Standing on the burnished hardwood floor, surrounded by the laughter and chitchat of the waiting crowd, I try to imagine what the Humbrews vat room looked like before they turned it into such a classy show space. The show was supposed to start at 9:30, but in true rock 'n' roll fashion, it's now 10 and the amps are still silent. No one seems bothered by the delay; with two bars, people seem content to wait. By the time the opening band, The Quiet Ones, takes the stage, only half of the attendees have actually filed into the show space. The rest are still at their tables, finishing their pitchers and hot wings and waiting for the real reason they're here: Blitzen Trapper.
Blitzen has been relatively silent since the success of its 2008 album Furr. The band released another album, Destroyer of the Void, in 2010, however, its sophomore effort on the Sub Pop label received considerably less public attention. Their Portland-based, alternative-southern rock sound doesn't often flow well with the rest of radio programming (think Wilco, but faster and with more songs about guns). The new album, American Goldwing, has fewer melodic moments than the band's previous records, and it's a lot more hard-hitting. These guys may not be radio-friendly, but, damn, they put on a fun live show.
The band bounced back and forth between acoustic and electric, alternating between soulful and reckless rock. Though there is always a country twinge to its sound, Blitzen is a refreshing dose of rock 'n' roll when compared to most of the banjo-laden indie rock out there these days. Don't take that the wrong way; I have nothing but love for the banjo, the mandolin and the steel guitar, but sometimes you just want to hear an electric guitar wail and scream. I can't be the only hipster who is tired of tapping their toes and nodding their head. I want to dance, dammit.
The majority of the concert crowd feels the same way, apparently. Sweaters have been taken off, beers have been set to the side (except for that one guy who's spilled his everywhere), and people are generally letting loose. The rug-cutting does not go unnoticed by Drew Laughery, the band's keyboardist and supplier of comic relief. "Dancing crowds are the best," he says between songs. "Footloose was right."
Blitzen Trapper is a small enough band, in the sense of commercial success, that the band members work their own merch table. I buy a BT T-shirt from the back-up guitarist. This band is a large sound in a small package; I'd see Blitzen again in a heartbeat.