Live Review: The Builders and the Butchers 2/16 @ The Tractor Tavern

photos by Lydia Goolia

The Builders and the Butchers are one of my favorite live bands. This was the third time I’ve seen them in the last fourteen months, and they always put on a great show. Singer Ryan Sollee called this show (opening for Murder By Death) the “unofficial” release show for their third album, Dead Reckoning. It’s a great album, but to really understand what The Builders are about, you really have to experience them live.

The band opened with three songs from Dead Reckoning, including “I Broke The Vein”, a song I saw them perform at The Crocodile, January of last year. The song sounded great, but it seemed pretty apparent the crowd wasn’t yet intimately familiar with the new material.

After the band got through with the new material, it was time for “Devil Town.” This was when the crowd really started to go nuts. The Builders are a band that absolutely feeds on audience participation. It’s a huge part of what makes them such a thrilling live act. Ryan Solle encourages us to sing, and clap, and yell, and we do. The energy is infectious, even singing along with songs that aren’t necessarily happy.

There’s a lot of death in Builders songs. They play very traditional folk music with a slight punk edge. I usually refer to their sound as “death folk.” The songs are full of blackness, the devil is mentioned frequently, as are various symbol of doom and destruction. Somehow, though, it comes off as cheerful. Yes, the world is a dark damaged place, but it’s pretty great as well. It’s as if by confronting this stuff and singing in the face of doom, we diminish its impact. That’s what a Builders and the Butchers show is.

My girlfriend later expressed surprise at how intense the show was. She said the crowd was a little crazy. This is true. The Tractor Tavern is a great place to see a show, and Seattle is lucky have great crowds. Soltree mentioned this at one point. The band plays Seattle often, and we never get tired of them.

The last song played was “Lullaby.” I had been waiting for it during the entire set, as it’s my favorite song from Dead Reckoning. It’s full of classic Builders lines like “killing is better than living” and “the rain came down like hell.” It was a lot of fun to yell along.

When the song, and show was over I was smiling, but exhausted. I gathered my coat, and went out into the night with eyes wide, already dreaming of the next time the Builders play Seattle.

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