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Continued: Minnesota's highwaymen: Six days on the road with Trampled by Turtles

Gigs: NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, Reddit Q&A


Everyone was still smiling over how the fiddle player got his back scratched by Letterman on national TV the night before.

“Let me get that for you,” the host said as the burly, thickly bearded Ryan Young reached to relieve an itch at song’s end. Banjo player Dave Carroll later quipped, “He’s never going to wash his back again.”

While the rest of the band hit a Chelsea watering hole to watch themselves on TV after the late-afternoon taping, the singer went back to their rented bus to crash.

“All the nerves and anticipation of playing that one song build up all day, and then suddenly it’s over,” Simonett explained. “I felt completely drained.”

Not even a big New York TV taping alters the bus’ usual 2 a.m. roll time. As on most nights, the band members and crew spent the overnight drive to Washington, D.C., sleeping in their bunks, piled three high and six per side. A sardine-can comparison works, especially when the smell builds after a couple weeks out.

While their bus driver slept in D.C., the band somehow wound up in a garish limo minibus with black tinted windows and a leather wraparound couch. “There’s even a hole to put a stripper pole,” bassist Tim Saxhaug cheerily noted as they pulled up to National Public Radio’s regal new headquarters near the U.S. Capitol.

What at first looked like a Mötley Crüe entourage turned into a Boundary Waters portage once the band members started unloading gear in their North Woods attire.

Among the odder gigs that bands play circa 2014 is the virally popular Tiny Desk Concert, taped for The concerts actually do take place at a desk, belonging to “All Songs Considered” host Bob Boilen, who got turned on to Trampled by Turtles three years ago at the South by Southwest Music Conference.

Boilen pointed out the restrooms, and Saxhaug instantly ran there. “The smallest bladder in bluegrass,” Young mused.

Mandolinist Erik Berry checked his phone for reports from home. “I’m missing my son’s last baseball game of the season,” he said all too matter-of-factly.

The band’s knowledgeable, T-shirt-clad co-manager from New York, Geoff Harrison, 36, traveled with them but stayed well-connected to the office. Yesterday was record-release day, after all. He excitedly reported that Trampled ranked in the top five on Billboard’s Real-Time Twitter Chart (for tweets about a band or its album).

Harrison more convincingly emphasized the enormousness of the “Tiny Desk Concert”: “These things get half a million page views.”

About 50 people crowded in to watch Trampled’s set, including NPR’s brand-new CEO, Jarl Mohn. After only a few minutes to set up — this is one gig definitely performed unplugged — the band tore through three songs from the new album. Boilen asked if they wanted to hang out.

“You got any beer?” Simonett asked.

Nope, but NPR’s new palace does have one heck of a salad bar. As if following a when-in-Rome dictum, the musicians all lined up and piled on the greens there — the only green they would receive for the gig.

“We eat like this every day on tour,” the band’s woolly-smiled banjo player claimed. It would not be his last fib of the day.

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    Their ability to harmonize on the road has given them opportunities other bands miss.

  • Video: Trampled by Turtles lives for the road

    Tuesday August 26, 2014

    Touring can be stressful but the band members describe it as essential to their identity.

  • Video: Eclectic taste, fans define Trampled by Turtles’ style

    Saturday August 23, 2014

    Trampled by Turtles attributes their diverse fan base to a love for music of all styles.

  • U.S. Senate staffer Jamie DeAtley, right, staked out a spot to greet singer Dave Simonett and the rest of Trampled by Turtles as they arrived at National Public Radio’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

  • Eamonn McLain demonstrated his own kind of pre-show ritual — and the fact that he’s about a decade younger than the rest of the band at 26 — before the big festival gig in Louisville, Ky.

  • Carroll found his own quiet if not quaint corner behind the Pisgah Brewing Co.’s outdoor stage to warm up his fingers, a pre-show ritual for most of the band members.

  • Dave Simonett on the band’s tour bus before their show in Black Mountain, N.C.

  • Trampled’s frontman took a last-minute smoke break before a WXPN-FM broadcast at World Café Live in Philadelphia — where he remembered a prior show that paid only in cigarettes.

  • The bigger the crowd, the shorter the sound check: Trampled by Turtles hit the stage running in front of about 10,000 fans at the Forecastle Festival in Louisville, Ky., playing before fellow Minnesotans the Replacements. From left: Dave Simonett, Dave Carroll, Ryan Young and Erik Berry.

  • String tech Dave Feirn tuned Dave Simonett’s guitar a few minutes before Trampled by Turtles played to a crowd of 10,000 people at the Forecastle Festival in Louisville.

  • Before they began the sound check for their show in Black Mountain, N.C., the band ironed out the kinks in their rendition of the Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

  • As guitar tech Dave Feirn and tour manager Mike Tholen stood by, Dave Carroll cleared his eyes and Dave Simonett, Tim Saxhaug and Eamonn McLain tested their gear at the Forecastle Festival.

  • Trampled by Turtles’ taping of a segment for “CBS This Morning” at a studio in Manhattan was delayed and then postponed as the story of a Ukrainian airliner being shot down unfolded.

  • Erik Berry’s well-traveled mandolin.

  • Simonett dug out his luggage from the bus cargo hold to find a fresh T-shirt.

  • Who says kids don’t buy records anymore? A mostly young crowd filled the aisles for Trampled by Turtles’ in-store set and album signing at the Sound Garden in Baltimore.

  • Cellist Eamonn McLain finished his sound check for a “CBS This Morning” taping in New York as the story of a downed Ukrainian airliner unfolded onscreen behind them. The band’s appearance ultimately got bumped by the breaking news.

  • Trampled’s two Daves got to unwind during Beck’s set at the Forecastle Festival before flying home the next day, capping off a two-week stretch with a three-day break.

  • Engineer Kevin Wait adjusted the microphone during sound check for Trampled by Turtles’ “Tiny Desk Concert” taping at NPR’s offices in Washington, DC.


    Playing: The Festival Palomino Sept. 20 at Canterbury Park in Shakopee. With: The Head & the Heart, Low, Charles Bradley, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Field Report, Spirit Family Reunion, more. Tickets: $34,


    At See a full photo gallery and video feature with Trampled by Turtles as well as their archived Letterman TV appearance.

    Tiny Desk Concert: WXPN Free at Noon: Archived at

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