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Friday, January 31, 2014

Up the Country: Tractor Tavern Toasts 20 Years as Seattle's Americana Hub

Posted by on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 10:00 AM

  • Scott Holpainen

Opening in a rough-around-the-edges Ballard (can you imagine?) during Seattle's 1990s music-explosion heyday, the Tractor Tavern did something a little different by catering to the Americana, roots, folk, bluegrass, singer-songwriter, and alt-country scenes. Situated on the now hoppin' Ballard Avenue, the old girl has managed to maintain a fairly sweaty, boot-stompin' atmosphere—a dusty oasis in the midst of an increasingly artisanified neighborhood.

In anticipation of the upcoming milestone, I chatted with Greg Garcia—the Tractor's booker since 2008—about craft cocktails. Just kidding, we talked about sleazy fishermen and that time King Khan and the Shrines drank two gallons of Jameson.

What are your memories of the Tractor and Ballard before you started booking there? I have always been a fan of the Tractor for as long as I could get into bars—I'm 36 now. I played some of my first shows as a musician here and would frequent shows for bands like Willis and the Clumsy Lovers back in the day.

Ballard was really the closest thing you could get to a drunken fisherman village. Blue-collar guys coming off the boats from Alaska with pockets full of money, just wantin' to score chicks and drink, and that was pretty much it [laughs]. An old Norwegian fishing village. My mom worked at the old Shilshole Broiler restaurant on Market from the time I was in fourth grade until it closed in the mid '90s. Lots of drunken fishermen came in, who are still here, and even Mudhoney. I remember my mom telling me about the time she served Mudhoney at the restaurant and told them that I played drums, and they said, "Tell him not to get into music" [laughs]. She would also take me to see all the old fishing boats or to see Duffy Bishop play at the Ballard Seafood Fest. I guess Ballard has always been in my blood. Now when my mom comes over to the neighborhood, we always have to stop into the Smoke Shop so she can see Darlene, who's still tending bar there—she's a Ballard legend.

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