Gruff Rhys played the Tractor Tavern on Sunday, June 5.
Gruff Rhys

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Tractor Tavern

In this world (Seattle especially), there


A Trip Through Gruff Rhys' World of Pure Imagination at the Tractor

Gruff Rhys played the Tractor Tavern on Sunday, June 5.
Gruff Rhys

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Tractor Tavern

In this world (Seattle especially), there are seemingly more bands than people anymore. Amid all those people creating their respective visions are surprisingly few who can be considered true artists. To witness Gruff Rhys tell the stories behind his songs, not to mention perform any of them, you immediately glean that he is one of those rare people struck with that unique sort of inspired imagination that is unendingly creative and beautifully unfiltered.

As singer of the Super Furry Animals, Rhys has built a world that is both visually and aurally overwhelming, fusing psychedelia, shoegaze, and folk with some of the electronic elements of the early '90s Madchester scene. With his solo work, Rhys strips things down to a much simpler palette while still retaining his stylistic spasticity. Eschewing the SFA's stadium-esque production values (vocoders, video screens, Power Ranger helmets, and celery solos), Rhys' solo set at the Tractor Tavern was a much more humble, organic affair that focused on his charming storytelling and unstaged eccentricities as much as on the lush textures of the songs themselves.

Backed by masterful Welsh surf quartet (and opening band) Y Niwl, Rhys played a 90-minute set that haphazardly careened through genres and subjects without ever seeming too scattered. Aside from one lovely toe dipped into the SFA catalog (a dreamy rendition of 2005 B-side "Colonise the Moon" that perfectly recreated a soft, slow daybreak), Rhys stuck with the fuzzed-out, soulful, and twee moments of his solo catalog. While his newest record, Hotel Shampoo, is exclusively an English affair, his first records, Yr Atal Genhedlaeth and Candylion, dip into Spanish and Rhys' native Welsh. For those of us who don't speak Cymraeg, Rhys explained the various stories of titanic love, tragic heartbreak, and, in the case of "Ni Yw Y Byd," Successories-via-Rhys motivation. Rhys explained that the song is something of a "We Are the World" in his homeland, played in gyms and political rallies alike as an inspiring, unitarian hymn. Condensing his own lyrics, Rhys playfully told the Tractor's audience "My advice is to roll in the ferns, try to defy gravity, and drink beer."

While Rhys' straight face barely cracked a smile, his contagious exuberance and childlike enthusiasm for sonic exploration were undeniable. Donning an airplane life vest and holding up cue cards that beckoned audience participation ("Applause" and "WHOA" were the two most used), Rhys closed the set with "Skylon!", a 10+ minute song that runs through the gloriously convoluted story of a hijacked airplane, complete with terrorists, air marshalls, bomb disposal experts, and hack TV personalities, that turns into an epic tale of redemption and superheroic love children. In Rhys' world, the colors are as explosively vibrant as you'll let yourself imagine them, no plot twist is impossible, and almost every cloud has a silver lining. There should have been a sign at the front of the Tractor warning all concertgoers to check their skepticism and snark at the door; with Gruff Rhys at the helm, a Willy Wonka-esque sense of wonder and pure imagination is there for the taking.


Rubble Rubble (?)

Gwn Mi Wn

Colonise the Moon (Super Furry Animals)


The Court of King Arthur

In a House With No Mirrors (You'll Never Get Old)

Pwdin Wy 1

Pwdin Wy 2

Sophie Softly

If We Were Words (We Would Rhyme)

Sensations in the Dark

Vitamin K

Honey All Over

Y Gwybodusion

Lonesome Words

Ni Yw Y Byd

Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru

Cycle of Violence

Shark Ridden Waters


Ripple Ripple


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