There's a wind blowing in from the north, friends, and it ain't a Santa Ana. No, this is a whole new front quietly sweeping through towns and cities from coast to coast, creating its own legend as it passes through. People absorb its energy and then pass it on, word-of-mouth, so that others may regale in the strange phenomenon.
There are the UFOs in the skies above the desert plains of New Mexico, the Lady de Guadalupe on the Hill of Tepeyac near Mexico City and Sasquatch strolling through the misty forests of British Columbia. Now there is Blitzen Trapper.
First, I must warn you that I love me a good guitar solo. Not one of those 30- to 40-second formulaic space fillers with no meaning and no soul, either. I'm talking about that nasty, down-home, liquor-soaked, deep-into-the-floor-boards guitar solo. The kind that's so rank that if you took a closer look, you'd find mold growing on it.
Blitzen Trapper is that kind of band. The Portland sextet's sonic blitzkrieg can be described as equal parts Dukes of Hazzard car chase, midnight Mississippi moonshine run and Duane Allman fret-board riff. But the band's legend wasn't birthed overnight.
The story of Blitzen Trapper is a study in discipline, perseverance and an unspoken, steadfast knowledge that creating music is the only logical pursuit—and whoever doesn't have that inspiration can get the hell out of the room.
Since the band coalesced in the winter of 2000, BT has released three full-length albums and a four-track EP, plus reel after reel of material recorded but never released. The pressures of time do not weigh on these lads, and it shows, as their music has been allowed to ferment, brew, stretch, ebb and flow naturally.
Each album contains elements of the past—'60s folk, '70s Southern rock—along with whatever new direction the band feels is right, never coming off as contrived or trying too hard to hone the next New Sound. From their self-titled debut to their latest release, Wild Mountain Nation, Trapper defies genre by letting its songs fall all over the map.
Sometimes they're Southern rock in The Allman Brothers' tradition, sometimes they're progressive indie rock with frenetic keyboards and vocal distortions, and sometimes they're jammy and experimental. But throughout, they do, without a doubt, kick ass.
With its multi-pronged assault, Blitzen Trapper is an armada of noise threatening to cause rolling blackouts and power surges to whatever grid the band's plugged into at the time. They carry with them enough amps, guitars, pedals, keyboards and microphones to fill a Music Mart.
Traditionally, they are a hydra of three guitarists, a bassist, a keyboardist and a drummer. But, at any given moment, they can morph into three keyboards, two guitars and drums or any other matrix of six you can come up with. Their live shows are often wild and inspired, and that only adds to their swelling legend.
Trapper has always toured relentlessly, though mostly sticking to familiar terrain up and down the West Coast. This time around, the boys are touring nationally in support of Wild Mountain Nation—an album that has garnered widespread attention from college radio and the alternative press, including a shining review from the notorious indie-rock ball-busters at Pitchfork.
After slumming through every Portland dive and Seattle hole-in-the-wall, this tour will feature Blitzen Trapper sightings at classic venues like Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, The Troubadour in Los Angeles and the Bowery Ballroom in New York. But the most critical event will undoubtedly be BT's landing at the SXSW festival in Austin.
In the meantime, San Diegans must be prepared if they want to catch a glimpse of the Blitzen Trapper phenomenon. They must stand vigil. Look to the sky. At any given moment, there's no telling when or where… [BEEP, BEEP, BEEP] This is not a test. This is a warning of the Emergency Broadcast System. A powerful force known as “Blitzen Trapper” is on the horizon. All residents should immediately stop what they're doing and proceed to the designated shelter known as “The Casbah” to await further instructions. Repeat: This is not a test. Blitzen Trapper plays at 9 p.m. Saturday, March 1, with Grand Archives and Fleet Foxes at The Casbah, 619-232-HELL. www.blitzentrapper.net.