Trampled by Turtles bring bluegrass to London

Performance: 5/5
Openers: 3.5/5
Crowd: 4/5
Setlist: 5/5
Worth the cash: 5/5

Equipped with acoustic instruments and rugged beards, alt-bluegrass band Trampled by Turtles checked in to Call The Office on Thursday for the second show of their fall tour.

Starting the night off was Jonny Corndawg. Backed by a nondescript band, the Montana-born country singer garnered the audience’s attention with foot-stompin’ numbers about a wide variety of uncommon topics, including laser hair removal and panty liners. Behind the often satirical lyrics, Corndawg demonstrated a respect for the country songwriting tradition—the simple chord progressions, memorable melodies and strong vocals were a winning combination that would have made John Prine and Todd Snider proud.

A short time later, Trampled by Turtles took to the stage and brought with them the live show they’re famous for, transforming the atmosphere in the venue from square dance to a full out hoedown.

The Duluth, Minnesota natives played for nearly two hours, segueing seamlessly from melancholy country ballads like “Victory” and “New Orleans” to songs played with merciless speed and gusto like “Wait So Long” and “Feet and Bones.”

The quintet was led by guitarist and principal songwriter Dave Simonett, whose rhythmic strumming patterns and transcendent poetic vocals, coupled with Tim Saxhaug’s rocking bass lines, provided a foundation for the band’s unique blend of folk, rock, bluegrass and sometimes even punk. Dave Carroll and Eric Berry filled out the sound on banjo and mandolin respectively, but fiddle player Ryan Young absolutely stole the show. Young displayed remarkable technical prowess with his speed on the instrument, but at the same time melted hearts with his beautifully phrased solos.

After a rousing cry for an encore, the band re-emerged to surprise the enthusiastic crowd with a great interpretation of the Pixies’ indie sing-along staple “Where is My Mind?” followed by a final original, “Codeine.”

With a wide range of influences and musical backgrounds, it’s no wonder Trampled by Turtles aren’t an easy band to categorize. But call them what you will, their genuine passion and their undeniable ability to capture an audience with their music and energy left fans all across the spectrum feeling finger pickin’ good.