From big name festivals to a solo performance at The Cabin

Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles ended his solo tour in the city that helped give his band their start


Photo by Andee Erickson

Dave Simonett, lead singer for Minnesota band Trampled by Turtles, performed Saturday night Nov 21 at The Cabin after opener D. Janakey.

With students sitting cross-legged on the floor at the front of a packed room and others listening from outside the door, Dave Simonett ended his solo tour Saturday night at The Cabin.

The lead singer from the Minnesota bluegrass band Trampled by Turtles spent the beginning of November touring the western United States followed by a couple shows in the Midwest. He said he played both music from the band and his other project, Dead Man Winter. However, songs from the band made up his set Saturday night.

Although Simonett said he likes traveling alone, he missed having the band’s company on stage. Without his four other bandmates he couldn’t take the audience request of up-tempo song “Codeine,” which relies on mandolin player Erik Berry’s quick picking.

Brianna Homich, junior criminal justice student, said she enjoyed Simonett’s solo performance because she’s seen him perform with the band several times.

“It was new, different and amazing to see Dave perform alone,” Homich said.

Simonett’s red flannel shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows revealing a tattoo on each forearm. Between songs an audience member asked Simonett to explain the meaning behind the bulls inked onto his right arm.

“It’s just a pack of bulls,” Simonett said. “It has no meaning.”

Then he referred to outline of Minnesota on his left forearm.

“That one has a little more meaning to it,” Simonett said.

Simonett grew up in Mankato, Minnesota, but said Duluth, Minnesota  always felt like home. After camping trips along the shores of Lake Superior with his dad, Simonett said he decided he had to live there. He moved to Duluth after high school graduation, but has lived in Minneapolis the past 10 years, Simonett said.

Other musicians in the Twin Cities music scene with Simonett have also played at The Cabin. In September, The Lowest Pair performed, whose most recent album Simonett produced. John Mark Nelson performed on campus the past two semesters and released an album this fall under Simonett’s record label GNDWIRE.

Simonett said the proximity of Eau Claire to the Twin Cities isn’t the only reason musicians from there enjoy performing at The Cabin. He said Eau Claire seems especially fostering of the music scene with its various venues and events.

“Eau Claire is a funky little town, and I mean that in the best way,” Simonett said. “It seems like a music town.”

Simonett said Trampled by Turtles started doing well in Eau Claire and their first show in town was at The Mousetrap before later playing House of Rock.

Eau Claire folk singer, David Janecke who goes by stage name D. Janakey, played an acoustic set before Simonett’s and said he was excited when he found out he got to open the show.

“This was the first time I’ve opened for someone I was aware of and used to cover their music,” Janecke said.

Before each song he shared what inspired his writing. Janecke introduced a new song he said he wrote about trying to quit smoking cigarettes while on a walk the other day. But often his songs involved a personification of a place, whether it meant “the city” missing someone or the state of Kentucky breaking a heart.

Attention to place was evident in Simonett’s lyrics. Simonett sang about going to the country to find peace in “Bloodshot Eyes,” a song Janecke said he used to cover. In “Duluth,” Simonett sang about the bond he feels to the city during its quiet winters.

“I’m a place person,” Simonett said. “I feel much more connected to place than people.”

When he thinks about where he wants to live Simonett said it’s the setting he considers more than proximity to certain people. However, he said his two kids trump any place.