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Trampled by Turtles announces presence with authority

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Trampled by Turtles, making their first ever Sacramento appearance on Thursday night at Harlow’s in front of a raucous crowd.

The first time a band plays a gig in a new town can be a dicey proposition.  It often takes a show, or three, for a band to build up the fanbase that they deserve.  That first inroad into uncharted territory often results in half-filled venues without much intrinsic energy.

Thursday night, Harlow’s hosted not one but two bands making their first ever Sacramento appearances: Duluth, Minnesota’s Trampled by Turtles and Nashville, Tennessee’s The Apache Relay

If you didn’t know any better, you might have assumed that both bands had been playing here for years.

The venue, owing in large part to recent triumphant appearances by TBT at High Sierra and Coachella, and in very small part to the tireless hyping of the gig by one Sac Press communinity contributor, was brimming with fans.

The energy in the room was akin to a religious fervor.

One particularly ardent young fan, a blond girl at center stage, appeared at one point to be speaking in tongues.  During Trampled’s set, she made a point to shake hands with each one of her conquering heros, and responded to each touch as a religious zealot might respond to the touch of their earthly prophet himself.

So, yeah, the crowd was pumped up.

Nashville’s The Apache Relay came out with guns ablazing, setting the tone for the evening right off the bat.

The Apache Relay took the stage at 9:20 PM and before the curtains were even fullly drawn they were well into "Power Hungry Animals", a pulsing, sing-along-able track that builds to a crushing crescendo. They followed that with a searing version of "American Nomad", which got the already buzzing crowd bouncing in earnest. 

By the time lead singer Michael Ford Jr. introduced himself with a "This is our first time here in Sacramento, and it’s awesome already!" TAR had the crowd, the vast majority of whom had never heard of The Apache Relay, let alone actually heard them, eating from the palm of his hand.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a quicker audience domination by an unknown opener.  These cats have the goods.

They maintained their energy throughout the nearly hour-long genre-bending set.  They were at times grungy ("Home is not Places"), rythm-and-bluesy ("Watering Hole"), indie-y ("Lost Kid"), but they never lost the crowd, who’d come to see Minnesota thrashgrass..  When Ford, Jr. addressed the crowd again towards the end of the set "I just want to say I love you so much! This is incredible!", the crowd responded in kind.

The two Mikes, Ford Jr. fore, and Harris aft.

When Relay’s set ended the crowd response was so long and rambunctious that I half expected the kids from Tennessee to come out for an encore. They did not, but they could have, and that speaks volumes.

Brett Moore and Kellen Wenrich. These guys alternated instruments all night, I counted at least 6 between them, maybe more.
At 10:28 PM, the boys from Duluth took the stage, each of them carrying a PBR tallboy in addition to their weapon of choice.  They began playing the opening strains of "Separate", a track off of their most recent album, 2010’s tour-de-force Palomino, and we were off to the races.

Trampled by Turtles: Space Viking bluegrass behemoths.

In fact, the first three songs of the evening were off Palomino. "Victory" featured an epic fiddle solo that inspired some serious do-si-do-ing by some of the more exuberant audience members, and got pretty much everyone up and hopping. 

Minnesota thrashgrass could also be rightly described as
The third song of the evening, the primal, pulsing, "It’s a War", pushed the crowd already teetering on the edge of extatic fervor over the brink.  As the men on stage violently strummed their instruments into submission, the men and women in the crowd went into a full-blown tizzy, where it remained for the bulk of the 19 song, 75 minute set.

Dave Carroll, Dave Simonett, and Tim Saxhaug.
At one point, following a rip roaring version of "Darkness and the Light", again off Palomino, Banjo player Dave Carroll could be heard requesting a shot of Jack Daniels from no one in particular.  Someone in the crowd, (no one in particular. . .) took it upon himself to make that happen.  A few moments later there were five shots of JD lined up on the side of the stage.  Between songs, the shots were passed down, the band members raised their glasses to the crowd, then to each other, and to uproarious applause threw back the shots.

A toast to the crowd. . .
They chased the shots with an epic instrumental medley of "New Son/Burnt Iron", the former being meandering and lovely, the latter blistering and percussive.  The two together make a wonderful juxtapposition, though both are more than good enough to stand on their own merit, the brilliant pairing ends up greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Erik Berry, mandolin and Ryan Young, fiddle. The left side of the band.
They closed the set with their most popular song off Palomino, the beautifully infectious "Wait So Long", which might be melencholy with poignant lyrics like "I could never pretend that I don’t love you, you could never pretend that I’m your man" but is such a humdinger of a song that it’s hard to listen without a smile taking ownage of your face. 

The crowd goes absolutely bananas during the first encore, a cover of the Pixies
They left the stage at 11:40 PM to applause that did not waver for the seven minutes that went by before Dave Carroll came out to take a picture of the crowd.  He was joined moments later by the rest of the band who proceeded to absolutely annihilate a cover of The Pixies "Where is my Mind".  I always think of the final scene in Fight Club when I hear this song, which plays as the buildings blow up all around Tyler Durden. . . so it was a fitting that they burned Harlow’s to the ground with it, metaphorically speaking.  They followed it up with an older track of theirs, "Whiskey", before leaving the stage again at midnight.

Family photo, Harlow’s, May 19th, 2011

Once again, the applause was raucous and unwavering, and six minutes later, the band returned to the stage for a second encore.  Simonett acknowledged the crowd "We’ve never played in Sac before, we didn’t know what to expect".  Unsaid, but reasonably inferred from their decision to play a second encore, during which each band member took an extended solo, was that they were more than impressed by what they’d found here.

I’m pretty sure they’ll be back.

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