Loch Lomond opened with an earnest but sometimes shaky performance, switching between mid-tempo, vocal harmony-driven numbers like “Blue Lead Fences” and pastoral diversions like “Field Report” from 2007’s Paper the Walls. Singer Ritchie Young’s flamboyant stage presence and raw alto (which borrows heavily from Sufjan Stevens) were acquired tastes. His face sold the anguish of his lyrics, which was all the more uncomfortable given his emaciated torso. Wielding violins, violas, clarinets and other instruments, Loch Lomond resembled a group of band geeks and miscellaneous misfits and runaways. Their sound, however, was surprisingly rich. At one point, the band stopped and restarted the song when they realized half-way through that someone was playing in the wrong key, but they were mostly enjoyable.
Comparatively, sextet Blitzen Trapper was a model of maturity and professionalism, despite how the term lo-fi obstinately attaches itself to the band in the press. The ensemble had already played two Santa Barbara shows in the last six months – once as an opener for Fleet Foxes. And as headliners, Blitzen Trapper did not disappoint. The acoustic tunes, with their tight vocal harmonies, had a Buffalo Springfield-like sound, while their heavier rockers, like “Big Black Bird,” had the crunch of 1970s bar rock. Guitarists Erik Menteer and Eric Earley (who also contributes lead vocals) displayed their solid, classic rock-based lead styles. You could almost smell the pine from the lumber yard. Hearing this band brought back the urge to hike the Pacific Coast Trail to the north, and perhaps stop by one of those famed breweries on the way to their Portland home.
-Words and photo by Ryan Faughnder