Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at the Tractor Tavern 9/23

Live Reviews
Andrew Hackett
all photos by Chris "Chrispy" Harrison (view set)

It is a treat to review a show at the Tractor Tavern because, at its heart, it has to be a review of listening to music in the neighborhood of Ballard. Ballard Avenue on a September evening is everything that is beautiful in the world.

The Prids took the stage. The bassist held everything together. A keyboardist, in a sleeveless turtleneck (?!) kept his hands jammed into his pockets awaiting his cue, leaving one audience member concerned as to who would lead the melody, and if his forearms would get chilled. The band mixes early '90s alt-rock with '80s new wave. A solid opening act to a great bill.

We staked a claim in the front row as The Courtneys set up. Charming smiles. Lovely banter. The Courtneys also wore turtlenecks. If you haven’t heard the young west coast trio yet, just imagine the sweetest possible version of Sonic Youth. “You look just like you did in 1986 / And that’s why you're / Vampire teenage boyfriend” they sang out on their excellent single “Lost Boys.” The shameless, unironic joy was expressed in a venue that had rarely seen such pure celebration of sound and vitality. The Courtneys are earnest in their full embrace of being in a fun band together.  My friends and I bounced along and affirmed this life right along with them.

They left the stage, and we joined the super-fans in welcoming The Pains of Being Pure at Heart to the stage. Frontman/founder Kip Berman also performs with an earnestness that feels fresh and honest. TPOBPAH got right into it with their synthed-out indie rock and their new record The Echo of Pleasure with singles like “When I Dance With You” and “Anymore.” The Tractor was packed out and the crowd fully engaged with their big, expressive tunes.

Our crew emerged onto the streets of Ballard again basking in a wonderful Saturday night that we just shared together in the Pacific Northwest.  We said our goodbyes and see ya laters while in my head I kept hearing The Courtneys chanting the chorus to their “Silver Velvet”:

  • And nothing you say and nothing you do / Can stop me from thinking about you 
  • Doesn’t matter if it’s right / You’re just the one I like

I understood that feeling perfectly. Walking in the direction of home, weaving past the crowds spilling out of Percy’s, King’s, nestled between the squat two-story brownstones, Ballard is the one I like.

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