Dave Simonett apparently is not the nostalgic type. As his ever-growing, independent acoustic quintet Trampled by Turtles prepares to mark its 10th anniversary with three sold-out shows at First Avenue this week, surely the band’s frontman is feeling a sense of pride in the early albums that put them on the map. Right?
“No, not at all,” Simonett said without hesitation. “I mean, I like them for their moment-in-time snapshot quality, but none of them would be good enough for us now.”
TBT’s April 2012 album “Stars and Satellites” truly did set the high standard for the Duluth-bred pickers. And you can pretty much work backward from there. Thus, the real celebration this week might not be about hitting the decade mark — although that is impressive for a band that formed simply because Simonett’s electric guitar was stolen, and he had to go acoustic.
What Trampled’s members really seem happy about is wrapping up their most successful year yet. Without label support, they sold 70,000-plus copies of “Stars and Satellites,” played Letterman and Conan and Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, plus more than 150 other dates along the way.
“We achieved a lot of things we’ve been working toward, played really well and didn’t burn ourselves out,” said Simonett, who quit touring in time for the birth of his second child last month. “The only downside is, now we’re like, ‘What’s next? How do we top this?’ ”
Starting Wednesday, though, the band is looking back, not forward. Simonett confirmed that they will dust off older songs for all three nights, and he is at least happy about that.
“Some of those songs are still very fun to play. When you’ve been touring for a new album like we have, playing old songs actually feels new.”
Simonett and his TBT bandmates are also excited to be welcoming 16 other acts they hand-picked to perform with them this week at First Ave and the adjoining 7th Street Entry, including many from Duluth. They’re so psyched about it, in fact, that they offered us these night-by-night recommendations in their own words:
Fat Kid Wednesdays: “I would go almost every week when they played Mondays in the Clown Lounge” at the Turf Club,” said TBT fiddler Ryan Young. “They would get me excited to play my own music. I’ve probably learned more from them than any other musicians.”
Actual Wolf: “Eric Pollard has been a friend to the band for as long as we’ve been around,” TBT bassist Tim Saxhaug said. “He played drums on our third studio album, ‘Trouble.’ His new project shows his talent as a frontman and songwriter. Not to mention his kick-ass band is made up of Steve Garrington and Jeremy and Jake Hanson.”
Sans Souci Quartet: Said Young, “Guitar, banjo, mandolin and bass — classic folk/bluegrass lineup, great singers and players. I’m excited to be playing a show with them finally. Guitarist Zach Gusa also plays with the talented Katey Belleville, and mandolinist Eric Larson plays with Pocahontas County.”
Next of Kin: “This is one of my favorite Duluth bands,” Saxhaug offered. “Sweet folk-rock with beautiful harmonies, and lead guitar with shades of the country greats. Imagine if Mazzy Starr and Gram Parsons bred a band.”
Fever Dream: “The latest creation of Marc Gartman is something not to miss,” said Trampled’s banjo player Dave Carroll. “His keyboard/drum-machine sounds are straight from the ’80s. His vocals are straight from the heart.”
The Pines: “Their somber, beautiful, melodic songs have a sound that — in my opinion — is all their own,” Simonett said. “Their newest record, ‘Dark So Gold,’ is a must-have.”
Front Porch Swingin’ Liquor Pigs: “They are one of the first bands that Pert Near Sandstone played with when we were first starting out,” said Young, a former and still occasional member of Pert Near. “I have a lot of respect for Dave Babb’s and Randy Webb’s style of singing and playing, and Fiddle John Moline — also in the White Iron Band — is awesome.”
Corpse Reviver: “An incredible trio of musicians playing songs from ‘The Harry Smith Anthology of Folk Music,’ ” Young observed. “Adam Kiesling from Pert Near Sandstone plays guitar and banjo; Jillian Rae plays fiddle, and Mikkel Beckman from Charlie Parr and the Brass Kings plays percussion.”
Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank: “Before I ever thought about moving to Duluth, I was a fan of Teague Alexy & the Medication,” said TBT mandolinist Erik Berry. “Since they broke up and Teague and his brother Ian formed the Hobo Nephews, I have always been able to get my fix for the Alexys’ inimitable grooves and fabulous harmonies. They’re both great guitarists, too.”
Real Bulls: “JT Bates and Dave King. Two percussionists,” Young said. “I’m sorry if you didn’t get tickets to this night.”
Erik Koskinen: “The very first time I saw him play years ago, I was hooked,” Carroll said. “His work on electric and baritone guitars is just phenomenal, and his voice is unforgettable.”
Southwire: “One of my favorite Duluth bands, with a really interesting gospel/indie-roots/hip-hop sound,” Carroll said. “They’ve been around for a while but just released a record that’s been getting good attention.”
Prissy Clerks: “The first time I saw them was a happy accident,” Simonett recalled. “I was just passing through the Turf Club and was very excited by the band that happened to be playing on stage. Great songs and great presence. I stuck around until the end to find out what I had just witnessed, and there I found Prissy Clerks.”
Charlie Parr: “I mean, c’mon — an astounding finger-style blues guitar and clawhammer banjo player, with a hell of a singing voice, who writes brilliant and catchy songs that are insightful, empathetic studies of down-and-out characters,” Berry said. “And he’s a genuinely humane, caring family man who dedicates his craft to his father nightly, and his gigs are mind-blowing as well as entertaining.”