Like a port beacon in a storm, Blitzen Trapper arrived in my life amid the howl and foul mist of Hurricane Irene.
Hunkered down in a tiny studio in Alexandria’s Chirilagua neighborhood, my then-girlfriend-now-wife and I clinked cans of Stella Artois and built a hurricane playlist of epic proportions. “Below the Hurricane” off of 2010’s Destroyer of the Void slid into line via a keyword search. Although the song came to represent what I erroneously call “Classic Blitzen Trapper,” I honestly thought it was an outtake from Led Zeppelin IV or some long lost Big Star b-side. The impressionistic lyrics, familiar yet hazy, and the proggy juxtaposition of sections pushed the wind and the rain from the windows. Eric Earley’s voice became our shelter from the storm.
Blitzen Trapper has a lot of moves, but certain tracks contain both the sincerity and power of early Midlake and the playful tone of a Tolkien preamble. Like White Denim and Dr. Dog, Blitzen Trapper play a new kind of rock music. They do not fuse disparate elements but rather connect pieces that should have been blended together long ago. Last year’s All Across This Land is their strongest and most confident recording to date, so their presence within the already comely LAVA lineup is most excellent.
Here they are making a short horror film with Rainn Wilson:
Already on the bill are JR JR, Natalie Prass, Matthew E. White, and the instantaneously infamous Charles Bradley. Formerly Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., the duo comprised of Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein released the all-killer-no-filler The Speed of Things a couple years back and followed it with this year’s JR JR. Like Reptar, JR JR can mellow your yellow, shake your booty, and make your heart swoon all at the same time. Like The Stepkids, they play the role of Bob Dylans for the Macbook era.
When I ask LAVA’s Creative Director Josh Coplon about the musical identity of the second LAVA Festival, which will be held in Chesapeake on May 27 and 28, he replies “We are a local, independent music festival presenting music that we believe in and really feel our region needs and wants. We have seven bands from Virginia, half of our lineup, and several bands that have not been to our market in several years or even ever in some cases–like Blitzen Trapper!”
While the excitement of today’s announcement of Blitzen Trapper and Minus the Bear is warranted, the VA-contingent is a pleasure to behold. Local soulsters Major and the Monbacks return after a monster performance at the first LAVA Festival. Ladada keep it NFK, but then we head over to Richmond for two amazing songwriters who have been working together recently: Natalie Prass and Matthew E. White. White will produce Major and the Monbacks new album, and Prass’s eponymous release from last year will put you down on your knees and up to the top of the mountain in the same song. Will Olverman, Lucy Dacus, and the No BS! Brass Band round out the disciples from the Old Dominion.
The amount of styles at this year’s LAVA Fest is astounding: folk, indie, indie dance, blue-eyed soul, soul, rock, indie rock, folk prog, gospel, folk gospel, gospel folk, stoner rock. But in the end what matters is capital M Music, and these lines from the Front Bottoms: “Riding a motorcycle and being in a gang. Being in love and women’s rights and male hedonism. Worshiping the devil, good vibes all around, and acting cool.”
Last year’s festival was a splendid affair with a young, respectful in all the right ways and disrespectful in all the right ways, crowd, and a shit ton of good music. Highlight for me was Kishi Bashi, but for Coplon “The day as a whole was a highlight. It was really cool to see everything I’d been first dreaming about unfold over 12 hours.” After curating the music at last year’s NEON Festival the folks at LAVA have been putting in the hard work on their second act. It’ll be a pleasure to see it unfold again.