BLITZEN TRAPPER @ CULTIVATE FESTIVAL | 8/17/13 By the time Blitzen Trapper made it onto the stage at this year's Cultivate Festival, it was the hottest point of a scorching ninety-plus degree day -- a comical contrast to last year's soggy and cold affair. It was the kind of day where everyone was moving a bit slower because of the heat, but the crowd was plenty thick and enthusiastic. The outfit kicked off its set with "Fletcher," a rambling, electric guitar-infused ballad off of 2011's American Goldwing, that, like much of the act's music, feels like it's part of a larger narrative.
Written by the quiet and mysterious frontman Eric Earley, the songs from that album strike a chord that's almost Odyssean: From the heartbreak to the wild times to the self-reflection feelings, it's as if they're part of a continuous life journey in which a man is trying to make his way home.
The journey continued with "Shine On," a track off the band's next album, a bluesy, backwoods track laden with harmonica. The tune got the crowd moving despite the heat. Earley's Dylan-esque twang was especially illuminated on songs like "Love The Way You Walk Away," a lonesome, beautiful and harmony-heavy ode, and "Furr," the song that arguably encompasses the sound that showcases Earley's storytelling at it's best. "Black River Killer" followed, and the dark murder ballad was equally as captivating.
Adoring followers and festival passerby alike were sweating through their clothes at this point, which seemed fitting in terms of the band's new sound direction, which is a nod to traditional blues rhythm and the old mainstay inspirations like Big Star and Led Zeppelin. Earley's voice has the ability to wrap itself around any genre, revealing itself in several different lights over the course of all the act's albums, and even here over the course of one show. Finishing out with "Heart Attack," yet another sultry, hard-hitting new track, the Blitzen boys had the crowd swaying uniformly, egged on by impressive keys and drum solos from Brian Koch and Drew Laughery.
Personal Bias: I have to admit, I was hooked on Blitzen Trapper since I heard the track off of Furr, "Sleepy Time In The Western World." Earley's voice is a rock in an otherwise explorative and ever-changing sound. Random Detail: The band tried to reference Chipotle menu items several times -- the results were sometimes funny and mostly just awkward. By the Way: Kudos to Blitzen Trapper fans who showcased a dazzling array of past tour merch.
Continue on for a review and photos of the Cold War Kids
As expected, the crowd really filled in nicely as Cold War Kids got ready to play the final set of the day at this year's Cultivate Festival, filtering towards the stage out of food tents and the sanctuary of shade. By now, the sun has started to recede, offering relief and the chance for Cold War Kids enthusiasts give the show some energy -- and that they did.
The Cold War Kids returned the favor by turning in a polished set of songs that included cuts like "Audience" and "Hospital Beds," as well as the explosive fan-favorite "Hang Me Out To Dry" from their celebrated debut album, Robbers and Cowards. By that blues-inflected number, fans were probably at their most animated with a sea of hands in the air and cheers abounding.
"Miracle Mile," the first track off of the group's latest release, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, offered a good example of how a new producer -- and new direction -- has resulted in a sound primed for much deserved exposure in the form of licensing radio play. After a long time of trying to find their sound and stand out in a sea of similar indie rock greats, it seems like the Cold War Kids have honed its sound -- and while too much polish can feel uninspiring, the band simply sounded poised here.
Personal Bias: I love "Hang Me Out To Dry"-- to me, it's a near perfect song--but It's been harder for me to sign on to anything else they've done since Robbers and Cowards.
Random Detail: As far as I could tell, they don't use setlists.
By the Way: The cloud of pot smoke over the center of the crowd was a surprise, but maybe that isn't something to be surprised about anymore.
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