Blitzen Trapper seem to know just how good they are, and revel in their tightness, their intensity, and their passion. This is a live act it’s hard not to enjoy.
Blitzen Trapper + Fleet FoxesCity: Toronto, ON, Canada
Venue: El Mocambo
The El Mocambo (which, in another form, played home to the shambling Rolling Stones for a few legendary shows in the late ’70s) is a small, boxy venue smelling vaguely, but palpably, of an open sewer. It serves overpriced beers (no locals, no microbreweries), and boasts one unhappy bartender for the whole goddamn place. It also has large, sightline-offending poles right. in. the. way. In short, it’s just not a typical indie kid scene. Or, I don’t know, maybe it is. They won’t tell me anything. The room does, nevertheless, sound great -- and maybe that’s all that matters. Certainly, the glorious acoustics (and/or sound tech) lifted openers Fleet Foxes’ sunny harmonies into the stratosphere, even if they couldn’t quite convince their lead singer to stand up. An indie it-band, these northwesterners looked shocked, amazed, and genuinely overwhelmed at the rapturous response they received from the intimate crowd. Their pianist, a dead ringer for Richard Manuel in 1976, seemed simply dumbfounded by the attention, and the be-seated lead singer even stopped a song after a few lines to ask an audience member how she knew the words to it. (Ah, yes: the interweb.) Opening for Blitzen Trapper should be a daunting task for any young band -- their chaotic, semi-legendary performances have been said to blow lesser warm-ups out of the water. Perhaps tonight they would have, had Fleet Foxes not been the bigger draw. Indeed, this band of filthy-haired and starry-eyed dudes -- the youngest-looking would have a tough time passing for 14 -- managed to fill the place just on the strength of a good buzz and a couple of MySpace mega-hits. Astoundingly -- and terrifically rudely -- half the place left after they finished their set. What that half had come to see were the Foxes’ impressive harmonizing (often in four-part), mysterious song structures, and powerful chops. And what the audience got was a lovely little set, punctuated by listeners’ own various shouts of encouragement and the band’s awkward but charmingly green stage banter. To see a promising band at such an early stage is always exciting: the energy in the room during their sweet performance was itchy and alive.
Blitzen Trapper / Photo: Jade Harris