Toy) and Vivien Cao, but by now everyone was jockeying for a good position to see Blitzen Trapper in the burgeoning crowd. Photographer Scott Schultz captured some great shots on his pic section of his myspace page here.
Taking off with their new CD's first song, "Sleepy Time in the Western World" you could tell right away that the audience was already tuned in to Furr by their raucous approval. They sang most of that album, including my current favorite, "God and Suicide", a remarkable song from anyone, in any era. And, of course, the title track, "Furr" was another highlight, being one of the best examples of lyric writing I've heard recently.

I just can't praise them enough. Every band member performed amazingly, from drummer, Brian Koch's frequent singing and drumming at the same time to Erik Menteer on guitar and dualing keyboards with Drew Laughery. Micheal Van Pelt (isn't that Linus and Lucy's last name?) on bass adds the necessary low end to their full sound.

Eric Earley has a flexible voice that can encompass everything from Bob Dylan talk/singing to full out screaming like on "Love u", all the while wailing away on his guitar. Marty Marquis is the perfect vocal foil for Eric and their singing together is often intricate yet seamless. Most of the band participates in 3 and 4-part harmonies that just wash over you. Marty also plays guitar and keys in typical inspired fashion.

They blazed through song after song in record time because none of their songs is over 2 minutes 15 seconds long. O.K., maybe a couple are longer, but they go by that fast. Each song is a carefully crafted little gem of creative, intellectual lyrics and seductive melodies.

It's always intense to suddenly become aware of a band, get some CD's and fall in love with their music and then, within days, get to see them in concert in a tiny venue like The Echo. It's the sort of thing that makes me feel lucky to be in this place at this time.

At the conclusion, the band received a tumultuous response and everyone just nodded at each other as we poured out onto Sunset Boulevard.


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