Remember the scene in Titanic when Jack invites Rose to a “real party” down in the ship cellars? Imagine that eight minute scene turning into an hour-and-a-half long concert.
It’s uncommon to describe a concert as peaceful, relaxing, and wholesome, but all three adjectives accurately portray the Trampled by Turtles concert in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Saturday night. The audience danced freely to upbeat jams, then stood shoulder to shoulder during slower ballads.
Trampled by Turtles was nothing short of memorable.
YBuilt in 1928 with a Victorian style interior, the Riverside Theater was the perfect venue for the band to perform. A near sold-out audience of 2,460 people turned out and with an added pit in front of the stage, followed by hundreds of seats at ground level and an overhang with over a thousand seats, the cushions remained cold.
Trampled by Turtles is a six-man group, consisting of all string instruments and no percussion. The chemistry between the members is astounding, specifically between mandolinist Erik Berry and fiddler Ryan Young. They both boasted long beards with shaggy hair as they alternated solos and complimented the rest of the band. One song they perfect was “The Middle,” the third track off of their 2018 album Life Is Good on the Open Road.
The other four band members were fantastic as well: Dave Simonett on lead guitar and vocals, bassist Tim Saxhaug, banjo player Dave Carroll, and Eamonn McLain on cello. Fingers were pickin’ so fast, it’s surprising no one lost a digit. But when a band is classified as bluegrass and alternative country, nimble and tireless fingers are essential for creating clean and precise notes.
Some aspects of the show needed work. Instead of rolling from one song to another, the band took a little too long getting set in between songs. Granted, they needed to rotate their instruments, plus tune them to play each song accordingly, but the lost time between songs was noticeable. After an upbeat song where fans were dancing, the time in between songs brought a stop to the crowd’s energy instead of smoothly transitioning into another hit song, like “Ain’t No Use in Tryin’.”
Feeding on the crowd’s energy, Trampled by Turtles played more than enough slower songs, causing the crowd to wander away from the show. During their ballads ,when Simonett was the lone guitarist, the auditorium was filled with conversations rather than singing along.
The band made no attempt at getting the crowd involved, as in being cliche and asking, “Everybody sing along” or “Everybody put your hands together.”
Finally, an hour and a half show was not enough time for Trampled by Turtles. In a special environment like Riverside, ending the show by 10:45 did not due the band or fans justice.
Still, Trampled by Turtles is worth seeing because of their unique sound. Bluegrass does not receive airtime on the radio
The band has been a leader among the bluegrass genre for over a decade and if there is one big takeaway from the concert, it would be Trampled by Turtles is still one of the best bluegrass groups around.
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