The Maldives headline Tractor Tavern's 20th anniversary
By Allyce Andrew
The Maldives are the embodiment of the impending Seattle freeze that recent immigrants to the deep North West are constantly warned about.
The band is filled with seven mercurial musicians—comparable to your favorite frustrating family members. They aren’t after generic conversation and fleeting contact, but building a lasting community through music.
The band has more than a decade of making music together under its belt and an endless reservoir of stories to tell. One especially nostalgic place for the Maldives in the Tractor Tavern in Ballard.
“To play in other places in town for us, specifically the Tractor, we have definitely created some form of identity for ourselves in that place,” said singer, songwriter Jason Dodson. “In that place we’re one thing, even if we aren’t that thing anywhere else in town anymore. But in that place we can do anything.”
“It’s become the home base,” drummer Faustine Hudson said. “Next to the stage in the backstage area, there’s now a gate. ... The reason why that exists is because when the Maldives would play at the (Tractor)–”
“There’s a party on the back porch!” guitarist Jesse Bonn interjected.
“There were as many people in the back as there were in the crowd,” she continued. “It’s like a big, fun fest with all our buddies.”
The Tractor was incepted 20 years ago by then, and now owner Dan Cowan and the Maldives agreed they played the venue more than 50 times over three years after their first, self-titled record was released in 2006. Unsurprisingly, the Tractor tapped the Maldives to headline both nights of its 20th anniversary Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
Cowan’s relationship with the band extends further than stages and fence installations. Bonn recalled a tour in 2010 when Cowan said, “Boys, I wanna buy you a steak dinner when you’re on the road.”
The band waited to take advantage of his offer until they hit a blizzard driving from Austin to Denver where they stopped at a roadhouse in Watson, Colo.
“That’s Dan Cowan,” said Dodson. “That’s why we play the Tractor, because the Tractor’s family — It’s kind of like going home for Thanksgiving or something. It doesn’t feel like we’re playing a club.”
That’s not the band’s best Tractor story, though.
“We were practicing (when) it started snowing,” Bonn began. “We had a show that night with the Moondoggies.
“We decided to play it anyway. We got in Subarus and drove over — by the end of soundcheck there was like six inches of snow on our car. They shut down every show in the city... (The Tractor) ended up selling like 200 extra tickets because they thought no one would come and then everybody came and the 200 people.
“Then, we were loading out and our friend started pelting us with snowballs… There was a major snowball fight in the back and then we heard this scream… Somebody said, ‘Come to the front!’ We all ran to the front and looked out the windows and there was like 250 people in the middle of the street having a snowball fight.”
The Tractor has remained one of the few staples of Ballard’s fluid city streets. The Maldvies have seen hardware stores, venues and restaurants move up and down Ballard Avenue, or call it quits altogether — a fact the band doesn’t think is necessarily a bad thing.
“A lot of places that showed up on Ballard Ave used to be a few blocks away and then they moved that first boom in the mid 2000s,” said lead guitarist Tim Gadbois. “And then they since moved elsewhere… People say that density is a bad thing, but there’s a lot of cool people and a lot of cool stuff happening in Ballard that maybe wasn’t 20 years ago...
”I’m from there and it’s changed a lot — there’s things that I miss, but there’s also things that are so much fun to go and see and do that weren’t ever there when I was growing up.”