Date: January 15, 2022
Location: Dallas, Texas
Venue: The Factory
Dang, this was fun. If you haven’t been to a Trampled by Turtles concert there is a lot about the experience that might be new to you. But before we get into that let’s start with the opener, Deer Tick.
Make no mistake, Deer Tick is a Rock n’ Roll band. The band’s sound, rhythms, melodies, and movement on stage harken back to a time when folk, country, and rock all blended together. They’re the type of opening band that energizes the audience even if the crowd isn’t familiar with their tunes.
The band opened up with a cool party trick. The first three songs featured a different lead singer. This is no small feat. John J. McCauley opened with the raspy straight-ahead rock n’ roll song “Easy.” It was Dennis Ryan’s drum playing with a heavy bass that pushed the song and set the tone for the evening. McCauley showed the crowd a few different vocal approaches to songs that night. But you could always hear that signature rasp. Next guitarist Ian O'Neil took over singing “Dreams in the Ditch.” O’Neil struts like a British rock star from the late Sixties. His voices will hint of Dylan at times, and he even had a little Roger Daltry hair going. O’Neil would later sing the moving “Hope is Big,” a moment that really stuck with me. Dennis Ryan completed the trifecta with a fun take on a dog’s life with “Me and My Man.” The tune was clever, and Ryan would show off his vocals throughout the evening.
The band had a solid night and closed out their set by jamming with Trampled by Turtles. The two bands covered “White Freight Liner Blues” by Townes Van Zandt. The jam featured breakdowns by six musicians. This was a great way to close the set and pump up the crowd for Trampled by Turtles.
Trampled by Turtles
Trampled by Turtles opened with “Alone” a slow reflective piece that allowed the audience to ease into the band’s set. It became evident at the three-quarters mark of the song that the band could create a lot of emotion with their musicianship. Taking a breath before jumping in with the fast “Walt Whitman” was brilliant. When this band jams it plays and an unbelievably fast pace. The band’s third song, “Victory,” would play well in a Texas dance hall. The band was showcasing some diversity in their set. Given the amount of time dedicated to jams and breakdowns throughout the evening, this was smart. I also should add that part of the joy of going to a Trampled by Turtles concert is watching six musicians lined up at the front of the stage jam. You get to see each member do their thing. It’s a blast!
The jams and breakdowns were the crowd’s favorites. Ryan Young’s fiddle work was an amazing display of speed and musicianship. Eamonn McClain, the band’s cellist, brought incredible energy jumping and dancing throughout the set and some of the evening’s most beautiful melodies. The band’s driving sound was provided by Tim Saxhaug’s acoustic bass and an ingenious “rumble” provided by the sound team. Achieving such a driving sound without a drummer is quite an accomplishment.
The highlight for me was the more vocally driven songs like “The Middle,” “Midnight on the Interstate,” and “Alone.” The way the band harmonized with Dave Simonett’s lead vocals really hit the mark. These songs feel less folkie than the rest of the set and give the band a broader appeal. Having said that, it was the folk jams that made the evening so fun.
If you get the chance to see Trampled by Turtles, do it. It will be one of the more delightful music experiences you have.