Seattle – While the rain kept the masses from coming out Wednesday night, those who did brave the downpour were treated to a night of acid rock, psychedelic pop and dream wave by local bands Low Hums, The Soft Hills, and Ephrata (Shown Above) at Tractor Tavern in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.
Low Hums (Below) opened the night with great energy, fuzzy guitars, and hammering drums. Their grungy, dirty jam song “Gongs and Bongs” was full of texture and had a great Seattle feel to it. Echoes of classic rock found their way into songs such as “Annamoose,” whose banjo is reminiscent of George Harrison’s sitar and vocals bring to mind The Velvet Underground, while on closing song “Peyote,” the guitar riff had a little Black Sabbath feel. Even with these touches, Low Hums demonstrated an authentic sound with their variety, making for a solid opening.
Next, The Soft Hills, who were throwing a release party that night for their new album Departure, took the stage and launched into a gentle, dreamy set. With pure, wistful vocals and more delicate instrumentals, it made for a slightly conflicting juxtaposition of bands, but it worked and didn’t seem to faze the solid crowd that had now gathered. The Soft Hills handled their songs with a touch of early ‘70s psychedelia, along with a blend of current dream pop like Beach House and indie rock like Yuck. “Golden Hour,” meanwhile, sounded like Tears For Fears taking a road trip through sunny California with its easy guitar and lyrics. “Now we’re out on our own, it’s beautiful,” sang vocalist Garrett Hobba. On “White Queen,” the hypnotizing pedal steel opening gave way to a melancholic groove that reflected darker lyrics. “There’s no way back to you, we’re parted,” Hobba gently cried into the mic. While many lyrics revealed a pensive gloom, The Soft Hills’ melodies were filled with an ambient lightness.
Headliner Ephrata continued the hypnotizing ambience with pure vocals and flowing melodies. Their last show before playing SXSW, Ephrata’s performance at Tractor was a great preview of what they’ll bring to Austin. Chiming guitars, dreamy harmonies, and an overall atmospheric sound highlighted Ephrata’s set, and we can expect that and more next week. On “Belle of the Ball,” the rippling guitar and tight harmonies were simply delightful, and on songs like “Bones Are Stars,” the venue was transformed into an astral space, encouraged by the lyrics, “Close your eyes, open wide, let go.”
Though the rain had driven most of the bar-goers away by the end of the night, Wednesday night at Tractor Tavern was a great representation of the diverse sounds coming out of Seattle.
Ephrata performs at SXSW this week, while The Soft Hills are kicking off a European tour in Berlin on Thursday. Check out all three bands’ recently released material, including Low Hums’ Charm on cassette HERE, The Soft Hills’ Departure HERE, and Ephrata’s free digital EP I Scare No One HERE.
With degrees in journalism and music, Caitlin’s written for Paste Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and MajoringinMusic.com. She loves cheese, laughing at GIFs of corgis, road trip sing-alongs, and connecting with people over good beer and good music.