The Parson Red Heads and Blitzen Trapper at Chop Suey
From what I have heard, it is possible that at any given Parson Red Heads show there will be between five and a zillion people onstage, playing something or another. The stage at Chop Suey is not very big, so on Friday night they wisely stuck with a minimum amount of people.
In the current storm of multi-part dude harmony 60’s/70’s revival bands, The Parson Red Heads fall firmly in the sections that I find charming. They are unabashedly fans of The Byrds, and all of their songs seem to be constructed in anticipation of the big guitar solo, with everything else mostly secondary. (This is for the best, since lyrically they tend to be a little squishy.) They have a member listed as solely the tambourine player, which is my dream, and a girl drummer. At the end of the set, I am pretty sure that someone was using antlers as their guitar slide. The Parson Red Heads are hilarious, they play sunny and well-crafted psychedelic folk rock, and they certainly know how to show the crowd a good time.
All of this makes them the perfect openers for Portland’s Blitzen Trapper. Sometime last fall I finally fell in love with Wild Mountain Nation, and I was a little worried that their new album, Furr, would suffer when they narrowed down their lunatic genre-hopping scope. Wild Mountain Nation sounded like a mixtape they were giving to all of their noisiest influences, and though Furr has lost a lot of the robot guitar fuzz noise it works better as an album than the previous release did.
It also works better as a dance party. The crowd at Chop Suey was packed in close to the stage, excited. The last two times I have seen Blitzen Trapper were at festivals where I was suffering from harmonica fatigue and exhaustion, which makes it easy to forget what a compelling show the band can put on. They played a full set that only felt like half of one, and closed out the encore with “Miss Spiritual Tramp,” the only song I’ve ever heard that references a Columbian necktie. I left Chop Suey slightly bruised from getting in the way of an impromptu one-man mosh pit and grinning foolishly, which is the way all the best shows end.
(Image via The Parson Red Heads.)