The rain stopped in time for the second of two Duluth, Minn., bands to rock the sold-out beer garden. TBT performed classic cuts, new numbers and a rousing Pixies’ cover to close it out.
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The rains lifted and the train horn sounded, and revelers raged. And the long wait was over.
A few hours of mid-June evening showers weren’t going to keep legions of Trampled By Turtles fans from catching the band’s first Kalamazoo performance in their 15-plus year history.
A night after they played a weather-shortened headlining set at Blue Ox Music Festival in Eau Claire, Wisc. — and just hours before they flew off to Manchester, Tenn. for a mid-afternoon Sunday appearance at Bonnaroo — Minnesota’s favorite bluegrass sons packed the Bell’s Beer Garden, leading 1,100 strong through fast-ripping jams and dark, introspective ballads that made up a 19-song, all-original set, which was capped with an encore performance of The Pixies’ “Where is My Mind,” a song they had released as a single in 2011.
Jumping back on the scene last spring after a year-and-a-half hiatus that some thought might spell the end of the band’s existence, TBT sounded as good and strong as ever, mixing things up all night long with a perfectly balanced setlist that featured songs new and old, fast and slow.
From a set-opening “Midnight on the Interstate” to a fitting for a wet night at a brewery, “Right Back Where We Started” — featuring the line “I walk around a little drunk in the rain, laughin’ like a devil …” the Turtles had fans moving from the get-go.
One had to wonder if one of them didn’t have the train schedule in their back pocket as the band dove into an early “Feet and Bones,” highlighted by the lines, “The whistle woke me up at dawn, such an awful sound” as the second train of the evening rambled drown the tracks outside the venue, just five songs into the night.
STRING-BREAKING JAMS AND CLASSIC CUTS
“It looks like all the good things we heard about Kalamazoo are true,” front man Dave Simonett said, in one of the few times he addressed the crowd.
Trampled’s 80-minute-long set brought out classic cuts such as “Bloodshot Eyes,” “Victory” and “Alone,” and also featured hot instrumental numbers such as banjoist Dave Carrol’s “Truck,” as well as smoking, up-tempo tunes such as “Codeine” and “Wait So Long.”
The band jammed it out so hard on “Codeine” that mandolin player Erik Berry found himself in need of switching out instruments mid-song after breaking a string, but fiddle player Ryan Young picked him up, seamlessly taking over Berry’s solo and making it his own.
Berry’s and Young’s solos weaved in and out of one another all night long, as cello player Eamonn McLain held down the other side of the stage, offering up stirring solos of his own.
And while every member of the band fits into the Turtles’ sound perfectly, it’s undoubtedly the lyrics and voice of Simonett that draws so many to the band.
Newer tunes such as “Life is Good on the Open Road,” “The Middle,” “Annihilate” and “Blood in the Water” all put on full display just how much stronger Simonett’s songwriting has gotten over the years.
And speaking of years, for the band’s faithful in Southwest Michigan, no doubt, there is hope it won’t be another 15 years before the act returns to Kalamazoo.
OPENING IT UP
Opening the show for TBT was fellow Duluth, Minn., band The Slamming Doors.
The sextet, featuring a pair of percussionists, two guitarists, a bassist and pedal steel player, offered up a rocking opening set with light rain coming down. Highlighted by Russ Sacket’s lead guitar work and Adam Herman’s voice and songwriting, the band impressed with a slew of originals and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Trampled By Turtles at Bell’s Beer Garden
Photos by Wendy Nelson
VIDEO: Trampled By Turtles: Where Is My Mind
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