Saturday, January 06, 2007

Last night at the Tractor

What an awesome night. We were fortunate enough to have Rusty Willoughby from Llama see us in November when we played the Sunset. He really enjoyed our stuff and made an effort to befriend us. Over the next few days, he'd set up a show with us, his band Llama and another band, the Tripwires. Not only that, it was at a venue I'd never played before, the Tractor, just down the street from the Sunset.

So after a pretty stressful week at work and an even more stressful couple of days at home, Friday arrived with the promise of rock music and an appreciative crowd. Marci and I and our friend Jerilyn headed to Ballard in the driving rain and wind. What a mess!

When I got to the Tractor, I was amazed by the room. It was pretty much empty. No chairs or tables, just a stage at the end of the room. On stage was the amp. If God played bass, he would've used this amp.

Earlier in the week, Jim from the Tripwires offered to let all the bassists use his vintage Ampeg SVT amp. Having never played through one of those, needless to say, I was pretty excited. During sound check, I used my new/old Ibanez ATK300. I've been playing that bass quite a bit and, though it sounded good, I decided to try out the old Fender Jazz. I plugged that in and, instant BASS THUNDER. It was amazing! The J had more growl and attitude than it's ever had with my gear. It sounded so good that I went sans any effects (usually I run several pedals to give me some overdrive).

So after sound check, I was able to mingle with some friends. That was nice as, usually, my people hardly ever come out. As it was, I had about 8 people there, so I was quite excited.

We started the show and pounded through our set. The stage was high and hot and there were a lot of people in the room. Quite appreciative, as well. Greg, the Tractor's sound guy, had us dialed in and sounding quite fantastic. Some guys from the other bands were standing right up front, singing to our songs, which was weird as that never happens.

We finished our set to some nice applause and comments. People really dug it. It was nice to play for a crowd that "got it" for a change. Most times when we play out, people like it, but they don't pursue it. Last night's crowd was definitely a music crowd.

After us came the Tripwires. We played a show with them last spring but I couldn't check them out as I had to get back home for the babysitter. Turns out I missed out on a killer band, as I learned last night.

The Tripwires is a four-piece, comprised of guys who look like they'd be sipping microbrews if they weren't on stage. All four had cool little sportcoats on and old school instruments. They played this Elvis Costello/Matthew Sweet style of pop rock and it was fantastic. Thank goodness our music and their music is different because if we tried to do their style of music, we'd just be shamed off the stage. They are great. Jim, the bass player with the SVT, was so tasty in his playing. So stylish and appropriate for their music. He makes me want to be a more solid bass player. His brother, Johnny, played lead guitar and he and the singer/rhythm guitar, John, were so good together. All the musicians, including the drummer (Mark?), played so well and complemented each other beautifully. If you can catch them, check 'em out.

Following the Tripwires was Llama. When I met Rusty, I didn't know about his history in the Seattle music scene. He fronted a band called Flop in the 90s and they had some critical and local success. Following that band, he was in Pure Joy, then did the solo thing and now is fronting Llama. It's a 3-piece with him on guitar and vox, Scott Sutherland on bass and vox, and Jim on drums.

The first time I saw Rusty play, I was blown away by how he played guitar. He's a lefty so there's that, but what's unique is that he literally flips his guitar over, like Jimi did. Only, instead of restringing the guitar so the low E was closest to him, he kept the guitar strung standard. He would invert his fingerings to play. Does that make sense? Anyway, it's pretty weird to see that after watching a traditional guitarist play.

Rusty's music is definitely what I call indie-pop. There's no searing solos or even really heavy parts. What there is is hooky melodies, superb harmonies by Scott, and just good musicianship. They're a low-key band, but their back and forth banter is quite entertaining and the music makes you want to bob your head and smile.

After all the music, many of us connected and we all agreed that we need to hook up soon and often. In all my years of playing in clubs, it feels like, finally, a band I'm in is making some forward progress. We're starting to get noticed around town, especially from the "right" people, and it just feels good. If we can continue to play with bands like Llama and the Trips, good things will happen.

Hell. It's Saturday afternoon now and I'm still buzzing about that show...

ps: thanks to Gary at the Seattle Powerpop Blog for the picture!