Trampled By Turtles, Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA – 6/28
Going into its gig Wednesday night, Trampled By Turtles had the odds stacked against it, namely, Bela Fleck and The Flecktones were in the midst of their Acoustic Planet Tour with Chris Thile and The Duhks just five miles away. When the Duluth, Minnesota quartet finally took the stage (two and a half hours after the posted start time) I couldn't understand why there were a mere twenty people in attendance. It wasn't until hours later that it finally dawned on me: Seattle's bluegrass fans were busy being serenaded by one exceptional banjo and hey, you can't scold them for going that route. Unfortunately, it left a damper on the Tractor and despite an admirable effort, TBT couldn't shake the lackluster feeling.
Highly danceable, TBT marries bluegrass, with, well, metal and while all four pickers remain seated, shred like Armageddon is just around the corner. Much to my dismay it seemed everybody left their shitkickers at home and the boogie-down fun I’ve encountered in the group’s home state where it sells out clubs and theaters was but a distant memory.
TBT has managed to find a fine balance between quieter, mellower numbers and the head-banging ruckus that makes its live shows explosive. The group eased into the meditative "Blue Sky and The Devil" to get started but by the third song of the evening "I’m a Target Too," bassist Tim Saxhaug lost a string because some heavy wailing had already gone down. As the group moved into the traditional "Peggy-O" (sung with a beautiful slicing twang by guitarist Dave Simonett) Saxhaug didn’t as much blink as he changed the string while simultaneously contributing vocals.
Covering a sizable amount of material from its latest studio effort Blue Sky and The Devil TBT worked through "Jars at Home," an aching "The One to Save" and "Nowhere to Hide." The group then seemed to take a hit of cocaine before flinging itself into "Codeine" as it appeared one of them was going to punch through his instrument at any moment.
But it was the two instrumentals composed by mandolin player Erik Berry that really separates TBT’s sound from your local bluegrass band. This is where the metal portion kicks in, and in unison, the four players strum with ungodly speed. It’s good TBT doesn’t attempt to stay at such a pace the entire show (if even possible) because someone would get hurt, but it sure is a sight to see and a sound that makes the quartet worthy of checking out.
The Pogues’ "Dirty Old Town" found Berry repeatedly delivering rolling high-pitched mando solos, which set the stage for "Burn For Free." TBT threw down, offering one final hurrah before going out with a bang.
Hopefully the apathetic crowd and cold vibe won’t deter TBT from returning to the Northwest. It’s welcome back anytime just make sure Yonder Mountain String Band isn’t in the vicinity.