Seattle, WA – “Growing Crops in the Dark” -The Tractor Tavern – July 10, 1999

Seatle, popularly known for its annual 226 days of rain, was sunny as hell when we arrived. With some time to burn before soundcheck, we grabbed lunch in the “U-District,” comprised mostly of University of Washington students who bustled by, obviously donning shorts and tanks for the first time all year. Locals either had horrible burns in progress or were so bleach-white they reflected the sun. There seemed to be an inordinate number of people with piercings hanging off iridescent-white faces. Tattoos peeked out the bottom of black t-shirts, Combat boots scuffed sidewalks and red flannel shirts were tied around 9 out of 10 waists. The area looked populated by vampires.

We grabbed “all you can eat” at Chang’s Mongolian Grille where they cook your order right in front of you on a big, hot circular platform. You’re supposed to get free ice cream with every meal but any time we’ve been to a Chang’s they’ve been sorry to inform us, that their ice cream machine is broken. Hummmmmm.

Our waitress, a struggling musician in her own band, gave us the lowdown on the Seattle music scene. According to Stella, the “live” music scene is in a state of distress. Too many bands, too many venues converted into disco-terias to accommodate DJs and electronica, and too many jaded locals sick of hearing live music. “But give it some time,” reassured Stella, “It’ll take a while but word of mouth will spread and you’ll get a crowd out here.” As bell papers and onions spit on off the skillet, I wondered to myself how long “a while,” would take.

On my way back to the venue I bought each of the boys a “tip and strip” pen from a kitschy shop down an alleyway. They were more than a little mesmerized by the disappearing ink and I laughed as they ran into light poles and parked cars as we walked the hilly terrain.

The Tractor Tavern is a large venue—an upgrade from “The Sit and Spin,” the boardgame/bar/restaurant/laundromat venue we played last time through Seattle. The barmaid barely lifted her head as we filed in, but yelled loudly to announce to the sound man that we’d arrived.

We were part of a three-band bill with two local acts, “Johnny Astro” (which Brian liked to call “The Batman band”) and “Juke.” Hanging out and chatting with them felt like going to a 12-step meeting. The relief that comes with sharing hopes, dreams, and struggles with other musicians is hard to explain. It certainly made me feel less alone. When we hit the stage at 10PM we were met by a gratifyingly larger-than-expected audience.

Playing to an appreciative crowd at the Tractor Tavern was a small victory in a city as notoriously tough as Seattle. Growing a following here feels akin to coaxing crops to grow in the dark. Moments like these remind us why we love being touring musicians—every show, every laugh, every new band we get to play with like “Juke” and “Johnny Astro” adds to our story. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to ride the highs and lows of life on the road, it’s messy, magical, and even when its hard, it’s worth every second. Here’s to the next gig and the memories yet to be made.

Reader interactions

5 Replies to “Seattle, WA – “Growing Crops in the Dark” -The Tractor Tavern – July 10, 1999”

  1. Michael P Murphy June 5, 2024 at 1:49 pm

    Thanky Muchly Thanky Miss Sally for letting us in on your thoughts and stories from your adventures.
    I Love your writing and your perspective on the journey.
    I have fond memories of your show at The Great Aunt Stella Center in Charlotte.
    It was a great show and then you went on Jerry Klein’s radio show afterwards for a long conversation.
    Big Fun!


    1. Hey Michael,
      I think I remember you! Did you take some pictures of me at that Charlotte show?


      1. Michael P Murphy June 5, 2024 at 5:39 pm

        I may have, though I don’t remember for sure.
        I’m the “small giant” (a label a friend gave me) guy who was friends with David Wilcox.
        I got to hang out afterwards while Y’all did Jerry’s radio show.


        1. Good times!! I think that gig is coming up soon.


  2. Michael P Murphy June 6, 2024 at 4:37 pm

    Goody! 😊


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