Blitzen Trapper | photo by Brian Gibbons |

All photos by Brian Gibbons |

Much to the surprise of Eric Earley – the lead singer, guitarist and harmonica player of Blitzen Trapper – it hadn’t been “many years” since they’d played in Philly. In fact, it’s been less than one year since they opened for Brandi Carlile at the Merriam Theater. He was reminded of that performance from a vocally rogue fan while tuning his guitar between songs early in their set on Monday night.

Perhaps he’d mistaken his lyrics about riding the rails and nights spent on the open road under starry skies for his band’s actual lives. That sort of awkward moment aside, Blitzen Trapper played an intimate set ranging from their characteristic folk ballads such as “Stranger in a Strange Land,” from American Goldwing, to the groove-based “Thirsty Man,” off of VII, which hit the streets this week. The night was more intimate than average because of how sparse the crowd was. It influenced plenty of banter between the band and the crowd but not to the point of taking away from the show. So intimate, the band repeatedly commented on how quiet it was in the large room and even shushed them to as if a bit tongue-in-cheek. The crowd-pleasing “God & Suicide” and “Furr,” from the album of the same name, highlighted Earley’s harmonica prowess. The tinny sounding, reed instrument is truly his strong-suit. Its complimentary to their country rock twang while taking some of the attention off of their other guitarists and highlighting Earley to even seem as if he’s the singer-songwriter the modest crowd came to see.

Madison, Wisconsin’s, Phox started the night with with many vocal harmonies, guitar chords and keyboards blending together underneath soft trumpet playing throughout their delicately orchestrated songs. Their lead singer, Monica Martin’s breathy vocals fluttered through the air on “Slow Motion.” The band as a whole seemed satisfied with crowd’s reception even on a Monday night quiet enough to be interrupted with a pin drop.