music / Columns

Jam Central Station: Trampled by Turtles

March 18, 2017 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski

Trampled by Turtles have been one of the fastest rising folk/bluegrass bands over the past few years. Since their release of Stars and Satellites in 2012 the band has started to build up fans well beyond their initial bluegrass base. That’s not surprising, however, since the members of Trampled by Turtles all started out making decidedly non-folk/bluegrass music. The band came together as a side project in 2003 as a side project. The members were friends who all played in different rock outfits in Minnesota. They came together initially as a way to take a break from their primary bands and explore some acoustic music. None of the members came from a bluegrass background, and only a couple were familiar with the music. Within a year, however, Trampled by Turtles started to take off, and the previous bands were left behind.

At their start Trampled by Turtles focused mainly on playing traditional folk and bluegrass style music. They were interested in exploring some of the classic styles of music that many of the members had grown up with or had been listening to for many years. They focused on the more traditional elements of the music simply because the members weren’t very familiar playing or writing in that style, or even on the instruments they were playing in Trampled by Turtles. Erik Berry had only been playing mandolin for a few months (he had previously been a speed metal drummer), and the rest of the band was just getting comfortable in an acoustic environment. Despite the difficulties, the chemistry between the band members was readily apparent, and they garnered enough early attention to focus on the band full time.

In their early years the band focused on small tours, playing on smaller festivals, and recording. They released Songs From A Ghost Town in 2004 and Blue Sky and the Devil in 2005. Both of these albums came from a very traditional bluegrass place. They brought the band enough success to make Trampled by Turtles a viable band, but they had trouble standing out from other bands in the genre. For their third album the band took a little bit of a different route. They invited friends and guests to play on the album, and they moved away from some of the more traditional elements and began bringing in their own style. The touring and recording had brought the band together and helped them become more confident as a bluegrass band. They were ready to record in their own style. The result was Trouble, an album that helped them break out as a more unique bluegrass band with a very different style.

While Trouble was an obvious turning point for the band, they solidified the transformation with Duluth. They brought in fiddle player Ryan Young as a member. They played bluegrass and folk festivals, but didn’t limit themselves to that genre. The result was an increased fanbase, and one that reached out beyond the traditional bluegrass experience. This led to Duluth reaching #8 on the Bluegrass charts, the first time the band had charted. By breaking out and becoming more comfortable with who they were as a band, Trampled by Turtles was able to see more success across the board. It was a process for the band to become comfortable in their own skin as a bluegrass band, but in the end it proved to be fruitful.

This success continued in a big way with 2010’s Palomino. The band focused on capturing their live energy and spontaneity on the album, leading to it being recorded in a variety of locations. They continued to buck tradition, and they were successful in doing so. The album hit #1 on the bluegrass charts as well as charting in other areas of Billboard. They played smaller festivals but also played Coachella, Stagecoach, Newport Folk Festival, and Telluride. The band used these opportunities to generate new interest, both from bluegrass fans and from others outside the genre. It was a strategy that allowed the band to increase their crowd size for headlining shows and allowing them to get on more festivals. They more they played in front of diverse crowds, the more fans they got, allowing the play in front of even bigger and more diverse crowds. It was a cycle that was working very well for the group.

In April 2012, the band released Stars and Satellites, an album that is helping them continue their progression towards mainstream success. The album hit #32 on the Billboard Top 200, as well as #1 on the Bluegrass and #2 on the Folk charts. This was a huge accomplishment for the band, allowing them to continue their growth. In 2012 they played numerous big festivals, including Bonnaroo, Sasquatch!, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and others. They also made their national TV debut on the David Letterman. They went from playing bars and clubs to playing and even selling out larger venues.

Their most recent release, 2014’s Wild Animals was another success for the band, and another adjustment. It was the first time that they worked with an outside producer since their early albums. The band said that producer Alan Sparhawk was able to help them with their writing process, taking songs down to their core and building around that. The result was a darker album than some of their frenzied earlier work, but a very complete and powerful record.

After touring behind Wild Animals the band has taken some time off to work on other projects. Dave Simonett has put together “Dead Man Winter,” and has included members of Trampled By Turtles in the project at times. As he’s touring behind the second Dead Man Winter album, Trampled By Turtles has taken a backseat. But that doesn’t mean that they’re forgotten, and there’s every indication that the band will come back together at some point. Alongside The Devil Makes Three, Trampled by Turtles has been one of the most exciting progressive bluegrass bands over the past few years. Their progression as songwriters and as a band as a whole is one of a band still on the rise, and when they come back it’ll be exciting to see what direction they take.

Gregg Allman cancels touring plans
Gregg Allman hasn’t played a show since the latter half of 2016, and at this point it looks like he may not play any shows in 2017. Allman cancelled all of his shows for the year, citing health issues. Hopefully he will eventually be able to return to playing music.

moe.down announces lineup
Moe.down announced their lineup for 2017. The festival will return to Turin, NY on June 30-July 2. The festival will feature 7 sets of moe. as well as Blackberry Smoke, Railroad Earth, Twiddle, Kung Fu, The Hip Abduction, and many other bands.

Winter Wondergrass California
March 31-April 2
Olympic Valley, CA
Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Sam Bush Band, Hot Buttered Rum, Fruition

Wanee Festival
April 20-22
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
Bob Weir, Widespread Panic, Trey Anastasio Band, Gov’t Mule, Leftover Salmon, Blackberry Smoke, Matisyahu, JJ Grey & Mofro

Sweetwater 420 Festival
April 21-23
Centennial Park
Atlanta, GA
Widespread Panic, Trey Anastasio Band, Ween, moe., Lettuce, Slightly Stoopid, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Anders Osborne, Dark Star Orchestra, Twiddle

Summer Camp
May 25-28
Three Sisters Park
Chillicothe, IL
moe., Umphrey’s McGee, Trey Anastasio Band, Primus, Gov’t Mule, The Disco Biscuits, Yonder Mountain String Band, Mike Gordon, EOTO, The Floozies, The Infamous Stringdusters, Keller Williams KWahtro, The Wood Brothers, The Motet, TAUK, Twiddle, The Werks

Delfest
May 25-28
Cumberland, MD
The Travelin’ McCoury’s featuring Dierks Bentley, Trey Anastasio Band, Gov’t Mule, Bela Fleck & Chris Thile, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Fruition, Jeff Austin Band

Dark Star Jubilee
May 26-28
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
Dark Star Orchestra (x3), Greensky Bluegrass, Hot Tuna (acoustic and electric), Keller Williams and KWhatro, Rumpke Mountain Boys

Revival Music Festival
May 26-28
Harmony Park
Geneva, MN
Galactic, Yonder Mountain String Band, Turkuaz, Antibalas, Big Something, The Hip Abduction, The Main Squeeze, Aqueous

Nelsonville Music Festival
June 1-4
Nelsonville, OH
Ween, Emmylou Harris, Rodriguez, Son Volt, Sara Watkins, Parquet Courts

Mountain Music Festival
June 1-3
Wonderland Mountain
New River Gorge, WV
Umphrey’s McGee, The Revivalists, Twiddle, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Big Something, Spiritual Rez, The Southern Belles

Bonnaroo
June 8-11
Manchester, TN
U2, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd, Big Gigantic, Greensky Bluegrass, Umphrey’s McGee, Turkuaz, Twiddle

Disc Jam
June 8-11
Stephentown, NY
Break Science Live Band, Dopapod, Turkuaz, The Motet, Manic Focus, TAUK, Electric Beethoven, Aqueous, Consider the Source

4 Peaks Music Festival
June 15-18
Bend, OR
Moe., Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Poor Man’s Whiskey, Moonalice

Mountain Jam
June 16-18
Hunter Mountain, NY
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The String Cheese Incident, Steve Miller Band, Peter Frampton, Gary Clark Jr., Michael Franti & Spearhead, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Elephant Revival, Shovels & Rope, The Revivalists, The Infamous Stringdusters

Electric Forest I
June 22-25
Rothbury, MI
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, My Morning Jacket, The Revivalists, Lotus, Big Gigantic, The Infamous Stringdusters, Lettuce, Matisyahu, The Motet

Electric Forest II
June 29-July 2
Rothbury, MI
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Lotus, Big Gigantic, Nahko & Medicine for the People, The Infamous Stringdusters, Lettuce, Matisyahu, The Motet

Friendly Gathering
June 29-July 1
Sugarbrush
Waitsfield, VT
Twiddle, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Turkuaz, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Moon Hooch

High Sierra
June 29-July 2
Quincy, CA
Trey Anastasio Band, Ween, Galactic, Mike Gordon, Fruition

moe.down
June 30-July 2
Turin, NY
Moe., Blackberry Smoke, Fishbone, Railroad Earth, Ryan Montbleau, Twiddle, Floodwood, Kung Fu

Camp Bisco
July 13-15
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA
The Disco Biscuits (6 sets), Bassnectar, GRiZ, Pretty Lights, Lotus, Twidle, Turkuaz, Electric Beethoven, Break Science, Beats Antique, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, The Werks

Northwest String Summit
July 13-16
Horning’s Hideout
North Plains, OR
Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Del McCoury Band, JJ Grey & Mofro, Elephant Revival, Fruition, Turkuaz,

Levitate Music & Arts Fest
July 8-9
Marshfield, MA
Dispatch, Umphrey’s McGee, Ziggy Marley, Lake Street Drive, The Revivalists, Twiddle, JJ Grey & Mofro, Rubblebucket

Deep Roots Mountain Revival
July 20-22
Marvins Mountaintop
Masontown, WV
Brandi Carlile, Lettuce, Yonder Mountain String Band, Dr. Dog, The Motet, JJ Grey & Mofro, Moon Taxi, White Denim, TAUK

Floydfest 17: Freedom
July 26-30
Floyd, VA
Michael Franti & Spearhead, St. Paul & Broken Bones, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Shovels & Rope, Turkuaz, TUAK, Fruition

Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival
August 11-13
Alta, WY
The Infamous Stringdusters, Sam Bush Band, Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Del McCoury Band, The Travelin’ McCoury’s

Lockn’
August 24-27
Arrington, VA
The Avett Brothers, Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic, The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee, moe, Greensky Bluegrass, John Butler Trio, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, TAUK

Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!