Part psycho, part Jane's Addiction
March 8, 2008
Better than: A wake-up call from the hippie jam band tenting next door
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After a night of blustery winds and torrential rain ruined any chance for restful sleep at Langerado, day 3 of the fest kicked off with a set that was something like hot, morning coffee from Portland, Oregon sextet, Blitzen Trapper.
Blitzen Trapper's name evokes imagery of rugged, mountain men types, and for the most part, they manage to fulfill that ambition. At 12:30 p.m. the group emerged, looking like indie-rockers gone rough; sort of like Jeremiah Johnson got lost in American Eagle Outfitters. Seems the group didn't sleep well either, the result of a rush trip from last night's show in Tallahassee to the fair grounds at Big Cypress Reservation. But they made it intact, and were pretty geared up for a show on a stage so grand. "This stage is too big," singer-guitarist Eric Earley told the crowd early. "We're used to playing on something the size of the drum stand."
The change in venue didn't seem to faze the Trappers though, who switched gears from the country-fried twang to the Skynard-meets-Wilco riffage of the title track off their 2007 album, Wild Mountain Nation. They may not have been used to playing in these wide open spaces, but their tunes are perfect for it: Big, bright pieces full of wide-eyed awe and naturalist ambition, they seem to speak directly of the soul of the festival-goer. At times, that language may seem overly complex: There's a mess of slide guitar, steely acoustic strumming, keyboards, rock solos, samples, recorders, harmonicas, and a chorus of gravely voices. But largely, the group 'rassled their big sound in and made it work together, especially as it switched gears from country rock to acoustic ballads to the sheer, art rock-inspired wackery of tracks like "Sci-Fi Boy." That eclectic, fully American sound is what makes Blitzen Trapper work, and it's also what made them work at Day 3's opening slot. A dose of indie, country, jam-band styling, acousticism, electronics, and good ol' fashioned rock was a perfect refresher for a day's lineup that would cover all of the above and a bit more.