Hey gang, Nashville came to Valley Forge last Friday night in the person of Travis Tritt. Along with his seven piece band, Tritt played the kitschy venue known as the Valley Forge Casino, which in many ways was appropriate. And I have to tell you: I enjoyed this show quite a bit.
For those who don’t know, Tritt is an old-school country musician who also dabbles in southern rock and blues. I wouldn’t call him a crossover musician, but rather a guy who plays Americana. He generally sits on the country side of the country/rock continuum, but there is enough electric volume to satisfy the rocker in most people. And it doesn’t really end there. Tritt grew up in Georgia singing gospel tunes, and he has incorporated that style and influence into his repertoire. And as I will recount in a bit, he digs into some Tom Jones-esque escapades as a performer.
Now, the casino circuit is a notoriously hit-or-miss experience. I’ve seen Gregg Allman twice in casino venues (the Sands in Bethlehem, and the Hard Rock in Hollywood, FL), and those were good shows. More than that, the casinos had actually dug into their platinum pockets to develop performing spaces that were legitimate, with good stages, seating, unobstructed views and professional sound and lighting equipment. I've also been to see Collective Soul at the Harrah’s in Chester, which has one of the worst live music spaces I have ever experienced. In fact, it was just a ballroom with a crappy little stage up front. Never again.
Valley Forge falls into the middle of this spectrum. Its venue is more ballroom than showroom, but it has a real stage and lighting. It’s oddly configured with a big open space next to the side of the stage and columns obstructing the views in certain places out front. And it’s temporary seating with no floor elevation so those in the back are kind of screwed. The sound, however, was amazingly good, and with an artist who is heavily lyric-dependent, that was a good thing. I’m not sure that I would hit many shows at this space, but for the right act, I would go back.
Enough about the venue. Tritt himself is a good performer, and he has a solid backup band with two standout musicians – Wendell Cox on lead guitar and Scotty Simpson on guitar, mandolin and fiddle. Cox can flat out rip it on guitar, and Tritt was smart enough to allow him to strut his stuff a few times. I wasn’t really expecting that at a country show, but it appealed quite a bit to the “rocks” part of BillyRocksPhilly. To keep things country, however, you have to have a fiddle and pedal steel. Tritt is country. Simpson is good on the pickin’, but his real talent is with the fiddle. Again, Tritt sublimated his own ego to allow a truly terrific musician to crank it up, much to the pleasure of the crowd.
I found out about Travis about 10 years ago. I was in Austin in a bar at happy hour, and there was a solo guitarist playing country songs. He was also drinking heavily, but that’s another story. Anyway, he kept asking for requests, and then ignoring the requests and playing songs by Travis Tritt. They were all great songs – tuneful, wry and honest lyrics, and sporting the “everyman” themes of old-school country music. I liked them immediately and set out to learn more about Mr. Tritt. Turns out that Travis has a bit of an outlaw image (uh oh, BRP alert), and that he channels that attitude into his shows.
Tritt played only about 1 ½ hours with no opening act. He doesn’t waste much time, but he does know what his fans like, and he delivered. Some songs, like “Country Club,” were veritable sing-alongs with good ol’ boys and girls from Philly belting out all the lyrics at top volume, BRP included. Tritt has good stage presence with odd little jumps and hops, a zany mullet hairdo, a funky conference-room style chair bolted to a little platform that he uses for a few solo numbers, and a shirt that had to have been bought at some western boot store in Tulsa. And at the end of his show, he wipes his sweaty brow with towels and then tosses them into the crowd, ala Tom Jones. I wasn’t close, thankfully, because I generally shy away from someone else’s sweaty towels, but there were fans jostling for those babies, thus proving that the veneer of civilization is very thin indeed.
As you can see, I took some photos, but was generally at a distance. I think they are ok … but they are NOTHING compared to the photos coming up in my next posts. Here’s a link to a youtube version of my favorite Tritt song.
And now, it’s onward and upward as BRP heads southbound for a presidential tour, and then hits the nation’s capital to see the best live act going right now. Pins and needles, right? See you soon my cool cats.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.