|Joe Salvati: Dobro, Ben Gotschall: Guitar, Andy "Ringo" Witkowski: Banjo, Brad Kindler: Washtub Bass, Terry McGinn: Fiddle|
Triggertown’s music is impossible to pigeonhole.
“People will say we’re a bluegrass band, which we’re not,” said Ringo, a former punk rocker who plays the banjo. “We’re not out there to outpick the pickers. We’ve had people call us a country band, and we’re not that either. It’s four people in an old-timey band and one guy playing washtub in a punk rock band.”
That’s getting close. But Triggertown doesn’t really fit into any category.
The dobro, a resonating acoustic slide guitar played on the lap, adds a twangy country dimension to the Triggertown sound. But it is a relatively new instrument, so Triggertown can’t be called an old-time string band.
There’s no mandolin or Bill Monroe songs, so Triggertown isn’t a bluegrass band.
Its old fiddle tunes, ancient Appalachian murder ballads and early 20th-century labor-organizing anthems have nothing whatsoever to do with the slick pop currently coming out of Nashville under the label of country music.
The band’s do-it-yourself philosophy and populist attitude comes out of ’80s/early ’90s punk rock. But nothing in the music comes from the Maximum Rock ’n’ Roll school of noise.
Ask the members of Triggertown to describe their music and no label emerges. Instead, it starts a discussion.
“It’s three chords and all heart,” said fiddle player Terry McGinn, who picked up the old fiddle tunes while at graduate school in Alabama. “It’s folk music that touches people. … People who don’t like loud music can tap into it. That’s why you see such a range of people at our shows.”
“Punk rock is three chords; it’s accessible music,” Ringo said. “The transition from punk rock to folk music is so fluid.”
“It’s comfort food for the ear,” said dobro player Joe Salvati.
“Lyrically, it’s very honest,” said Brad Kindler, who moved from punk rock drummer to the washtub bass. “It’s also very progressive. … People who are into punk rock can hear that.”
Triggertown got its start in October 2007 when McGinn was introduced to Ringo and Kindler, then Ben Gotschall was added on guitar. The band’s first show was in a house near 25th and Vine streets. The first paid engagement came at the Hungry Horse Saloon in Erickson, a small town northeast of Burwell.
“We played three hours unamplified,” said Gotschall, whose Sandhills connections got the band the gig. “We were yelling across the bar. … At one point, there was a fistfight. Everybody left the bar except one drunk guy who was passed out on the bar. Then they all came back in. We had people standing and watching us later with bloody towels on their faces.”
“And the best part of it,” Kindler added, “is we ended up sleeping in a horse barn.”
Gotschall, who milks cows during the day and teaches writing at night at Nebraska Wesleyan University, is also the guy who brought the name to the band.
The moniker has nothing to do with guns, seemingly the obvious referent. Rather, it comes from “The Triggering Town” by Montana poet Richard Hugo, whose writing philosophy is to let observations become the basis for poems about something deeper and richer than simple description.
Salvati joined the band early this year and Triggertown gelled.
Live, the band is irresistible, with McGinn and Ringo swapping lead vocals like June Carter and Johnny Cash, Salvati’s dobro sliding in and out, Gotschall’s guitar keeping the rhythm and Kindler bouncing up and down working the single string on the washtub at center stage.
And they’re at home almost anywhere they can set up to play.
“We can play unamplified,” McGinn said. “That’s something a lot of bands can’t do. We can play anywhere. We don’t have to be tethered.”
To that end, Triggertown has played a show on the bank of the Platte River and opened for Tommy Ramone’s Uncle Monk in a farmhouse living room outside Ashland. And practice is no problem — just find a spot for Kindler’s washtub, grab a chair for Salvati and get to work.
Triggertown has a handful of original songs with titles like “Milk Pail,” “Georgia Girls” and, in Ringo’s words, “our piece de resistance” — “Drinkin’ Hard.”
Those tunes come together through what McGinn calls “the folk process,” a collaborative endeavor in which each band member has input regardless of who brings in the basics that start the song.
“People will come in with a song and the band will work on it,” Gotschall said. “Some of them become band songs, some of them stay solo. But they’re all Triggertown songs. Somebody will bring in lyrics and the music kind of follows.”
And, to add one more element to its influences, it’s taking some of its philosophy from Chuck D., the leader of Public Enemy, whom Triggertown members heard give a talk during 2007.
“He thinks it’s realistic for a band to play regionally and be successful and be happy,” McGinn said. “I definitely see we can be regional, be successful and be happy.” - sourced from here.
01. Heaven And Hell
02. Dill Twang
03. Distant Land To Roam
04. No Dick
05. Drinkin' Hard
06. Grace Ann
07. Home Before Dark
08. Mortar And Pestle
09. 40 Acres And A Mule
10. Pocket Full Of Peaches
11. Railroad Town
12. Let Me Fall
13. Single Girl
14. Old Buck
15. The Island