3/19/08 Blitzen Trapper, Fleet Foxes, Ghostfinger @ Exit/In, Nashville, Tenn.

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

An hour after the show was scheduled to begin and only a handful of carefully ripped jean-clad barely legals had only a sound check to keep their attention, one of the most buzzworthy tour pairings thus far this year was looking to develop into little more than a shabby rehearsal for a few half-fans.An hour after the show was scheduled to begin and only a handful of carefully ripped jean-clad barely legals had only a sound check to keep their attention, one of the most buzzworthy tour pairings thus far this year was looking to develop into little more than a shabby rehearsal for a few half-fans. The gloaming wasn’t lifted much when local act Ghostfinger took the stage looking like a trailer park Nick Cave – moustache twiddled and head band a-dangle – with an oblivious enthusiasm and pointing suggestively to the prettiest tart in the bare crowd.

Since regulars of late-night danks like Exit/In have learned to arrive late, though, a steady trickle of fans sauntered to the floor just in time to welcome Seattle’s anti-folk newbies, Fleet Foxes. On their first-ever tour with only two EPs under their belt – though their latest, Sun Giant, earned Pitchfork’s coveted “Best New Music” nod after only a limited northwest release in February – and a full-length debut scheduled for early June, the quintet held the spotlight with a much-needed grace. Probably the most gracious act I’ve ever seen, lead singer Robin Pecknold stopped but a few seconds into fan-favorite “White Winter Hymnal” with a case of the giggles when someone in the crowd cheered loudly during its opening a cappella lines, muttering something about how surprised he is every time someone recognizes their music, and adding simply, “You guys are really sweet.” Drifting between slow-moving Appalachian pastorals with an Irish twist and Sunday morning choir harmonies, seeing Fleet Foxes at the beginning of their peak reminds of what it must have been like to catch Grizzly Bear’s orchestral musings just before Yellow House.

So when headliners Blitzen Trapper took stage, they couldn’t help but feel like a pizza and beer binge after a cleansing dose of milk and honey, breaking the plaintive tenor the Foxes left with the raucous “Devil’s A-Go-Go,” the opener from their ’07 LP Wild Mountain Nation. Even for those well initiated in Trapper’s disjointed hybrid of Butthole Surfers riot-starters, and East Coast noise DJs with cowpoke underpinnings, their set, like their music, is difficult to absorb. After pouncing through “Sci-Fi Kid” and “Summer Town,” the crowd finally sunk their teeth into the better-known “Wild Mountain Nation.” From there on, Trapper romped through heavy hitters like “Murder Babe” only to slink into their more obscure early work – for Trapper to feel a tad aloof is actually pretty fitting. To end it all, though, the crowd was led through a yelping sing-along with “Woof & Warp of the Quiet Giant’s Hem.” And if fans’ “yeah yeah yeah” chants on their way out the door are any proof, Trapper can be just as cuddly as they are chaotic.

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