Last Night: James McMurtry at the Tractor, Hockey on the Tube

James McMurtry played The Tractor on Sunday, Feb. 21.
Yesterday was Sunday? Really? If you spent last night on or around Ballard Avenue, you'd have been forgiven for seriously pondering such questions. Many bars, including the Ballard Loft and Bad Albert's among, were packed by 4:30 for the USA-Canada Olympic hockey tilt. Sure, sunshine's a great motivator, but it was the action on the ice that had people slugging back 25-ounce Olys like Monday was an extra day away.

There was also James McMurtry. Typically, his Seattle gigs are respectably attended affairs that nevertheless leave plenty of elbow room. But not last night, when he sold out the Tractor--and proceeded to play a career-spanning show that left devotees and McMurtry virgins alike wishing there were a few more hours until last call.

Clad in his trademark fedora, with his long mop of steel-wool hair exploding out from underneath the brim, the lanky McMurtry was less subdued than normal onstage, gazing at the crowd with wild eyes and enunciating certain lyrics with an extra pinch of pugnaciousness. After opening the show with "Turtle Bayou," he and his two bandmates launched into "Red Dress," which includes the unforgettable progression: "Yes I'm drunk but damn you're ugly/ Tell you one thing yes I will/ Tomorrow morning I'll be sober/ You'll be just as ugly still."

Any sense that alarm clocks still had to be set left the building after those lines, and McMurtry pushed on with a set that included "Childish Things," "No More Buffalo," "Levelland," "Just Us Kids," and the epic "Choctaw Bingo," among other tracks. If Seattle's a little less productive today than most Mondays, well, blame it on James. And hockey.

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