By Jhoni Jackson; photos by Jason Travis
Compared to the abundant media coverage of garage rock, chillwave and other lo-fi of-the-moment indie niches, folk music appears a bit neglected. But the full crowd at The Moondoggies and Blitzen Trapper at Variety Playhouse proved that, despite temporarily existing in the shadow of catchy punk derivatives and spacey electronic jams, Atlanta folk fans haven’t abandoned ship.
Seattle’s Moondoggies exist in a Venn diagram of well-known folk-rock bands. It’s a predictable place — an area where Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses overlap. The Moondoggies play jammy three-part harmonies grazed with slender blues nuances. Though their biggest fan was likely a graying 30-something sporting khaki shorts and thong sandals who screamed and pogo jumped incessantly, there’s no shame in the accessible nature of The Moondoggies’ sound. What the hell do you think made Tom Petty famous? His good looks? On record, the quartet’s work is easily overlooked. Live, however, their skilled musicianship and earnest performing made for a pleasantly engaging show.
And Portland’s Blitzen Trapper is no different. The six-piece offered a more grandiose sound, but the rules of folk-rock remained a solid guideline: Incorporate nature into lyrics whenever possible, layer plugged-in acoustic with delicately distorted electric and, most importantly, place catchiness on a sky-high, cement pedestal.
Fresh off the release of this week’s Destroyer of the Void (Sub Pop), Blitzen Trapper weaved new material into four albums and one EP’s worth of tracks, a mix sure to satisfy longstanding fans as thoroughly as new-found0 listeners.
But because of the bevy of indie acts who elect a party-time vibe over musicianship and often create catchier, more memorable hooks, folk-rock shows often feel too tame. Luckily for Blitzen Trapper, the band played so sincerely and flawlessly that the show was saved from a literal translation of Furr’s “Sleepy Town in the Western World.”
And guitarist Marty Marquis’ Bob Ross-style ‘fro – if the iconic painter and TV host had been a gingery blond who added a nub of a ponytail to his ‘do – was an entertaining highlight. I couldn’t help but watch Marquis’ frizzy curls waver beneath the bright stage lights, like an oversized dandelion parachute ball that refused to drop.