Remember the days when Trampled by Turtles used to sit down during performances? Those days are long gone, as the band has been on a steady rise the last few years, moving into larger venues to play for bigger audiences. They are certainly on their feet these days, playing rousing string music that mixes Americana, bluegrass, country and even some fused rock n’ roll in way that has certainly caught the attention of music fans, both mainstream and underground. With a robust winter tour in full swing, they brought their unique 5-piece string sound to part one of a sold out, two night run at the historic Ogden Theater in Denver on January 10th. A great venue the band has frequented in recent years.
Touring extensively at festivals and auditoriums after the release of last April’s Stars and Satellites, Trampled by Turtles seems to be seizing upon a large upswing of momentum and popularity, as record and download sales continue with more radio and television appearances along the way. The band consists of David Simonett (guitar), Erik Berry (mandolin), Tim Saxhaug (bass), Ryan Young (fiddle) and Dave Caroll (banjo).
The opening act, California based HoneyHoney appeared promptly at 8pm. HoneyHoney, featuring permanent founding members Suzanne Santo (vocals/violin/banjo) and Ben Jaffe (vocals/guitar) performed a loud and energetic hour set featuring primarily the vocals and a variety of instrumentation by Suzanne Santo. At times sounding like Americana-infused Alanis Morissette mixed with Patti Smith hard rock Suzanne Santo’s vocals, when audible, were poignant but typically drowned out by the loud musical accompaniment surrounding her. HoneyHoney although lacking truly unique sounds or musical arrangements, still generated a fun and raucous energy that warmed the Ogden Theater on a blistery cold night in Denver.
The stage was initially set fully with both bands’ equipment, allowing for a quick transition to Trampled by Turtles, as HoneyHoney’s equipment was removed. The Ogden Theater by now had become completely full, with late arrivals fully settled in.
Trampled by Turtles’ “Alone”
From here, Trampled by Turtles waded into “Widower’s Heart” off of Stars and Satellites, a somber story of moving forward after loss. “Help You” an upbeat song from Palamino followed and got the crowd moving and singing along. The all instrumental “Risk” proceeded and from there “Victory”, a well-known crowd favorite.
Following this quick four song start to the show, Trampled by Turtles went on to play 16 more songs, surprisingly all without a set break. And although the band appeared quite comfortable in the familiar confines of the Ogden Theater, they moved through songs at a steady and quick pace. Not many songs were extended and they held back of any kind of improvisation and at times seemed as though the band was pushing tracks from Stars and Satellites and older classics in a overly straightforward way. The songs the band decided to cover on this night were the frequently employed “Tell Me Momma” (Bob Dylan), “Fake Plastic Trees” (Radiohead) and “Ohh La La” (Faces). People gleefully sang along, danced in the audience, and generally had a great time – but the band failed to break out anything really remarkable this evening in Denver.
Two night runs for a band can usually go a few ways; either the band takes their time to get comfortable and delves into material only so far, they try and please those in attendance that might not be attending multiple nights, or they try and incorporate a little bit of both. The latter was certain true here, as Trampled by Turtles moved through a wealth of songs at a quick and ever more comfortable pace, but made sure to hit such favorites as “Victory”, “Alone”, “Walt Whitman”, “New Orleans”, “Gasoline” and arguably the band’s hook song, “Wait So Long”.
“Wait So Long” concluded the set with the entire theater shouting the lyrics, followed by an almost instant off and back on stage encore performance of “Fake Plastic Trees”, “Ooh La La” and ultimately “Darkness and the Light”. The music and concert was good and the atmosphere great, although the one long lump of songs played over one set was confusing and never really allowed the band to settle in.
While it never displeases to hear songs that you love dearly from a one-of-a-kind string band like Trampled by Turtles, a certain level of disappointment was felt in not hearing the band fully stretch their legs, take their time and “let ‘er rip”. Then again, when you only attend the first of a multi-night run, you run the odds of not getting the band at full-tilt.
Written by Allen Byrne
OurVinyl | Contributor
Feature photo from MNOriginal.org.
Unofficial full set list for Trampled by Turtles, January 10th, from the Ogden Theater, Denver, Colorado: Widower’s Heart, Help You, Risk, Victory, High Water, Alone, Walt Whitman, Burn for Free, Stranger, New Orleans, Bloodshot Eyes, Don’t Look Down, Sorry, Tell Me Momma, Empire, Gasoline, At Your Window, It’s a War, Midnight on the Interstate, Wait So Long, E: Fake Plastic Trees, Ooh La La, Darkness and the Light
Trampled by Turtles continues their winter tour at the following stops, before summer dates in Europe:
San Francisco, CA The Fillmore
Santa Ana, CA Observatory
Tempe, AZ The Marquee
Albuquerque, NM Sunshine Theater
Tulsa, OK Cain’s Ballroom
Lawrence, KS The Granada
Chicago, IL The Vic
Ann Arbor, MI Ann Arbor Folk Festival – Hill Auditorium
Madison, WI The Orpheum Theater
Green Bay, WI Meyer Theater
Eau Claire, WI State Theatre
Des Moines, IA Wooly’s