Blitzen Trapper is the new cold-weather music. What used to be polished psychedelic rock has now turned to eerie heartland-ish Americana. The band’s album Destroyer of the Void evokes a vintage aesthetic that haunts as much as it tantalizes. This Oregon-based group is making Oregon-proof tunes capable of keeping you afloat yet properly introspective in the wet upcoming months of seasonal affective disorder.
Blitzen Trapper sags, it pushes and it twangs when it needs to. The band creates music that is cathartic, indulgent and lucid.
A well-proportioned Southern rock, dusty plains quasi-folk magnum opus — Blitzen Trapper could easily be in the soundtrack to a Tarantino-esque western flick. The song “Love and Hate” is a perfect candidate for this supposed film. Make no mistake, Blitzen Trapper is that type of big — the band’s song “Wild Mountain Nation” was listed as number 98 on Rolling Stone’s list of best songs — that was in 2007 but this group hasn’t slowed down since. Western wilderness meets postmodern drugged out exhales, that is the territory Blitzen Trapper inhabits — Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Johnny Cash, mixed with the cloudy-day aesthetic of an old Radiohead album.
This show will be packed, especially considering that both Dawes and the acclaimed LA-based brother-sister duo of Ethan and Barbara Gruska known as Belle Brigade will be on the ticket as well.
Blitzen Trapper plays 8 pm Sunday, Nov. 13, at McDonald Theatre; $17 adv. $20 door. — Dante Zuñiga-West
I’m going to write something right up front here that’s either going to intrigue or dismay you: Scotland’s We Were Promised Jetpacks sound a bit like Coldplay. Stay with me on this one. What I mean by that is that the band draws from the same vein of post-punk British rock as Coldplay — the thundering bravado of U2, the nervous energy of Radiohead, the tragic romance of great ‘80s bands like the Cure. But while Coldplay songs seem to be written by committee to fit nicely into cell phone ads, Jetpacks’ stuff bristles with youthful energy, raw talent and genuine emotion.
Jetpacks were championed early on by Frightened Rabbit, and the 2009 debut These Four Walls earned them immediate accolades in the U.K. The album, led by the single “It’s Thunder And It’s Lightning,” is the sound of teenagers banging out anger and making beautiful noise while doing so. And like with any teenager, there’s brilliance, plenty of pain and lots of inconsistency. Jetpacks’ vocalist Adam Thompson’s Scottish brogue purrs and hums at times while cracking like lightning over the moors. Thin wiry guitars reach epic heights and crash just as quickly into noise. Atmospheric pianos swim through the depths of despair. And the rhythm section marches in lockstep ever onward.
We Were Promised Jetpacks released its sophomore effort, In the Pit of the Stomach, earlier this month on Fat Cat Records, and the album is being viewed as an improvement. But by “improvement,” most critics seem to mean more consistent and widely accessible — in a word, more “mature.” But if you prefer a band to capture the tempest of the teen years, to ride those waves for a time only to return safely to shore, you might call In the Pit of the Stomach safer and tamer than its predecessor.
We Were Promised Jetpacks plays with Royal Bands and Bear Hands 9 pm Saturday, Nov. 12, at WOW Hall; $12 adv, $15 door. — William Kennedy
Seven years after the beginning of the Leftover Salmon hiatus finds Drew Emmitt and his band still on the road. On rare occasion he’ll venture back home to Crested Butte, Colo., away from urban bustle and nestle into the valleys, rivers and spiny Rocky mountaintops. Although it’s the road that gains him a living, it’s the necessity of rural retreat for the sake of his music that keeps him whole. The road allows him to tour to bring that Colorado backcountry to places like Eugene.
Emmitt doesn’t have the stage charm of Jeff Austin. Nor does he have the cult following of Nershi’s String Cheese, but his intimate connection with roots in Nashville and his longevity in the Boulder bluegrass scene have defined his sound. Tinges of alt-country and Americana make their way in between the measures and pair with his voice that’s much more subdued than the bellicose of fellow guitarist Vince Herman. Playing and collaborating with the likes of Jim Lauderdale and John Cowan has kept Emmitt familiar with Nashville and that music scene, while life on the road and spells back home give him ample material for new works. Emmitt can shred, sure, but he can also tastefully pick apart those more technically difficult parts and solos that many others would sidestep or be unable to perform. In this bluegrass-heavy month, Emmitt’s show is a prime example of what progressive-polyethnic-Cajun-kneeslappin-modern-jamgrass should look like.
Drew Emmitt Band plays with The Infamous Stringdusters 9 pm Sunday, Nov. 13, at WOW Hall; $15 adv., $18 door. — Andrew Hitz
Luckey’s Happy Hundred!
Sean Ponder stands close to the Luckey’s stage and listens to assure the sound is right. Aside from employment as the house sound engineer, Ponder plays guitar in Reeble Jar, one of the local acts booked for the 100th Anniversary party. Luckey’s also marks ten years under owner Jo Dee Moine, who bought the establishment in 2001 and promptly built the stage, transforming the bar from a smoke-choked pool hall into a live music venue. To appropriately celebrate, “we wanted bands that helped put Luckey’s on the map as a small music venue,” says Moine. “We wanted to bring them back here.”
For Moine, the focus has always been the music. “Luckey’s hosts live music five nights a week,” Moine says, part of her plan to appeal to a larger, younger demographic. The bar is known as a venue for local bands to cut teeth and for up-and-coming touring acts to hone chops on West-Coast tours. Eleven Eyes, another band in the lineup, played Luckey’s weekly in 2004 before winning 2005 and 2006 WOW Hall favorite accolades.
Although Moine has pushed for a “new” Luckey’s, old-style commands the décor. Antique pool tables, green and gold stained glass, horseshoe neon and a horse-drawn blue-ribbon era Pabst print directly behind the bar: Luckey’s pours history down your throat in a pint glass as you maneuver the tight “tunnel” in front and the local taps.
Ponder calls it “home, a comfortable place — a hub of family, friends and employees that represent Eugene.” For Reeble Jar, Eleven Eyes and Marv Ellis (also playing), “Luckey’s was a huge catalyst in getting us as far, as well as Luckey’s at the same time,” says Ponder. For Tim McLaughlin, Eleven Eyes guitarist, the party is an opportunity to “honor the history and be a part of it. Plus, the date, 11-11-11, all elevens, our band was meant to play on this day,” he says.
With a commemorative Luckey’s Pre-Prohibition Style Lager by Oakshire, local bands steeped in funk, spunk, hip-hop and jazz, “we celebrate together everything that has been a key part of making Luckey’s a popular local venue,” Moine says.
“It’s great to have so much music,” says Ponder, “but we are still a pool hall, too. With the nine-ball tournament Sunday it gives us a day to recover before we shoot some pool.”
Reeble Jar, Marv Ellis, Eleven Eyes play 6:45 pm Friday, Nov. 11, at Luckey’s; $10. — Patrick Newson