Working Hard for the Money

July 16th, 2012

Blitzen Trapper – Music Hall of Williamsburg – July 15, 2012

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

Few groups have a command of as many genres as Blitzen Trapper. The Portland, Ore., band’s entire sound is comprised of nothing but sudden bursts of pure blues-rock, soul or psychedelia in moments so fleeting that they’re gone before you notice them. Like fellow Pacific Northwesterners the Fleet Foxes, the group’s got a knack for beards, general shagginess and pitch-perfect harmonies. And the sunny vocals of “Wayward Son” beckon back to the days of ’60s rock. “Saturday Nite,” off 2008’s Furr, started as a dance-y jaunt and finished in an epic Grateful Dead-esque guitar jam.

“Sleepytime in the Western World” was almost schizophrenic in how many sounds its sonic twists and turns jumped between. The show played out like a patchwork collage of 50-plus years of rock history and even included several direct homages to classic rock, with covers of “Hey Joe,” Foghat’s “Slow Ride” and an impromptu version of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” seamlessly fitting into the set. None of this was easy musically, but it certainly helped that everyone in Blitzen Trapper is noted as a multi-instrumentalist, with members switching between guitars, keyboards, organs and cowbells whenever the moment called.

Even the crowd-pleasing melodihorn came out for a monster solo by the drummer on “Lady on the Water.” But the highlight of the show came from the strange coming-of-age fable “Furr,” garnering a solid sing-along effort from the audience. The band played on through a healthy five-song encore, bringing their show near the two-hour mark. But then, Blitzen Trapper’s a band that works hard for your money. —Dan Rickershauser