Oh, sensory overload. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
You make me smile. You pick me up and take me away from where I’m standing. You crowd out rational thought, clearing bandwidth for an input onslaught. You make me forget everything, but I can’t forget you.
I walked into the National last Wednesday already overloaded, having tried to cram the entire Blitzen Trapper back catalogue into the fleeting hours leading up to the show. This was no easy accomplishment (as evinced by the fact that I failed to accomplish it), given that the Portland group has been on an album-a-year tear for nearly a half decade, their steady stream of high-impact songwriting resulting in a mountain of material that’s wildly rewarding climb.
The experience of seeing Blitzen Trapper live was just as overwhelming. There were so many notes. So many chords, key changes, harmonies, and brain-bending, soul-saving, dead-raising guitar solos… it was pure inundation, and I wish every one of you could have seen it (check here to see if they’re coming to a town near you).
My favorite example of Blitzen Trapper’s remarkable musical wealth (if you haven’t guessed already) has to be the lead guitar licks provided by frontman Eric Earley and guitarist/Moog-master Erik Menteer.
From the outset, I was focused on Menteer; I love how the group uses quick bursts of electric guitar as punctuation in their recordings, and I was looking forward to seeing Menteer insert these musical commas and exclamation points in person. His energy, superb timing and impressive technical ability certainly were an eyeful, but I had no idea that Earley would prove to be guitar-godly as well, engaging in note-by-note harmonizing with Menteer one minute and furious soloing the next. This double-barreled approach became even more overstimulating about a third of the way into the set, when Menteer broke a string on his Les Paul and strapped into his backup instrument – a Worn Brown SG nearly identical to the Worn Brown SG Earley was wielding. It was like seeing – and hearing – double, and not in the bad, “I’ve had too much to drink and the ground feels like the lido deck of a cruise ship” kind of way.
Seeing two amazingly talented guitarists go back and forth like this was such a treat, one I can’t wait to indulge in again the next time they come to central VA. Given the theme of sensory overload, I thought it only proper to provide a blitz (sorry, I held out as long as I could) of Blitzen Trapper samples. Listen below to 4 tunes from 4 different albums, each one better than the next, and check out a live version of “Furr” above.