Friday, November 12, 2010

Live: Trampled By Turtles 11/12/2010 @ Bowery Ballroom, NYC

A few months ago, a good friend of mine turned me onto the latest LP by Trampled By Turtles, Palomino. Well, after only a few listens, I was hooked and anxious to hear more by this band from Duluth. I quickly picked up a copy of Trouble, which, along with Palomino, has put me on the trail for the rest of the band's output.

Shortly following these two purchases, I found that I was proudly stacking my newly acquired Trampled By Turtles LPs beside some of my heavy favorites. TBT has fallen right into place within my well-worn standbys, and their albums have remained in frequent rotation on my music devices.

Well, as luck would have it, I received news that the band were going to be joining The Infamous Stringdusters on the road for a fall tour called "Fly Palomino 2010". When I received word that a stop at Bowery Ballroom in NYC was on the schedule, this was certainly good news to my ears.

Last Thursday night's show began with TBT taking the stage and kicking off their set with an energetic frenzy. From there on out, the group's energy remained high throughout the night. Along with the fast-paced tunes and rip-roaring instrumentals, that kept the crowd dancing and hollering, the slower numbers gave the itinerary a little breathing room. 

The band filled their set largely from songs off of their latest LP throughout the night, with a smattering of additional material. "It's A War" was a great example of Dave Simonett's bellowing vocal power, and the band's strength as performers to compliment each other, while sounding vibrant and fresh. Simonett's voice just managed to call out up over the band's breakneck playing pace and uproarious volume. And with a genuinely wide bearded grin, and friendly, welcoming demeanor, he was often seen stomping, kicking, and busting out his vocals with much joy.

"Sounds Like A Movie" and "Burnt Iron" were two instrumental highlights, showcasing the proficient musicianship of the band. Mandolinist Erik Berry, a bearded Goliath under a wide brimmed cowboy hat and dressed in overalls, was just outright attacking his instrument in some instances. But he also nimbly veered into softly playing his small-looking-in-comparison mandolin, transforming himself into a gentle giant. He admirably balanced his displays of vigor in the faster tunes, with delicate notes, and subtle strummed accents and tremelos during the slower songs. His range on the instrument was impressive.

Immediately beside Mr. Berry, Ryan Young spent most of the night hunching over, with hair covering his face, playing rhythm, and frequently, taking a knee as he swooned and dived with his fiddle during his breaks. These two players were just relentless, and impossible not to watch.

Bass player Tim Saxhaug and banjo player Dave Carroll rounded out the five piece, and were the more subdued, but no less impressive, players up on stage. Not as physically animated as their counterparts, Saxhaug and Carroll were equally responsible for the band's shifting dynamics. Mr. Saxhaug's bass playing was the steady anchor that kept the band grounded throughout, while Mr. Carroll took the role as driver. His galloping banjo playing both frequently led the troop on upbeat numbers, while also providing a nuanced backdrop of lightly picked flutters during some of the softer tunes.

The somber "Seperate", sweeping "Victory", and earnest "Help You" were standout tunes of the set for me. These were great displays of restraint, coming from a band that clearly displayed their workingman-like proficiency and musical ferocity during the bulk of the set. "Empire", from the Duluth album, also fit well into this showcase, highlighting the gentle interplay and graceful exchanges between players.

One of my other favorite tunes of the night was the band's rendition of "Trouble". As on the album of the same name, the song begins minimally, and builds with a layering of sonic instrumentation and vocal density. The tune, although subdued, seemed to be temptingly close to unleashing an underlying eruptive solo break, that was lying just below the surface. For a band that is so willing to roar and bark at will, to just barely hold back from that tendency, and hold us with them while they teeter on the ledge, was captivating. For the last tune of the night, TBT shelved all of their subtle nuances, and roared through "Wait So Long", the opener from the Palomino LP, and practically brought the place down! It was awesome.

I would definitely suggest to any fans of Old Crow Medicine Show and Hackensaw Boys to check out TBT when they play your town. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Palomino.

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