–by Vicki Lee and Randy Thompson
–photos by Kenny Williamson/RKNPHOTO
Trampled By Turtles stopped by the Pageant in Saint Louis Friday for an evening of intense emotion through skillful performance. Friday’s show was opened by the band Sumbuck, which is a side project of the group’s lead singer, Taylor Meier, a member, and lead singer of Caamp. Tonight, Sumbuck consisted of Meier, Evan Westfall, Matt Vinson, and friends unnamed.
Sumbuck opened with Meier alone on the stage playing the acoustic guitar and singing “Are You Dreaming”, it was a quiet but dramatic start. The rest of the band then joined him onstage for the solid, textured sound of “Sy*z*y*gy” that kept heads bobbing in the crowd. Meier recalled that earlier in the day he’d bought 6 pairs of sunglasses at a local gas station. When he set them down on the counter the clerk said, “Is this a joke, man?” and the answer he received was,” No, this is real life”. And real life is a regular theme in their lyrics of Sumbuck. Meier is an introspective and powerful lyricist, who can bring out deep emotions in the beautifully presented music. The band members stayed seated throughout the performance, which was indicative of the mellow and laid-back approach that the band took tonight.
Meier’s voice is solid, and he has excellent range between a falsetto and a gritty sound that plays well with the style of music they perform. The music that they play is reminiscent of 70’s Tom Petty and folk rock to us, and the audience was certainly enjoying that sound, singing along and calling out to the band. Sumbuck presented a very strong performance that was breezy and relaxed. The energy stayed at that level throughout the show, and that seemed to be just fine with the audience.
At this point, Trampled By Turtles came out to play. They were lined up across the stage with all their string instruments set up and ready to go. And GO they did… immediately! And powerfully, with precision, mad skills, and incredible enthusiasm.
All we could think of as their first tune soared, was that we might get trampled by these turtles! The packed house responded immediately by dancing and moving to the rhythm of the music, and they didn’t stop until the band did, two hours and 25 songs later.
There were no drums to carry the beat, simply a group of fine musicians who were playing with intense energy and an obvious enjoyment for what they were doing on stage. Each instrument certainly played its role.
The bass acoustic guitar played by Tim Saxhaug and cello played by Eamonn McLain were solid in keeping the rhythm moving forward throughout the show. Meanwhile, Dave Carroll on the banjo and Dave Simonett on the acoustic lead were constants in the formation of the musical flow. And while still being steady parts of every song, the mandolin played by Erik Berry and Ryan Young on the fiercely played fiddle were featured with intense solos throughout. There were times when Young looked as though he was bending down and leaning into a storm as he played. Berry was exquisite on his solos and the band played “Don’t Look Down” his original composition which was really enjoyed by the audience.
With all of these facets in place, it was notable that the band was very adept at bringing the audience up with quick playing at times like in ”Victory” or “Walt Whitman” and then lowering us back down when moving into a ballad or a slow lament, like “Starting Over” or “Whiskey”.
“Bloodshot Eyes” evoked John Prine as the harmonica was introduced, the fiddle wailed while the mandolin held a quavering tone. Taylor Meier returned to the stage to play “By and By” with TBT much to the singing fans delight.
Adding to the atmosphere provided by the music, the set was beautiful with faceted, filigreed owls through which light and smoke were filtered and played a role in setting the mood for each song. The sold-out crowd was singing the lyrics to the songs throughout the show. At one point, Simonett stepped back and allowed the audience to finish singing the last lines of “Where Is My Mind”, by the Pixies. One of several encores was Tim Saxhaug singing “Keep Me in Your Heart” by Warren Zevon, it was a moving rendition.
Trampled By Turtles definitely exceeded all of our expectations. We knew that they had a great resume with 10 solid albums behind them including their newest, Alpenglow, produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. TBT’s live presentation was played with masterful skills, great energy, and a solid connection with their audience. We left this show feeling trampled…in a really great way.
Sumbuck set list:
Are You Dreaming
Time She Takes
We Will Dance Again
Trampled By Turtles Setlist:
It’s So Hard to Hold On
Right Back Where We Started
On the Highway
Burlesque Desert Window
By and By (with Taylor Meier)
All the Good Times Are Gone
A Lifetime to Find (Wilco cover)
Don’t Look Down
Quitting Is Rough
The Party’s Over
Where is My Mind (Pixies cover)
Wait So Long
Keep Me in Your Heart (Warren Zevon cover)
Midnight on the Interstate