If you were to ask me, “which local band is the best live?” I’d have to stop you mid-sentence shouting, “RAVENNA WOODS!” Why am I shouting? I don’t honestly know. The fact of the matter is – Ravenna Woods is one hell of a great band, and their live energy is so contagious that it literally spilled over the stage and knocked my
whiskey all over the floor at their last show at the Tractor. Chaotic, charming, fast,and loud – all of those things exemplify this group of guys – Chris Cunningham, Brantley Duke, Matt Badger, Nick Danielson, and Sam Miller.
Before I get ahead of myself, opening the show was Bigfoot Wallace and His Wicked Sons. It’s perhaps one of the most ridiculous band names to say out loud, but their surprisingly gritty blues-rock was straightforward and refreshing. I was standing there thinking, “are we still in Seattle? Yep. Okay. We’re still here.”
Next up was Portland’s own Modern Kin, which unbeknownst to me up until a month or so ago, is the trimmed down version of Drew Grow and the Pastor’s Wives. And here I thought they weren’t making music anymore. Luckily they are, and it’s better than ever. Led by Grow’s magnetic presence and fervent wail, Modern Kin made everyone stop and listen, no matter how drunk you were. It was almost too big a sound for the Tractor. But that’s never a bad thing.
Then came the main event. Those five chaotic charming guys took the stage for what was multi-instrumentalist Sam Miller’s last Seattle show with the band, before he embarked on another adventure far far away. And I say multi-instrumentalist because I’m pretty sure the guy plays almost everything, including a little bit of
accordion. It was bittersweet, but it ended up being more sweet than bitter, because they made that show so fun that I kind of didn’t want to leave (and I didn’t until a quarter to 2).
They played tracks off all three of their records, all of which sound like books in a trilogy of horror novels – Demons and Lakes, Valley of the Headless Men, and The Jackals. And if that wasn’t good enough, early on they did silly and wonderful cover of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.” It ended up being the perfect goodbye song for Chris to serenade Sam. The brotherly love was evident. We could all feel it.
I mean, Ravenna Woods is great live for a lot of reasons, but it’s first and foremost because of how much fun they have together on stage. Cunningham screams into the mic, while Duke’s subtle melodies round out the sound, and Badger bashes the drums more ferociously than anyone else around. Then they added in Miller on the keys and bass a couple of years ago, and most recently Danielson of the Seattle Rock Orchestra to play whatever instrument is left on the stage, and the possibilities are endless for these guys. Seriously, if there was ever an underrated
band – Ravenna Woods is that band.
So at a quarter to 2, I left the Tractor Tavern feeling energized, with a song in my head and a warm heart, for that’s what good shows do to you.