Live Review: blitzen trapper, heatwarmer

Nov. 21, 2013 • wild buffalo

I’ve always thought live music is the most accurate reflector of talent and so I risked it and went to the Wild Buffalo without having heard a lick of Blitzen Trapper. But don’t let that give off the wrong impression. It sounds silly and what I sought out was a surprise, a calculated break out of the pattern of familiarity.
Heatwarmer, the evening’s opener, played part in creating the more rambunctious counterpart to their headliner and for that, I was entertained and grateful. While Sub Pop strings out their fair contribution of Seattle folk into the American pop supra-structure, ala Head and the Heart and Fleet Foxes, Blitzen Trapper stick to their rudiments.
Perhaps Heatwarmer’s most distinct attribute is multi-instrumentalist Andrew Swanson, who weaves between keys and a black and white electric wind apparatus. Like a carnival, but composed of only five, the band spun from one song into the next, waxing psychedelic freak outs with outdated synths recalling 80s pop visionaries Scritti Politti. The strength of frontman Luke Bergman, who stands at six and a half feet and studied bass and jazz at the University of Washington School of Music, went to his toes for nearly every note. His loud, amiable, even Ben-Foldsian crowd-interaction helped secure the band’s bright and polished sound from falling shaky. Such a feat is to be applauded, particularly wherein the Northwest it can be difficult to stay loose and relaxed in the midst of new faces and an unfamiliar venue. Nevertheless, at the end of the set the undiminished crowd was thanked, and aptly dismissed for about 15 minutes.
I ordered a beer from the bar and moved to the back into a soft seat near the windows. A good friend of mine came over and as we drank, those smoking outside the doorway returned, as to be expected, but with many more fans than before. Low lighting came over the black stage as the pit and the level of people above it, peered over one and other’s shoulders and tables and metal railings. Blitzen Trapper walked onto the stage, breezed into their opener without announcing themselves nor the name of the tune itself. This lack of intimacy persisted throughout their set (save a few words of, “Hi how ya’ll doing,” and “thanks for coming out tonight,”) and more steadily with each passing melody.
As I’m writing this review, I understand that they’ve been compared to the likes of 70s classic rock icons The Allman Brothers and stylistically, similar to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Indeed, it at least appeared that Blitzen Trapper enjoyed indulging the same kind of chug-alug blues rock as their former comparison, and I found myself struggling to identify the point at which one song ended and the next began. Then “Furr” hit and my friend yanked me and we headed to the pit. “This is the song that got them popular,” she said. She was right. No sooner than we bumped into a heap of rollicking dudes did I hear some guy holler, “This is my favorite song ever!”
The night finished with a generous five-song encore and then I left and bought a hot dog. As I ate it under the streetlight on Railroad I remembered my first time ever eating one, how it was strange but intriguing and ultimately life-bending. I felt this epiphany as an aspiring Blitzen Trapper fan and so I went home, hopped in bed, and, alas, nodded off to “Furr,” the album’s title track, and “Sleepy Time in the Western World.” I guess you can’t quite win all of ‘em.
–Harrison Kadwit