Had it been a band from Los Angeles or Texas, Thursday’s concert at First Avenue probably would have been called off. Thankfully, it was a Duluth-bred group, one that knows all too well how to cure the Minnesota winter blues — even in mid-April.
Trampled by Turtles trudged through Thursday night’s snowstorm and charged through a nearly two-hour performance with a little extra vim and vigor. Frontman Dave Simonett knew exactly how the weary crowd was feeling when he asked them to yell a one-word address to the weather outside: “Enough!”
After a more sedate set Wednesday night, the acoustic string quintet picked up steam and let fans blow some off in the second of three consecutive sold-out shows marking the band’s 10th anniversary.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak — who is turning into First Ave’s most chronic stage crasher — introduced the band with a banjo awkwardly strapped around his chest.
That awkward moment underlined how unlikely the rise of Trampled by Turtles has been. Who would have predicted a decade ago that a rootsy, bluegrass-flavored band from northern Minnesota would headline Minneapolis’ legendary rock venue — much less sell out a three-night stand (and play the Letterman show, to boot).
Even in the current era, though, with folk-flavored acoustic strummers such as Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers topping the charts, TBT is a bit of an anomaly with its raw, punky energy and especially its rapid-fire musical virtuosity, all on full display Thursday.
Also on display were a half-dozen of the 16 other acts the Trampled fellas invited to join their three-day party, both on First Avenue’s main stage and in the adjoining 7th Street Entry.
Interestingly, many of those acts center on two core members, starting with Real Bulls — a duo with kingly drummers Dave King and J.T. Bates — and including deliciously grooving sets of foot-stomping acoustic blues and folk by Front Porch Swingin’ Liquor Pigs and Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank. (The latter act returns to the Entry on Saturday for an album-release party.) And then there were the Pines, with songwriting partners Benson Ramsey and David Huckfeldt. Their solemn, poetic folk-rock had a great soothing effect Thursday.
TBT’s set was bookended by some of its own slower and more somber (and best) tunes, starting with the openers “Widower’s Heart” and “Victory” and ending with an encore of “Late Night on the Interstate” and “Alone.” All but one of those tunes came from last year’s surprisingly serene hit album, “Stars and Satellites.” But those tunes were the odd ones out in this gig.
The band reached deep into its catalog to pick out some of the sped-up, barnstorming songs that first made them a popular live act, including “It’s a War,” “Still in Love With You,” “Arming of Infants” and “Darkness and the Light.” Mandolin player Erik Berry’s manic work in the latter tune drew a rave response. Violinist Ryan Young let loose more subdued but gorgeous solo parts in “Whiskey,” a song from well before he joined the band.
Things reached a fever pitch later on as the band broke out its popular Pixies cover, “Where Is My Mind?” and then blazed through two of its best-known hyper-strung singles, “Wait So Long” and “Walt Whitman.” The heat generated in those tunes alone was enough to melt a mountain of snowy misery.