Blitzen Trapper play at UCSD on Saturday.
Long, long ago in the Pacific Northwest, a young man named Eric Earley sat mystified in his apartment while a terrifying, winged beast beat against the walls and rapped at the windows, trying to break in. The then 23-year-old scrambled, piling furniture in front of the door well into the night. Eventually, young Earley’s fever broke (and the self-prescribed narcotics wore off). The memory, however, perpetuated, inspiring Earley to drop out of school to write and record music. More than a decade and seven albums later, Blitzen Trapper’s demons bring the alt-country rockers to Porter’s Pub on Saturday.
From those humble, substance-fueled beginnings grew a handful of self-released albums with sloppy-fun lyrics pasted over understated instrumentals that would be happily at home at house parties. It wasn’t until 2007’s Wild Mountain Nation that the band found the sound -- a contemporary tribute to the classics, a mix of country storytelling and pluck with sweeter pop melodies and deep rock-guitar plunges -- that they would nurture in the years to come. Though frontman Earley describes the album as "a record that sounded like it had been authored by a drunken scarecrow who had been dragged behind a truck," it put Blitzen Trapper on the indie map, pushing them out on the road and paving the way for the following year’s release, the title track of which you’ll surely recognize. Furr ranked as No. 13 on Rolling Stone’s best albums of the year and landed the group on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, its first TV appearance.
Blitzen Trapper evolved with experience, the harmonica-laden and deeply personal 2011 release, American Goldwing, delving hard into memory-rich ballads. The latest record, VII, which was released just this month, takes a different track altogether, eschewing folksy notes for groovier tunes. Earley cites Waylon Jennings and Wu-Tang Clan as influences, calling VII’s sound “hillbilly gangster,” a departure from the group’s rootsy, muddled Americana records of the past. It’s country funk -- confident lyrics flowing over twangy guitar plucks and swaying psych-rock keys for a bold collection that transforms with contagious energy onstage. A band of intuition, Blitzen Trapper continue to trust whim in the same way that Earley did after his waking vision all those years ago -- and this Saturday, you’re invited to join (fever and narcotics optional).
Blitzen Trapper play Porter’s Pub on Saturday, Nov. 9, at 8 p.m. The Alialujah Choir opens.