The Kids are Alright: Trampled By Turtles at Nashville’s Exit/In (10/18/11)
I’m inspired to see a younger generation of acoustic musicians like TBT, the Avetts, Mumford and Sons, and others cultivate a far-reaching audience among the college set. I recently sold a banjo to the mother of a 17 yr. old girl whose daughter was inspired to pick up the instrument due to the Avett Brothers. In another era, she might have been buying a Casio keyboard or a pink rhinestone microphone. By no means am I trying to patronize TBT, the Avetts, or others as musicians pandering to the young or lacking the sophistication to appeal to an older audience. That’s not my opinion at all. I’m a fan wholeheartedly, even at the ripe old age of thirty-nine. I’m just re-iterating what others before me have said better than I could hope to, Americana/Roots/Whatever-you-care-to-call-it is healthier than ever, with a broad audience. TBT exemplify the resurgence of meaningful, accessible music as their young, raucous audience proved last week.
As the band took the stage, lead singer Dave Simonett enthusiastically informed the crowd that this was their first Nashville gig. Almost immediately, they launched into the up-tempo “Help You” from their most recent release Palomino. Like many of their faster tunes, the song is driven by churning fiddling and an insistent mandolin chop below unvarnished Midwestern harmonies. Before the crowd could catch their breath, the quintet shifted into “Sounds Like a Movie,” an instrumental played at breakneck speed with pulsing riffs traded between banjo, mandolin, and fiddle. Admittedly, the band’s timing seemed a bit unintentionally elastic, but this is a song born of punk rock energy more than calculating precision. It also inspired the first mosh pit I’ve ever seen at a roots music show. While the thought of a mosh pit occurring even at punk gig in 2011 is depressing, I don’t hold TBT responsible for such a hackneyed display of an outmoded ritual. If anything, I’m impressed that an acoustic band can even inspire an act of collective aroused aggression (but, please, let’s not make this a habit roots music fans; it’s a little embarrassing.)
Despite the high energy of the band, which is what has put them on the map, I find myself drawn to their slower and mid-tempo songs and was glad to hear some of my favorites at the show. Their rendition of “Bloodshot Eyes” with its plainspoken, earnest lyrics and subtle harmonies is where I find TBT at their best. “Again,” with its harmonized chorus punctuated by Ryan Young’s lilting fiddle lines and Erik Berry’s mandolin tremolos offers the listener space to fully enter the song and sit with the music a while.
Having said all of that, if one wants to hear inspired acoustic music with a bit of a punk ethos, TBT perform that concoction in an irrestible, compelling manner. Along with the rest of the crowd, I found myself excited to hear the opening riffs of “Wait So Long,” the hard driving track which opens Palomino and, to my mind, is kind of the “thesis tune” for an album that often embraces a more aggressive approach to acoustic music.
After the set ended to a raucous ovation, banjo player Dave Carrol came on stage to photograph the Nashville crowd clamoring for an encore. As a Music City native with a strong sense of civic pride, I was wholeheartedly charmed to see the band excited to have received such a warm reception in the seat of country music. As they played their cover of The Pixies “Where Is My Mind,” I realized this is a band with exactly the right attitude. They have a healthy respect for the traditions of old without relying on clichéd appropriations of those traditions. Theirs is a music born of a living, breathing music full of vitality, growth, and experimentation. No wonder the kids like them so much.
Dustin Ogdin is a freelance writer and journalist based in Nashville, TN. His work has been featured by MTV News, the Associated Press, and various other stops in the vast environs of the world wide web. His personal blog and home base is Ear•Tyme Music. Click below to read more and network with Dustin.