The music of Portland-based group Blitzen Trapper is, just like all things from Portland, weird. This quintet is nearing epic in both its age and discography, and has consistently straddled the lines between country, folk, and alternative rock. Their latest album, All Across This Land, was released on Oct. 2, and was self-described by the band as their “best one yet.” Blitzen Trapper’s national tour promoting the album will be making a stop at Santa Barbara’s own SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on Nov. 11. The doors open at 7 p.m., and the band goes on at 8, wasting no time with an opener; tickets are $18.
Blitzen Trapper was formed in 2000, and initially used the moniker Garmonbozia. From inception until 2003, Garmonbozia was psychedelic, experimental, and exceedingly prolific. Garmonbozia was a six-piece which consisted of Erik Menteer, Brian Adrian Koch, Michael Van Pelt, Drew Laughery, Marty Marquis, and front man/songwriter Eric Earley. The band performed shows tirelessly all over the Portland area beginning in 2000. Garmonbozia went through a golden age in 2001, performing incessantly and independently recording four albums, which they sold at their concerts. Whereas most of modern Blitzen Trapper is a cross between alternative country and folk, these Garmonbozia records were closer to experimental in nature, and sounded psychedelic and unmistakably reminiscent of progressive rock.
A few years and a few more albums later, the band changed its name to Blitzen Trapper. Blitzen Trapper is supposedly a reference to the lead singer’s middle school girlfriend, who had a Trapper Keeper binder with pictures of Santa’s reindeer on it, among them the one named Blitzen.
Since the name change the band has undergone many musical changes. Their very first album as Blitzen Trapper was eponymous, and while it was refreshingly experimental, it didn’t receive outstanding reviews or national recognition. It was not until their second album, Field Rexx, that Blitzen Trapper became commercially or critically successful. This album was a more straightforward rock record, and it drew comparisons to both Beck and Willie Nelson.
Blitzen Trapper and lead Eric Earley struggled to follow up Field Rexx, and over the course of the next four years they released no albums after deciding not to release two because they were not up to par with the standard they had set for themselves.
The band didn’t hit its stride again until 2007, when they released Wild Mountain Nation. This album was a new high for the band. It received strictly rave reviews, even making some end of the year “Best-of” lists.
Since 2007 Blitzen Trapper has existed in a golden age. At the end of 2007 they signed to the ultra-famous indie label Sub Pop. Since then they’ve released multiple albums, all earning fantastic reviews. They performed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, made a music video with The Office’s Rainn Wilson, and continued to chart high on various Billboard rankings.
With Blitzen Trapper’s latest album they attempt to make a return to straightforward, bare-bones bluegrass, drawing inspiration from their very first albums like Field Rexx which brought them to where they are today. Attending their SOhO show is a guaranteed treat, and promises to be a modern alternative hoedown.