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      Blitzen Trapper in San Francisco


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      November 14, 2018

      Wednesday   8:00 PM

      628 Divisadero Street
      San Francisco, California 94117

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      Blitzen Trapper

      with Luluc
      It was on September 23, 2008 that Blitzen Trapper, after putting out three albums on its own label, released its fourth full-length album, Furr, via Sub Pop. At that time, it was a record that captured exactly where the bands frontman, Eric Earley, found himself, both literally and metaphorically, geographically and existentially. Not that the Portland-based musician actually remembers much about the creation of the records 13 intriguing, spellbinding songs. Or, more specifically, what its songs actually mean, either now or then. Instead, Furr, stands as a kind of tribute and elegy to the city that inspired it, but that, a decade later, no longer exists.What I was trying to do with those recordings, explains Earley, was capture this kind of atmosphere that I was feeling and which pervaded the city at that time. I think I was attempting to capture what Portland was at the time and what it felt like to me. That city is gone now. Old Portland, we call it, but Old Portland has disappeared. But this record gives me the feeling of those times and this city when it was poor and dumpy and really drug-addled. And it also captures the magic of the outlying rural areas that has slowly changed as well.That magic can be heard in each of these songs, and while the city may have vanished from sight replaced by a newer, richer, shinier and bigger version of itself its elegance and fractured beauty is preserved within the bones of this record. These songs exist as vivid snapshots of that time, ones that recall the city as it was. At the same time and while Earley insists he was only trying to capture what Portland was at the time theres a mythology within the lyrics and the music, an imagined, semi-fictional vision of Portland and the Pacific Northwest, a kind of parallel universe to the one that actually exists.Back then, the city was this really weird place, says Earley. It was really bizarre. Weird stuff would happen. And it was much poorer and much smaller. It wasnt as structured and rich as it is now. It was a totally different place. Thats why its funny when people talk about Portland Im like well, if you didnt live here back then youll never experience what that was like but if you listen to this record youll get a little taste of it. So in that sense, it feels very real and non-mythical to me.That said, that doesnt mean these songs are all based in reality. There are glimpses of God and of American Christianity throughout them, not least in the mournful folk narrative of Black River Killer and God & Suicide. The former is a made-up tale about an anonymous murderer on a killing spree which Earley cites as being about the mindless violence that Americans consume every single day in film and books and everything and what does it mean for us to consume that content and make it a part of us? The latter is a shimmering, more upbeat track thats an attempt to commit to tape an ineffable feeling that Earley felt within him but which, after all these years, hes still unable to pinpoint exactly.I cant tell you what that songs about, he says. I know what it feels like, but I dont know what it actually literally means. But the words and the music gave me this feeling as I was writing it that made sense at the time. I feel like theres a feeling of longing that accompanies this record somehow, and theres this weird longing to be set free. I feel thats what kind of pervades this record a melancholic longing for something that we cant obtain. In God & Suicide its almost likeand its me obviouslybut its almost like whoever is saying those words is saying to himself Well Ive got two choices. Either I kill myself or I somehow make my peace with whatever God is.Not all the songs have such existential explanations. The soft acoustic jangle of the title track is full of wistful longing, while the plaintive, poignant piano of Not Your Lover is a forlorn love or loss of love song full of tender sadness. Thats one of a few songs that wouldnt actually exist had the bandcompleted at the time by Brian Adrian Koch (drums, vocals), Michael Van Pelt (bass), Erik Menteer (guitar, Moog), Drew Laughery (keyboards) and Marty Marquis (guitar, vocals, melodica)not found an old warped piano in the hallway of Sally Macks School Of Dance, the Portland building which housed the bands studio. Needless to say, the discovery definitely helped shape the direction of the record. That song, says Earley, wouldnt exist, I dont think, without that piano. I remember sitting at that thing when I first pulled it in and tinkering with it and just sort of writing that one right away. So it probably would have been a slightly different record. A lot of the songs I wrote on piano and I wouldnt have because I didnt have one.Thats also partly because Earley admits he wasnt trying to write an album at that time, but write songs to perfect the recording technique hed been honing when making the bands previous full-length, 2007s Wild Mountain Nation. As such, around three albums worth of material was recorded during the sessions for Furr, and its a selection of those that comprise the bonus material for this anniversary edition of the record. From the dulcet, chugging tones of War Is Placebo to the carefree, summer whimsy of Ballad Of Bird Lovea song driven by that same pianoand the melancholy folk tale waltz of On My Way To The Bay, the ten outtakes included here offer even further insight into Earleys creative mindset and the feelingwhatever it is, exactlythat sits at the center of these songs. Written largely between the hours of 11pm and the morningsomething that was possible because, in between tours, Earley was living in the studio buildingFurr is a very nocturnal album, full of the wonder and the mystery of the night.Perhaps surprisingly, given the fact Earley wasnt trying to make a record per se, Furris an impressively cohesive album, and its counterpart bonus tracks are as well. Much of that is down to Earleys fastidious recording techniques, using old analogue equipment to create a sound that was inherently nostalgic but also, at the time, anyway, entirely unusual.At the time, he says, I was going for a very specific sound. And its funny, because its a sound that you hear so much nowadaysbands have this recording aesthetic thats very, very lo-fi and almost exactly what I was doing back then, but I was doing it with machinery that was meant to do that as opposed tobands now, who are doing it with modern digital plug-ins. At the time, I was just making what Id like to hear and I didnt know if anyone else will like it. It sounds old and distortedthe sound Id hear in my head when riding my bike around town at 2 in the morning. Those days (and nights) may have faded into the past, but theyre very much present within the fabric of Furr. A decade on, they sound just as magical and mystical. Not, of course, that the band is just relying on the past glory of this record. Far from it. A decade on from the release of Furr, has released five more critically acclaimed and achingly beautiful records. The band hasnt loosened its ambitions, either. In 2017, the band put together Wild And Reckless a full-production theater event that ran for a month at Portlands Center Stage theater and which also spawned last years full-length of the same name. There are plenty of plans for the future in the works, too. But for now, just for a little while, its time to revel in the joy and sorrow of a time and place that no longer existsexcept of course, in a few hearts and minds, and in these wonderfully wistful songs.

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