Phosphorescent is the perfect compliment to a night time camp fire, or a lonely night out on the Puget Sound. Taking Willie Nelson, and fusing it with his own brand of southern gospel electricity Matthew Houck the brain child of Phosphorescent certainly put a glow in the audience at the Tractor Tavern on Friday. Typically a solo affair, Houck brought a rag-tag crew of long-haired and road weary types with him to bring the psych-tinged sounds of Here’s To Taking It Easy to fruition.
The Tractor Tavern was filled to the brim, with a mixture of die-hard fans and suburbanites looking for a place to have a drink. Matthew Houck walked out wearing gold chains and a musty white baseball hat, the rest of his band had on similar Salvation Army flair ranging from Disney emblazoned sweat shirts to ragged Pendleton’s. It looked almost like the cover band your Uncle had when you were a kid complete with a lead guitar, bass, drums and a large and full sounding set of keys. Houck greeted the crowd and then proceeded to play an almost two hour long set. The set consisted of the majority of Phosphorescent’s latest Here’s To Taking It Easy, and then ended the evening with a heavy amount of cuts from one of Phosphorescent’s most critically acclaimed releases, Pride.
Having seen Phosphorescent in the past as an Americana troubadour, I was pleasantly surprised to see Houck’s backing band not only bring texture to the show but add an almost arena-rock fullness to the material. I thought at one point the neck of the keyboardist was about to fall off, after banging his head repeatedly to every chord played for the majority of the show. One of the highlights of the set was about mid way through, the band left the stage and Houck played, “Wolves,” “Cocaine Lights,” and “My Dove My Lamb.” Utilizing his previous trademark, Houck used a looping station to create a full chorus and guitar compliment to seemingly sparse material. The crowd at the Tractor was divided, with the Phosphorescent fans up front yelling at anyone who dared to talk during the set, and the back half of the Tractor Tavern filled with people wondering why they had to pay admission to have a beer. Fortunately, there seemed to be little confrontation and by the two o’clock hour everyone was screaming applause as Phosphorescent left the stage.
Warming the crowd up for the evening was Brooklyn’s Family Band. They had a decidedly more Gothic approach to their particular kind of Americana. Creating a much darker atmosphere the Family Band lowered the house lights and by the illumination of small on stage white lights they played their set. Consisting mainly of vocalist and guitarist Kim Krans, and lead guitarist Johnny Olsin, this couple started country and left the stage Bauhaus. The Family Band took traditional minor-chord progressions and bathed them in country-fried psychedelia. Kim Krans monotone yet complimentary vocals were interesting at first but by the end of the set proved to be more gimmick than artistic.
The surprise of the whole evening assaulted my ear-drums just as I was entering the Tractor Tavern. The blues-sabbath sludge of Betsy Olson was going strong to start off the evening’s entertainment. Scaring away the timid, Betsy Olson sang and played her own No Depression style blues with a fierceness that was only complimented by her backing drummer and Seattle celebrity Sara Cahoone. Making quite a duo of power, Betsy Olson was definitely worthy of much more attention then the audience was giving her.