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Trampled by Turtles leads stellar night

House of Blues, Boston, September 11, 2014

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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The animals ruled, for the most part, led by Trampled by Turtles, in a superb trifecta of music long on musicianship and quality songs.

Trampled by Turtles, who headlined the sterling bill that also included Elephant Revival and Hurray for the Riff Raff (not animalistic unless the "riff raff" act that way), are going through some major sonic changes. Heretofore, the Minnesota band has been characterized as a bluegrass band on hyper speed that is not afraid to rev it up.

But on the July release of "Wild Animals," TBT goes for a softer, more introspective sound, instead of the raucous energy for which it has become known. Led by very fine singer Dave Simonett, who often sang with his eyes closed to gain a bit more intensity (he didn't lack for that, but not once did he overdo it either), they showed a different side on the new material. Simonett's delivery was about the best seen in these parts by him. Looking sharp with a tan hat, Simonett still could be more engaging in interacting with the crowd. The new songs came off well and were interspersed throughout the 1 -hour show to make them even more effective.

But fortunately there was also the typical TBT sound. The band did not forget what brought them to the table. Between occasional instrumentals and other fast-paced songs with vocals, TBT was never wanting for any sense of excitement or energy. This is not a band that's going to leave you bored. Yes, the songs at times blended together a bit, but there was enough diversity in the sound - an emphasis on mandolin here, banjo there and more.

And what a smart move to bring out a local pick-up quartet to add strings on about four songs, including the closing song of the regular set, "Wild Animals." The idea added a whole other dimension of intensity, while fitting in perfectly with TBT's typical sound.

Hurray for the Riff were, yet again, excellent during their middle set on the bill. Playing a combo of country, Cajun music and a bit of folk, Hurray for the Riff Raff are led by the stellar Alynda Lee Segarra in what proved to be a most engaging stirring set.

Segarra began the night, as she did at a recent show at The Sinclair in Cambridge, solo on "The New SF Bay Blues." Perhaps a bit of a risky move, but when you have a singer like Segarra, call that a smart move.

The band soon was in tow with fiddle player Yossi Pearlstein often sparking the songs along with Casey McAllister on keyboards also being a key player.

Segarra is the star here with one powerful, making you stand up and listen kind of voice. Yet again, she and her fellow Riff Raffers made you realize that not only do they have a cute name, but there's a reason to give a thumbs up.

The evening started with a very satisfying set from Colorado rootsy band Elephant Revival. The sextet is aided by having three lead singers with very different styles. For some bands, that could result in a lack of focus, but with three quality singers, it works to ER's benefit.

Bonnie Paine, the lone female vocalist, also gives a diverse sound instrumentally. She played washed and an "instrument" rarely seen, the saw. Yup, she bowed on it for some out there kinds of sounds.

Elephant Revival incorporates a variety of styles, perhaps more bluegrass than anything, but also Celtic, country and folk into the mix. With fiddle being a key instrument for all three bands on this night, Bridget Law did her job to set the stage for her counterparts later in the night.

In fact, so did Elephant Revival. They set the table on what proved to be a night where all bands were on fire in the best overall show seen in Boston this year.