Eleni Mandell – Live in Seattle, WA

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Tractor Tavern
Seattle, WA
February 15th 2007

“The band requested that there weren’t chairs I guess?” I overheard a man in a flannel shirt say. “That’s shitty, I’m tired.” The woman with him, I presume was his date, had her arms crossed and was looking around the room for a chair. The only seats available were the few copper and red velvet stools surrounding the bar. And they were certainly taken by that point.

I, for one, found it admirable. The thought of these artists showing up the Tractor Tavern on a weeknight and saying, “Yeah we heard people around here have a real tendency sit. We’d rather they didn’t.”

They’re right. The Seattle music fan doesn’t like to show enthusiasm. We are far too cool to let anyone know that we think their art is worth shit to us. One of my friends on the east coast visited me a few months back and referred to Seattle as the “France” of the American music scene. He then went on to support his argument by thoroughly pointing out the many reasons that we are the bourgeois of indie music. I replied by pointing out that he was the one calling people dirty names like bourgeois.

But he had a good point and I think whoever’s idea it was to get rid of the seating had their heart in the right place. However, they underestimated the power of the Seattle slouch. And while no one sat, the crowd managed to be uncomfortably awkward on its feet.

People of different gender, sexuality, race and class all stood—facing the stage—exactly one foot of space between every unenthusiastic body. In this fairly crowded bar, we all stood, evenly spaced, as if we were there for an aerobics class. It was a weird vibe, which only conceded when Eleni took the stage.

She wore a baby doll dress with a large, black bow-tie, and had her bangs in her eyes. Looking like some brilliant cross between Shirley Temple and Patti Smith, she immediately grabbed her audience.

Eleni and her band played songs ranging from love songs, to sea shanty’s, to my personal favorite—songs to make out to. ‘‘I’ve been trying to write the ultimate make-out song. I don’t think I’ve done it yet, but this is a good one,’’ she told the crowd before playing another heart-breakingly sexy folk number. I was reminded of every girl that was too cool to ask out and so humble that she never made me feel like she’d say no if I did.

The songs all had warmth to them. The band was made up of a guitarist, a drummer, Eleni and her guitar, and a stand-up bassist. All of them were obvious talents, but the stand-up bass gave credibility to the music that a folk singer needs these days. The natural sound of the stings flowing underneath Eleni’s life-stained vocals created an enviorment where careful song-writing and atmospheric acoustics balanced each other like a found love.

Needless to say perhaps, I enjoyed the performance. And during one song, I found myself thinking that this might not be so different from seeing a Patti Smith play in a little tavern before she was the known legend she became. Perhaps In a few years, I will feel like I witnessed something special that night.

After playing their final song, Eleni thanked the audience for being so gracious. And said, “I’ll be at the merchandise table in the front, come say hello to me. I’d like that.”

-Kenny Ball

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