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Blitzen Trapper have been touring rock albums for the better parts of two decades but 2017 will see them helm a new sort of stage: the theater. EW is announcing the production of Wild & Reckless, a musical written and to be performed by the band in their hometown of Portland, Oregon.
Joining the band at The Armory will be Laura Carbonell out of New York and local favorite Leif Norby. The show was co-directed by the venue’s Associate Artistic Director Rose Riordan and Production Manager Liam Kaas-Lentz.
Wild & Reckless began taking shape a year ago, frontman Eric Earley tells EW. “It was a group of story songs that centered around this couple that finds themselves in trouble, sort of a Bonnie and Clyde-slash-Romeo and Juliet type feeling,” he explains. And as luck would have it, during a stint at home, “two of the directors at Portland Center Stage approached us asking if we had any kind of narrative idea for a theatrical show. I started adapting those songs into a story.”
As for where that plot headed, Earley says the tale is rooted in young ambition and love. “It’s the story of a kid that comes to the city looking to play music,” he says, “[but] instead he meets and falls for this girl; she turns out to be addicted to this opioid type drug.” But before that sounds too rooted in reality, there’s a fantastical twist: “The drug’s origins are tied up with lightning as an energy source, the harvesting of lightning. [That] happens to impart certain strange abilities to the girl. At its core, it’s a love story, with this bizarre rabbit hole that this guy goes down following after this girl he loves.”
Assembling a stage production hasn’t been without its challenges. “We’re used to rock shows and the kind of off-the-cuff naked energy those harness,” Earley admits. “A theatrical work is much more constrained, more deliberate.” And for a band used to the grind of touring, staying put for a recurring show has proven refreshing. “It’s pretty great,” he says. “To be on a stage and perfect a show night after night will be amazing and unique for us.”
Now, the band is sharing “Love Live On,” below. As Earley tells it, this rootsy tune — very much in line with Blitzen Trapper’s recent work — “was the kernel of the whole show.” He adds, “It’s a true story of a couple kids that split with a stolen car and some blank checks and hit the road wondering if they’ll be caught but not really caring. Near the end of the song, you realize one of them is shooting black tar so in a sense they’re already caught, trapped in deeper ways.”
Preview performances begin March 16. Opening night is March 24 and shows will run through April 30. The $25 tickets are currently on sale at www.pcs.org, 503.445.3700, or in-person from the box office (128 NW Eleventh Avenue, Portland, OR). More information can be found at the show’s website.
The band has recorded a limited-edition soundtrack (500 CD, 500 vinyl) of 10 songs that will be featured in the live production. These will be available for sale exclusively at The Armory during performances. Three of the songs will be familiar to longtime fans: “Black River Killer” from 2008’s Furr, “Below the Hurricane” from 2010’s Destroyer of the Void, and “Astronaut” from 2011’s American Goldwing are each featured. The seven other tracks are never-before-heard originals.