By Patrick Kelly
It was obvious from the start of Blitzen Trapper’s Fillmore set that the crowd- an odd-looking mix group of preppies, hipsters and older couples- seemed to approach the night with wary optimism. A fact that I found somewhat surprising considering the polarizing effect that Blitzen Trapper seems to have on indie rock fans; if you like them, you most definitely “love” them.
The middle ground stood strikingly vacant; the fans went to the show and to root hard, while the others forgot the band’s name completely. But it was the backdrop of unbridled “meh” from the band’s fans that caused my consternation. Maybe it was because Blitzen- who admitted that they were “really tired”- was on the last night of a long tour and seemed to be gazing across California’s northern border towards home. Maybe the crowd was just preparing for the long night- a nearly 2-hour set, consisting of some 20 songs- by rationing their “WOOOOOOs,” unrythmic body rocking, and applause for the later songs. It certainly felt that the latter was the case. It wasn’t that the first half wasn’t good; just that the second half- which was highlighted by an extremely well done version of “Heaven and Earth”- was almost on par with their unforgettable 2009 Coachella performance.
While I struggled to understand the lack of ”specialness” in a night at the famed Fillmore, one trend became extremely obvious. The fans- and therefore the band, who fed off their fans- lifted their energy noticeably when the band played songs from Furr and Wild Mountain Nation compared to when they played newer songs off their most recent release, Destroyer of the Void (released on June 8th). It’s understandable, as the previous albums hold much catchier songs like “Furr,” “Country Caravan,” “God & Suicide,” “Not Your Lover,” and “Black River Killer,” but the sheer lack of enthusiasm was worth a double take. With the exception of “Heaven and Earth” and “Sadie,” the room practically deflated by hearing one of the newer takes.
That Destroyer of the Void isn’t even a month old, and therefore not yet set into the ears of the band’s many enduring fans, is a valid excuse. But it’s a trend worth paying attention to, especially in an era when independent bands seem to fall in and out of favor with an almost complete disregard to talent. Regardless, Blitzen Trapper put on a great show on a Wednesday night in one of the best venues in the country and half their effort would have earned a giant “WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” in my book.