REVERBfest at The Tractor Tavern

Zach Harjo, See Me River, Shim ...

12:30 a.m.ShimSeattle quartet Shim understands the power of the riff—sometimes all it takes is one simple, growling, memorable guitar line to become heroes for all time. I'm not sayin' these guys are AC/DC just yet, but their loud, back-to-basics rock 'n' roll is pretty damn satisfying in the same kind of way. I hate to bring up the g-word these days, but these guys seem fairly indebted to the Mother Love Bone/Soundgarden/Alice in Chains aesthetic, though their vocals and melodies (especially "Animal") sometimes remind me of '70s arena rock along the lines of Billy Squier—a great thing, since I genuinely think Squier is one of the best and most overlooked rockers in music history. If those influences are sometimes apparent, Shim's still evolving into its own riff-happy beast, and if you wanna rock out with your beer and pumping fists out, these are the guys for you. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG11:30 p.m.North TwinPurveyors of blue-collar rock, North Twin has been the natural pick to open for acts like the Bottle Rockets and Son Volt. Singer Tony Fulgham has a voice not unlike the B-Rockets' Brian Henneman, which he uses to deliver songs about working-class values (note: working-class values have nothing to do with abortion rights or whose God is best, but rather "sometimes the good guy wins"). When the band revs up into a twangy romp, they recall the prime of Blue Mountain or even our own Radio Nationals. BRIAN J. BARR10:30 p.m.Massy FergusonYou know only good things can come from a band that named itself after a farm-equipment company. But they're not as hayseed as you'd expect. Their songs are steeped in the classic Americana of the Blasters, the Jayhawks, and the Backsliders. Rich with imagery of highways, truck-stop coffee, whiskey, road-weariness, and bad motels, Massy Ferguson make cinematic music about the blue-collar aspects of our nation. This is what Jay Farrar might sound like without his thesaurus. BJB9:30 p.m.17th ChapterHere are two genres not often found mingling: dance rock and alt-country. Yet 17th Chapter doesn't really wind up sounding like either one when they combine them. The drums are snappy and reminiscent of post-punk, yet singer Matt Garrity does have a folksy tinge to his vocals, especially in the choruses. The guitar parts are languid and moody like mid-'90s alt-rock, which blend seamlessly with the drums. It may be a cliché, but 17th Chapter creates a sound all their own. Über-bouncy R.E.M.esque roots-pop, perhaps? BJB8:30 p.m.See Me RiverOn See Me River's sophomore release, Time Machine, frontman Kerry Zettel sings in a richly expressive, somber baritone that somehow brings to mind both Calvin Johnson and Nick Cave, an unusual dovetailing of tones that is dry and downtrodden, but so resplendent with detail and texture that his funereal folk-rock songs ultimately reveal hopefulness and a keen eye for the fragility and beauty of life. That's heady stuff, but Zettel has enough passion for and engagement with his music community that wise, heartfelt insights about mortality and love are a natural extension of his artistic intellect. In 2007, Zettel founded Aviation Records, and released a compilation that foreshadowed the next wave of promising Seattle bands, including Grand Archives, the Cave Singers, Fleet Foxes, Tiny Vipers, and Feral Children, as well as Zettel's own band at the time, Das Llamas. Das Llamas evolved into one of Seattle's most arresting No-Wave punk acts.Despite the success of that project, Zettel was eventually more interested in pursuing See Me River, a previously conceived project that had been back-burnered in the wake of Das Llamas' touring and recording obligations. Earlier this summer, Aviation released Time Machine (in a collaborative effort with local label Don't Stop Believin' Records) and disbanded Das Llamas. While Zettel's striking vocal presence remains the centerpiece, the band's gothic outline is sketched and expanded upon gorgeously with the pronounced guitar work of Joe Arnone (Band of Horses, Charming Snakes) and the distinct and boldly colored drumming of Kellie Payne, while thoughtful touches of glockenspiel, autoharp, and mandolin and periodic swells of optimistic harmonies brighten the corners just enough. There may be darkness on the edge of town, but See Me River wants you to know there's (almost) always a reason to see past it. HANNAH LEVIN7:30 p.m.Lonesome Rhodes & The Good CompanyThese Seattle-via-Bellingham crooners make country-rock, but they are far too broad to be called "alt-country." For example, their song "Oh Sweet Death" has a pace and breeziness to it like a '70s country song or a folksier Beatles. But the melodies are laced heavily with Beach Boys–esque summery pop. Elsewhere, on "Sunshine on My Mind," they craft the kind of slow-drag country-folk Neil Young is famous for, which winds up sounding like a very polished Palace Brothers. Though it's mainly the project of Spook the Horse's Brian Pake, he's often backed up by a small, rootsy orchestra, consisting of "as many friends and musicians as possible." With this many musicians roaming around Ballard, you never know who might show up onstage. BJB6:30 p.m.Michael VermillionMichael Vermillion is the saddest bastard in Seattle. Actually, he's a fairly upbeat guy, but a lot of folks know him as DJ Sad Bastard, the go-to guy if you want to hear nothing but sad-bastard tunes in a club (i.e. Merle Haggard, Townes Van Zandt, Springsteen's Nebraska). As a solo singer-songwriter, Vermillion sings in a striking, quivery baritone that lends an eerie Chris Isaak–meets–David Lynch flavor to his material. Musically, his Americana is a little like Tom Waits' rootsy weirdness. Yet despite this chilliness, there's a sweetness to his music that can pull couples together for a nice slow dance. BJB5:30 p.m.Kate Tucker & the Sons of SwedenBetween the bewitching vocal stylings and the soothing, ethereal instruments that accompany, listening to Kate Tucker and the Sons of Sweden's self-titled debut is aural comfort food—say, a nice homemade mac 'n' cheese casserole. Yes, it's an undeniable revisit of '90s tough-chick folk, but if you've ever been to Lilith Fair and liked it, there is a very good chance you'll love Tucker. She and the Sons manage to tone down the cheese that's both plagued and favored the Sarah McLachlans of the world. Happily, there's enough of a Portishead vibe in Tucker's music to offset the adult-contemporary factor, and her sultry vocals mitigate the cheesy moments, or at least distract from them. In cooking as in art, there's such a thing as too much cheese—even in a dish that calls for it. Fortunately, the sort of coffeeshop folk Tucker plays tolerates a good helping and still comes out just fine. And there's no denying the group makes coffeeshop-friendly music: Starbucks loves Tucker. Not only has the company added their debut record to its in-store playlist, Starbucks even picked a song from that record for one of its many compilations—this one, an indie comp, is called Have You Heard, and its track list includes Fleet Foxes and other respected proprietors of soothing tunes. SARA BRICKNER4:30 p.m.Zach HarjoIf you've ever been to Ocho, his Ballard tapas bar, you're probably familiar with local singer-songwriter Zach Harjo. He's been a bartender in Ballard for years. But while shaking your margarita, he's been writing songs in his head. His music is folk-based, with soft vocals and rolling rhythms, yet possesses a Waits-ian experimental thread throughout. His song "Dogs in a Pack" is a dirty, bluesy romp of the grim-highway-at-night variety, while "January Moon" creates dark and moody atmospherics evoking a David Lynch landscape peppered with a little Jesse Sykes–style twang. Really impressive stuff from a quiet, polite Ballard staple. BJB3:30 p.m.Elder MasonRock bands often cite iconic mega-stars like the Beatles and Pink Floyd as influences, then wind up sounding exactly like them. But Elder Mason manages to take the vintage folk harmonies of the protest-rock era, the trippy guitar riffage, and all that other stuff that made the '70s great, and combine those ingredients into a really modern psychedelic folk sound that pays tribute to popular bands who've come before, but without excessive imitation. Sometimes you can hear the Floyd. Sometimes you can hear the Neil Young. But more often you hear Elder Mason. SB

 
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