Blitzen Trapper changes lives. I know this, because I saw it happen first hand, right in front of my eyes over beers on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. My best friend Allison from my high school days and I were having drinks at a bar on Ludlow Street, talking about places we might like to live and things we might like to do one day. Both of us were tired of New York – I wanted to be someplace where I could subsist on income from writing alone, and she wanted to go somewhere she could spend her days not confined to the inside of a subway car, but on the mountains. We were both sick of wasting too much time on things we didn’t want to be doing, in places we didn’t want to be – when you grow up in New York, you’re imprinted to think there’s just no other place to exist, no other way of life. But at this point, we had figured out that was some sort of grand charade. We wanted out.
At the time, Allison was listening heavily to Blitzen Trapper‘s Furr, the title song specifically – a vivid, Beatles-esque track about cavorting with nature and keeping your truest self alive at all times. Holed up in these city walls, but itching to get out, it had come to take on new meaning for her. She was thinking about moving to Colorado to spend more time on skis than pondering how to use the law degree she had but never really wanted – a risky proposition, when so many peers were clocking endless hours at finance houses or simmilar for money or prestige that neither of us desired or cared about. She had also been thinking about getting a lyric from the song, “I still dream of running careless through the snow,” tattooed on her back. “You know what? I’m just going to go get it done now,” she declared, and we headed across the street to Daredevil Tattoo and made an appointment for an hour later. And as that ink traced across her spine and seeped permanently into her skin, it became the moment that she decided not to just dream of running carelessly through the snow, but to live it, every day. The words on the tattoo have faded a bit over the years, but she still lives in Colorado, with New York City asphalt a distant memory and the Telluride backcountry her every day. And here I am in Nashville, no longer a slave to the goal of staying afloat in New York, the place where I was born but didn’t break me.
I couldn’t help but think about all this when Katie and I showed up early to catch Blitzen Trapper at East Nashville’s Bar Luca for an UnLocked Session, the night after they performed at Third Man’s Blue Room. It still stuns me every day how music can dictate life and force dreams into reality – and here was a band, five feet in front of me, who had done it for one of my truest friends. It made their beautiful acoustic versions of “Even If You Don’t” and “Nights Were Made For Love,” from their most recent LP All Across This Land, all the more poignant. Which isn’t difficult – these performances are filled with deep emotional heft, from the perfect rasp of Eric Earley’s vocals, to the stirring harmonies, to the lyrics that make you confront the flawed way we often live and think. And, like Allison, force you to be unafraid of making a change in favor of a more peaceful, happy existence. To run careless through that snow.
Big thanks, as always, to our partners at Made In and to Bar Luca for graciously opening their doors to us. And look for Blitzen Trapper’s special Record Store Day releases next weekend in one of our local record stores.