Seattle alt-country staples The Maldives helped the Tractor Tavern celebrate its 20th anniversary with a pair of packed shows over the weekend. The Friday-Saturday bill marked the first in a planned series of concerts by artists with longtime ties to the Ballard venue.
The Maldives threw down the gauntlet on Friday night with a tight set that will be tough to match. Appropriately, the band got things rolling on Friday with “The Time Is Right Now,” a perfect example of the kind of layered, atmospheric roots rock that is their calling card.
The cool harmonies between singer Jason Dodson and lead guitarist Tim Gadbois and Gadbois’s fat Telecaster tone helped switched gears on “I’m Gonna Try,” the first song off The Maldives’ 2012 album, “Muscle For The Wing.” Similarly, it was Kevin Barrans’ banjo work that helped define the seething “Blood On The Highway” off the same album.
While The Maldives have been playing the Tractor from their inception, Dodson didn’t go out of his way to share any Tractor war stories, choosing instead to use the band’s set to acknowledge the passage of time. Songs like “10 Years,” which have a certain amount of restraint in their recorded versions, came alive with fire and menace as the band took advantage of a triple-guitar attack and the constant presence of Faustine Hudson, whom Seattle Weekly recently dubbed “Seattle’s busiest drummer.”
It wasn’t all thunder, though. The band proved itself to be light on its feet with the upbeat Southern rock gem “Raven Riley,” which provided a nice moment for the crowd to spend some of the pent-up energy that had been building all night long.
One of the joys of seeing The Maldives play live is watching how they slowly add layers to their songs until they become indestructible walls of sound. Sometimes it’s an ebb and flow, like “Muscle For The Wing,” and sometimes it keeps building to a triumphant cacophony of static, like on the band’s closing number, “Blood Relations.”
The band, which will go into the studio in a week or so to record new material, came back out for a generous encore that that included “Going Home” and “Go Back To Virginia.” They finished their set with “Goodbye,” which took them back to their 2006 self-titled debut. It was an appropriate way to finish the night.
The Tractor Tavern has a storied history and some well-known artists have crammed onto its narrow stage. Check Soundposts later in the week for a look back at how the venue has endured even as Ballard has undergone massive changes.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails