Trampled By Turtles kicked off their two-night stint at the Ogden with "Widower's Heart," a slow waltz featuring pained vocals from guitarist Dave Simonett and understated accompaniment from the rest of the band. From there, the quintet went a little bit nuts as they broke into "Help You," a breakneck jam in 2/4 that featured acrobatic solos from Young, Dave Carroll on banjo and Erik Berry on mandolin, and followed with an even faster tune with even faster solos, before getting back to the slower material.
That back-and-forth between punk rock tempos and bluegrass balladeering would continue for nearly two hours. Some moments of the performance felt like an old-fashioned hootenanny, while others were like an intimate campfire performance. Songs like "Alone" and "Wait So Long" were participatory anthems, tunes that had the whole theater singing along. Other songs such as the dark and ominous "Gasoline," felt like experimental pieces of some kind of bluegrass-noir.
Thanks to the consummate skill of the players, the outfit never failed in pulling off all of these different moods and textures. The stage dressing was minimal. Apart from some colorful backdrops of trees, a full moon and an abstract array of colors, the band carried the show without any help from fancy stagecraft.
Young was an absolute powerhouse on fiddle, coaxing a wide range of sounds and styles from the instrument. His playing was explosive and experimental on the faster reels and subtle and traditional on some of the slower ballads and waltzes. During one tune, he even had a mandolin slung around his back, flipping between jaw-dropping fiddle solos and paired melodies with Berry.
The rest of the band jumped between styles just as easily. Without a drummer, Dave Carroll served as the band's percussionist on the banjo, spelling out some of the faster rhythms with his pounding picking. When he wasn't swapping speedy solos with Young and Berry, he stayed in the background during the slower songs. Guitarist and vocalist Dave Simonett switched between roles as a crooning balladeer and a fast-picking rhythm player, serving as frontman and supporter with equal ease.
Tim Saxhaug offered his own distinctive voice on acoustic bass, an instrument that seems an odd fit for any bluegrass band. But the absence of a stand-up bass didn't hurt the sound -- each note from Saxhaug was clear and strong, and the instrument fit in to the mix perfectly. Indeed, the sound mix was well balanced through the entire set from Trampled by Turtles. Even at their most frenzied and furious moments, the soloists spelled out their melodies distinctly.