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Trampled By Turtles plays Letterman tonight

Trampled By Turtles first played the “Late Show with David Letterman” in April 2012. The locally bred bluegrass band returns to the Ed Sullivan Theater for a performance that airs tonight on CBS-TV. File / News Tribune

Trampled By Turtles returns to the site of its first national television appearance today when it plays another post-prime time gig.

The Duluth-bred bluegrass band is scheduled as musical guest on the “Late Show with David Letterman.” The appearance coincides with the release of the band’s seventh album, “Wild Animals,” which drops today.

Jason Segel and Liv Tyler of “The Leftovers” are scheduled to appear on the show along with gospel soul singer Candi Stanton, who will sit in with the house band.

Cellist Eamonn McLain, formerly of Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles, is expected to play alongside Trampled like he did the last time Trampled played Letterman, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Last time on ‘Late Night’ Trampled first played Letterman’s show in April 2012, around the time the band released “Stars and Satellites.”

They were a Plan B for the CBS-TV show. Trampled had been in negotiations to play the Ed Sullivan Theater later that summer, but got called up early when Tom Waits cancelled his appearance. This required rearranging the North Carolina leg of the tour.

Trampled played “Alone” in a take that included plenty of screen time for each member of the quintet.

“Great, great, that was wonderful,” Letterman said at the time, then deferred to his longtime music director Paul Shaffer. “Am I right, Paul?”

“Lovely music, just great,” Shaffer responded.

Mandolin player Erik Berry called the experience “incredible” in a June interview with the News Tribune.

“In my life, I’ve vacillated from being more or less hippie-dippy to more or less hippie-dippy,” he said. “That was the first time I felt like, you can really feel it when thousands of people point their energy at you. I stopped talking smack about people who talk that way.”

In 2012, the band was not-so rock ’n’ roll about the quick trip to NYC, Berry recalled.

“We were running around giggling and taking selfies and putting them on our Facebook page,” he said.

After taping that morning, Trampled took over a BBQ-themed bar near Union Station to watch the show when it aired. Right before the music segment, the bartender poured shots of Jim Beam, Berry said.

“As soon as it was done, all of our phones just exploded,” he recalled.

It’s never comfortable to see oneself on TV, Berry said.

“The awkwardness (of seeing) yourself on TV is the same” whether its Letterman or the Playlist, Berry said, referring to the local PBS arts program.

Afterward, the band boarded a train and headed back to where it left off in North Carolina.

“Wild Animals” hubbub Today’s late-night appearance is one of a handful of gigs outside of the band’s normal album release tour schedule.

Trampled recently played “Wild Animals” from front to back at Cedar Cultural Center, a free gig for fans who pre-ordered the album at Electric Fetus. The show played live on 89.3-FM the Current.

According to Twitter, Trampled will do an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit from 2-4 p.m. Wednesday.

There also is an NPR Tiny Desk Concert in the works, Berry said.

Trampled By Turtles played an unusual concert earlier this month at Bayfront Festival Park. The four-band bill, which included Haley Bonar, Low and Doomtree, got a lightning delay that sent much of its wet audience home.

Those who stuck around were treated to a rain-soaked, low-light intimate performance that went well beyond the park’s curfew.

Locally: Live jazz covers Meanwhile, in the band’s home base, a University of Minnesota Duluth music professor will give Trampled’s discography a live jazz makeover with a performance that starts at 9 p.m. at Tycoons.

Adam Booker, bassist, will lead a trio that includes Matt Wasmund of Big Wave Dave & The Ripples on woodwinds and UMD grad student Will Bradle on percussion.

Booker was commissioned for the project by Marc Gartman, who books acts at the Superior Street venue.

“I spent weeks listening to Trampled By Turtles’ repertoire and trying to rewrite it,” Booker said. “Everything I was doing sounded lame. I was taking an academic approach to nonacademic music. You can’t over-think good music like that.

“I had to get out of my own head to do it. I had to stop thinking about it and make it happen.”

The result will be a more avant garde-style of jazz featuring the band’s greatest hits.

“I can honestly tell you one of three things,” Booker said. “(The audience) is going to either love it, or they’re going to hate it or they’re going to pretend to like it because they think they should.”

Booker, who came to Duluth from Texas two years ago, hadn’t had much exposure to Trampled By Turtles before he got this gig.

“I think they offer the best of American folk music and the best of American pop music,” he said.

The buzz “Wild Animals” was recorded this past winter at Pachyderm Studios in Canon Falls, Minn. The album was produced by longtime friend and music-mate Alan Sparhawk of Low.

Sparhawk said in June that the album represents a wide pallet with the fast-paced play that has been Trampled’s signature and mellow tunes that build.

“I think fans of bands are excited when they see a band stepping forward and doing something interesting,” he said. “It’s a way to respect the audience and say ‘Thank you’ to an audience. ‘You’ve been so good to us and we have faith in you and we’re going to follow our true music and we know that if you liked us in the past, you’ll understand what we’re doing next.’”

The band’s first single “Are You Behind the Shining Star” has been available since this past spring. The video for the title track, starring Har Mar Superstar as a creepy, mumbling cab driver with a drunken fare, was released in late June.

The early chatter is mostly positive.

Last week, “Wild Animals” was available for streaming as a First Listen on NPR.

“This is a thoughtful, stately grower of a record, made all the more enticing by the idea that future live shows will harness the energy coiled just beneath its glimmering surface,” according to NPR’s Stephen Thompson.  

Bill DeVille of the Current said “This might be Trampled By Turtles’ best batch of songs yet.”

Pop Matters, however, criticized front man Dave Simonett’s songwriting and called the album “nondescript.”

Trampled will appear on “The Late Show with David Letterman” at 10:35 p.m. today on CBS-TV.

Watch it

What: Trampled By Turtles on the “Late Show with David Letterman”

When: 10:35 p.m. today

Where: CBS-TV


What: Live jazz covers of Trampled tunes by Adam Booker, Matt Wasmund and Will Bradle

When: 9 p.m. today until “Letterman” airs

Where: Tycoons Alehouse, 132 E. Superior St.

Tickets: Free, open to the public