(all photos by Keith Klenowski)
As we are staunch supporters of live music here in Cincinnati at ENS, I was a little concerned when I walked into the Southgate House ballroom for the show last Wednesday night. It was just before Wye Oak was scheduled to open for Blitzen Trapper and the place was almost empty. Southgate had tables set up on the floor which is usually the signifies that a good crowd is not expected, but at least the upstairs bar was open and that means the place isnâ€™t going to be totally dead. Then I remembered that there was a conflict that night as Andrew Bird was also in town over at Bogarts.
As Wye Oak played the place started to fill up bit by bit which was a very good sign. This two piece from Baltimore led by singer Jenn Wasner, played a mix of blues and rock through their set with vocal influences ranging from Erika Wennerstrom in its rockier moments and Chan Marshall in the quieter times. Jenn was joined on drums by Andy Stack who was more of a jack of all trades than he was drummer. He had a keyboard set up alongside the drum kit, and his one drumstick had a traditional end as well as a padded end, and he used each side on most songs. While they had a hard time getting the crowd involved (and who wouldnâ€™t when there are chairs for the taking) Jenn at least had a sense of humor about it teasing those that chose to sit through the show.
The boys from Blitzen Trapper hit the stage and this six piece brought with them harmonies and rock that are the envy of many in this world. With the critically acclaimed Furr released just over a year ago on SubPop, and the new Black River Killer EP released a few months ago, they have a unique sound that is also hauntingly familiar. Four of the first five songs were from Furr including â€œSleepytime in the Western Worldâ€, â€œGod & Suicideâ€, â€œGold for Breadâ€, and â€œLove Uâ€ which while is not a personal favorite on the album came across with some passion and depth that doesnâ€™t seem to be present on the album. Before sending the rest of the band off for a few solo songs, Eric Earley and crew treated us to â€œSilver Moonâ€ and â€œFurrâ€ as well as a few from their back catalogue.
After a couple solo songs, including a haunting â€œNot Your Loverâ€, the rest of the band returned for some more tunes. The non musical story of the night had to be drummer Brian Adrian Kochâ€™s bandana. He played up until this point wearing it in bank robber fashion (at one point he even asked for â€œmore bandanaâ€ in the monitor), but when they came back to the stage it was gone, revealing what had to be the best beard in the band with many beards. The last few songs of the night included â€œBlack River Killerâ€, â€œLady on the Waterâ€, and â€œFire Fast & Bulletsâ€ which meant that they made it through a majority of their latest full length release. The encore was a one song acoustic number featuring just lead singer Eric Earley on guitar with vocal accompaniments from both Brian Adrian Koch and Marty Marquis who lent harmony to each and every song through the evening.
All in all, it was a strong outing by the Portland, OR based sextet with a heavy slant to their two most recent releases. The ballroom at Southgate filled up pretty well throughout the night meaning that the Cincinnati area was seemingly well represented considering the competing show at Bogarts the same evening. While personally I felt as though Blitzen came off more folky than I expected (possibly slanted by the quiet finish), others I checked in with after the show felt that the band brought a heavier sound than what they thought theyâ€™d hear. Either way, one thing was certain, we all agreed that the show was strong and that Blitzen deserves all the accolades they have been given and success that they have earned.
- Dave Rolfes