Say whatever you want about country music, but just don’t say it isn’t popular in Seattle. Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen — two artists who fly about as low under the radar as possible while still regularly touring and recording — sold out the Tractor Tavern on a sleepy Wednesday night.
Rogers and Bowen are old buddies and they’re cut from the same cloth: Texas songwriters with quintessential country voices whose idea of a good time is being under the bright lights in different city each night. Despite the fact neither man has ever charted a top-30 single, it didn’t take long to figure out why they sold out the Tractor and had people scrounging for tickets outside.
By 8:40 p.m. the venue was packed and the air had turned into a heady fog of beer and sweat. Bowen had bodies moving with the rocking “Mood Ring,” from his 2010 album “Lost Hotel.” He brought things to a fever pitch with the relationship revenge rumination “Resurrection” before closing things out with the party song “Saturday Night.”
There was plenty of partying left to do. Bowen gave way to Rogers, who announced his presence with 2005’s “Still Be Losing You.” By the time he unleashed the pleasing mid-tempo rocker “Just a Matter of Time,” you could feel the momentum building.
Rogers, who plays under the moniker Randy Rogers Band, probably does so because he’s got a crackerjack group backing him up. They came alive on “Flash Flood,” one of the standout tracks from Rogers’ 2013 album “Trouble,” with guitarist Geoffrey Hill and fiddler Brady Black trading licks with more twists than those old dirt roads country artists are always crooning about.
Like many country singers do, Rogers tried to slow things down with a brief acoustic interlude, but it hardly lasted a song (George Strait’s “The Chair”) before things the band came back and got things speeding along again with “One More Goodbye.” He followed that up with one of the first love songs he ever wrote, “Lost and Found,” which made its way onto his second studio release, “Like It Used to Be.”
One of the things that unites Rogers and Bowen is their shared appreciation for their careers. The fact is that not every artist scores a No. 1 single or sells out huge venues, and each made a point to say just how much they appreciated Wednesday’s big turnout.
Yes, that’s pretty standard boilerplate for most musicians, but the difference is that Bowen and Rogers made it believable. There’s no faking the look Rogers had on his face as the crowd sang back “In My Arms Instead.” It was one of deep, abiding appreciation and understanding of just how fortunate working musicians are.
Rogers closed the show with the swampland menace of “Fuzzy” and “Down & Out,” which he dedicated to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson — but only after asking the crowd to demonstrate just how loud people can get in this city when they want to. It might not have been “beast quake” levels, but it was darn loud.
Bowen and his band came back for the encore, ZZ Top’s “Give Me All Your Lovin’.” The joy was palpable. These guys are proud of where they come from, proud of what they do, and best of all they know they’re lucky to be doing it.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails