LIVE REVIEW: Trampled by Turtles

WHERE: The Old Rock House – St. Louis, MO

WHEN: December 17, 2011

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HIGHLIGHT: A tight bluegrass band cutting loose.

Having only found out about Trampled by Turtles earlier this month via a video of their breakthrough song “Wait So Long,” through the ringing endorsement of a friend, I am admittedly late on their ever-growing bandwagon. However, since first hearing that tune, I have devoured their latest release, Palomino, and have sought to catch up on their entire catalogue, which stretches back to 2004. Throughout this album-only immersion, I often wondered one thing: could they pull off their often high-speed, sometimes sweet, sometimes haunting brand of bluegrass in a live setting?

The band answered this question with a resounding YES at their sold-out, tour-ending show at one of St. Louis’s best venues. Prodded on by a surging, twirling, swaying, fist-pumping, song-shouting crowd, Trampled by Turtles tore through cuts from their latest release, old favorites, and a new song they were road testing. “Tore through” may be overstating things though, as frontman Dave Simonett worked the audience up and eased them back down throughout the evening, allowing space for well-placed ballads as well as welcome solos from each member, with special nods going to the stellar interplay between fiddle player Ryan Young and mandolinist Erik Berry.

While the aforementioned “Wait So Long” received the most enthusiasm of the night, the band proved ready to deliver on the attention that song has raised, and if their St. Louis fans are any indication, their audience is ready to embrace it all.

Also well worth mentioning is opener William Elliott Whitmore, whose gravelly voice and passionate delivery quickly won over the crowd and had them clapping and stomping along to his guitar/banjo/bass drum combinations, particularly on stand outs “Old Devils” and “Mutiny.” Whitmore proved to be more than a warm-up act, but a revelation.

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