Philly’s Come to Roost at the Tractor Tavern

The Tractor Tavern
The Tractor Tavern

The Tractor Tavern is a Seattle staple for the indie lineup. It has a quality sound and endearing décor to make any touring or local band feel like they are experiencing a little bit of the West coast magic. You would be hard pressed to find a venue that features a bull’s skull as the backdrop to the band in the Northeast—where last Wednesday’s lineup hails from—even if it is an emblem associated with American culture. Finish it off with a line of boots hanging from the rafters separating the bar area from the stage and you have a down home quirk that makes this place unique.

Wednesday’s lineup featured just a little of that Northeast bandage in the Northwest with a triad of Philly area bands. Slated as “Indie Rock from Philadelphia,” the bands were all Philly-ish. Starting with Carter Tanton, originally from Baltimore, an interlude from Purling Hiss, a proper Philly band, and headlined by The War on Drugs, who informed the audience partway through the set, that bassist, Dave Hartley, had family in the Seattle area. But being that Seattle is a similar kind of transplant infused, metropolitan city as Philadelphia, we can all understand the global natures of bands these days.

The importance of a good band name can never be underestimated. The headliners, The War on Drugs: funny, not quite pithy but acceptable in syllables, ideological. The opening act, Carter Tanton: you just can’t go wrong when using your given name, especially if your name is Carter. That brings us to the second act of the evening. Tsk, tsk. You really need to think about the implications of your name: Purling Hiss. It’s just way to easy for the seven year old inside to do a little not-so-creative work around for an all out playground chant of Hurling Piss. Or perhaps that was their point? Then congratulations, you managed to bring up images of a projectile stream coming out of the nether regions.

Purling Hiss is the kind of band whose mantra is clearly, “to shred or not to shred”. Only they never seemed to consider the possibility of not shredding. Sure, the club was duly impressed with their mastery over their instruments, but that doesn’t mean that throw back style didn’t go out of style more than a decade ago. Arguments of American Zeitgeist aside, it can get a tad repetitive. Carter Tanton’s voice and melodic songwriting can carry him through any set. There’s something to be said when a quality of voice is so complimented by the piece of music as to make a performance seamless.

There’s something a little disappointing when the headliners are outshined by their opening acts. Little danger there as The War On Drugs put on one hell of a show. Indie rockers par excellence with the burden of influence the very opposite of a downer: a little prog in the guitar work, but not enough to overbear, they have influences of Bob Dylan and Tom Petty (singer Adam Granduciel could sing in a Petty cover band) in both the vocals and the harmonica work. And it never hurts to have a little witty rapport during a show, going as far as inviting a fan to play rhythm guitar for one song (thank God they selected the one that didn’t sway in the still wind of the very un-drafty venue).

All in all, a touring trio worthy of an evening, especially the apex of the lineup: The War On Drugs.

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