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July 24, 2007

David Vandervelde; Blitzen Trapper; The Peekers: Johnny Brenda's, Philadelphia PA 07.23.07


No offense to the No Depression enthusiasts out there, but when the phrase "country rock" gets dropped, oh boy. I have to batten down the emotional hatches and prepare myself for a long evening filled with seemingly endless songs comprised of steel guitar, "harmonies" and earnest lyrics. And the prospect of watching this all go down on a Monday night -- especially after a long birthday weekend -- certainly did not thrill me. In the end,  tonight's show at Johnny Brenda's was totally worth leaving the house for.

First up were the Peekers, who hail from Shreveport, LA and have some sort of connection to local indie label Park the Van (They have a release coming out on it? Just friends? Feel free to let me know what's up in the comments.) -- but local associations or not, that was certainly no excuse for having a nice chunk of their set dedicated to quasi-Blueshammer soulful rock. However, the other half of their performance showed the band putting those airy female vocals to good use with high-octane pop songs -- here's to hoping there's more of that where it came from.

I've heard folks talk about Blitzen Trapper as the country rock version of Pavement, which seems to be shorthand for "expect to hear multiple variations upon 'Range Life' over the course of the next 45 minutes." As a Pavement fan I don't consider this necessarily a bad thing but the problem I've come to discover is, well, the reference never quite fits. Let's all learn to live with the fact that Blitzen Trapper do not sound like Pavement at all; rather this Portland group were clearly raised on a heavy diet of Neil Young and Elephant 6 discography -- one quick listen of the dense interplay between vocal harmonies and bargain-basement electronics should suffice. Blitzen Trapper's live performance never once veered into downtrodden sonic territory or languished in twangy doldrums; instead the band banished any case of the Mondays the audience might have harbored. Energy! So much energy, in fact, that during one song one of their keyboards flipped right out into the audience. (Thankfully, Philadelphia's fear of standing close to the stage prevented any tragedy; no one was hit by the flying keyboard.)

Last but certainly not least was David Vandervelde; despite his young age (pretty early twenties, it seems), he channels David Bowie & T. Rex's glammy rock with astonishing accuracy. But even David was unsure as to how he could follow up Blitzen Trapper's trailblazing set. This resulted in some awkward opening chatter, especially as a good chunk of the already small crowd started to trickle out. Perhaps he wasn't surrounded crowds (like he was when I caught him opening up for Spoon a few months back), but BT made sure he wasn't lonely and in the company of friends, jumping up on stage to flesh out his compositions.

Blitzen Trapper




David Vandervelde





Blitzen Trapper join David & Co. on stage!

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poor mr. vandervelde- those are the burdens of having an opening band with more blog-buzz than you. similar things happened here in chapel hill last night with the bishop allen show - they've got page france opening up for 'em and at least 1/3 of the folks disappeared after their set. bishop allen managed themselves quite well though (at least the 30 minutes i caught before i plead '7am radio show')

A. Martin

A note on "The Peekers": The band signed on with "Park the Van" label a few months back and just finished a five-week recording session for their first CD, due out early Spring '08. Single releases should be tempting...coming through the label's site in a few months.


Sounds good. Here's to hoping they explore the pop side of things, rather than the other stuff.

Tobias Carroll

Did Vandervelde do the Stones cover?

richard muhal abrams

why y'all hatin' on the steel guitars?


I actually like the steel guitar a whole bunch, but many bands fall prey to this problem that instead of pushing themselves to better a compositions, they just fill in the blanks with steel and/or lap guitar. Lazy songwriting. I'd feel the same way if the steel drum became as prevalent in indie rock, too.


i feel the same way about hearing the word "americana" dropped as you do with "country rock". i usually run in the opposite direction when i hear either term but checking out BT now and it's pretty worthwhile.


Yeah, it's a crime some music writers/publicists almost ruined my opportunity to check out a new band because of their ability to make lazy, half-assed comparisons.

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