By Joseph Sutton-Holcomb / Special to the Seattle Times
After listening to recent self-titled debut album from the U.K. foursome Cheatahs, my expectations for their show at the Tractor Tavern Sunday, Feb. 23, were enormously high.
In retrospect, these standards were unrealistic for a burgeoning band. Though, they still put on a fun show though, and finished early enough to keep the 9-to-5ers in the audience from hating themselves Monday morning.
Their LP raised my hopes so much because it sounds like the band that I always wanted My Bloody Valentine to be. It’s all heavy, wall-to-wall shoegaze rock, but with liberal doses of pop peppered throughout. Cheatahs blast it out just as hard as MBV on their album, but with more discernible lyrics and hooks.
Sadly, a good amount of the subtle guitar effects present on the record got lost in the actual performance — further proof of the slick production on the LP. The MBV shoegaze influence was conspicuously diminished during the show. Still, the dressed-down re-imaginings of these tracks in a live setting were polished enough.
The three-part harmonies were especially pleasing, And the guitar work was far from mediocre, even without living up to the recording’s potential. The lead guitarist James Wignall employed his impressive battery of pedals to great effect, spicing up songs that might otherwise have sounded painfully similar.
As performers, Cheatahs’ presence was politely muted, a sign of a band that’s serious but relatively new to life on the road. They often elected to create chaotic outros that would gradually bleed into new songs instead of chatting up the audience between songs. This fit well with their particular brand of music, however.
Two Seattle rock acts— Dude York and Slow Bird — got things started. Dude York did the opening set, and seemed happy enough to be playing in a sparsely populated room. Perhaps that is because of the packed album release show they played at Cairo on Friday. Dude York is nothing if not consistent in their performances, and they delivered their charismatic pop rock with as much alacrity at the Tractor as they did two days prior.
Slow Bird was, in almost every way, the polar opposite. Where Dude York is catchy and almost sprightly, Slow Bird is heavy and darkly psychedelic. Their haunting, somber sound became a tad repetitive by the end of the set, but the lead singer’s deep, Florence + The Machine-esque voice lent the performance enough poignancy to keep it interesting. They announced at the concert that vinyl copies of their debut LP have nearly arrived, so watch for an album release show in the near future.
The only thing that felt truly off was the timing and location of the show. Tractor remains one of my favorite Seattle venues, but it seemed bizarre to have three young bands playing early on a Sunday night way outside the heart of the city. I get booking can be a complicated art form, but had this show been at Barboza or Neumos, Cheatahs might have received a heartier welcome for their first Seattle show.