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On the road again: Trampled by Turtles returns to Moorhead with new energy

Trampled by Turtles performs July 7, 2018, to a sold-out crowd at Bayfront Festival Park in Duluth. Forum News Service file photo1 / 3
A sold-out crowd gathered July 7, 2018, at Bayfront Festival Park to watch Trampled by Turtles. Forum News Service file photo2 / 3
Trampled by Turtles are (left to right): Ryan Young, fiddle; Eamonn McLain, cello; Erik Berry, mandolin; Dave Simonett, guitar/vocals; Dave Carroll, banjo; and Tim Saxhaug, bass. Special to The Forum3 / 3

MOORHEAD — Trampled by Turtles may be a Minnesota-based band, but the group has been crisscrossing the country for about 15 years.

While some members are more rooted in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, singer/guitarist Dave Simonett has been equally at home on the road.

"I love moving around. I always have," he says, calling from a road trip, naturally. "I get to look out the windows and see mountains and oceans and meet people all over."

His need to ramble has led to some of the group's most notable tunes, like "Midnight on the Interstate," "Kelly's Bar," "Thank You, John Steinbeck," and the title track to the group's latest album released in May, "Life is Good on the Open Road".

It's the group's first album in four years and follows a long layoff. The act is making up for time away by getting back on the road and playing Moorhead's Bluestem Amphitheater on Friday night, Aug. 24.

"It's a beautiful setting," Simonett says of Bluestem, where he and TBT have already played twice. "They built a really great venue there. It's awesome to have that in that community. Not everyone gets one of those."

He should know. He's played all sorts of coffee shops, clubs, concert halls, outdoor festivals and even "Late Show with David Letterman" as a solo artist and with Trampled. Friday's show is sandwiched between headlining a festival in Nashville, Tenn., and the most Minnesota show of all, headlining The Current's Music on a Stick bill at the Minnesota State Fair.

Getting back together

Even The Great Minnesota Get-Together pales in comparison to a hometown show in front of 10,000 in Duluth's Bayfront Park like the band did last month.

"It was crazy, man. Totally unexpected," he says. "We've never done anything like that there, never that many people. It was a real joy. It was like a big reunion."

The reunion wasn't something fans or even the band were necessarily thinking of a year ago. Trampled had been dormant for a few years after Simonett focused on his solo project, Dead Man Winter, and the 2017 album "Furnace," inspired by his divorce.

Fans received an unexpected treat Oct. 3 when the group released a live video covering Tom Petty's "Wildflowers," the day after the rock star's death.

Trampled had gathered in banjo player Dave Carroll's cabin near Grand Rapids, Minn., seeing how they got along personally and musically after the break and how they would work in the studio.

"When we decided to make ("Life is Good"), if we decided to come back and it wouldn't have worked, I don't know what would have happened. But it felt really good, so it became a hiatus in hindsight," Simonett says when asked if Trampled's time off was a hiatus or a breakup.

Regardless of what he would call the time off, he made an important self-discovery during the period.

"One thing I learned is that space away is a really healthy thing," he says. "We had our heads down, going forward for so long. I woke up one day and (thought), 'I am totally taking this for granted now. I'm not putting in as much effort as I should be and I'm not getting out the joy that I should be.' It's a really lucky stroke to play music for a living. To get annoyed by that or not enjoy that, I just felt like a jerk."

The proof is in the title track: "Life is good on the open road / We're closer now than we'll ever know."

"It's really easy to get bored driving around, but I wanted to remember all of the freedom that it allows," Simonett says. "The beautiful places in the world I get to go see, even that is amazing to me. To sit and remember that instead of whining about the trip being too long. I love moving around. I always have. I get to look out the windows and see mountains and oceans and meet people all over. Those are the positives of it, and I try to hold those close."

If you go

What: Roots on the Red featuring Trampled by Turtles and Michael Franti

When: 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24

Where: Bluestem Amphitheater, 801 50th Ave. S., Moorhead

Info: Gates open at 5 p.m. Tickets range from $27.50 to $39.50; or 866-300-8300.