Rocket Queen: Losing the War

A popular Capitol Hill club succumbs to the sprinkler mandate, while the Tractor makes it rain.

"I'm rebranding the space; this whole thing was just a publicity stunt," joked War Room owner Marcus Lalario, standing on the sidewalk outside his Capitol Hill club this past Sunday evening as friends and regulars poured in to say goodbye. Indeed, it's sadly true: The venue that bridged the gaps between Seattle's hip-hop, electronica, and rock communities shut its doors after nearly five years of dance parties, activism, and live shows.Inside, the club's left-leaning politics were on display one last time. Mayor-elect Mike McGinn and City Attorney–elect Pete Holmes held a joint fund-raiser at the club to help cover the remaining debt from their campaigns. Pacific Northwest Recording Academy executive director Ben London chatted up McGinn, sharing his suggestion (cultivated with Neumos owner Steven Severin, also in attendance) that the future mayor continue to show his support by attending one local music or arts event a month, and making sure the public knows he'll be there."That's a good idea," said McGinn, nodding but not fully committing. "I've signed up to coach my kids' basketball team, so that will keep me very busy too.""Well, you gotta keep your base," replied London, gently referring to the groundswell of music-community support McGinn benefited from during his campaign.While not every night would suit everyone's tastes, the diversity of the War Room's programming, combined with its unabashed political voice, made it a good place to mix activism and hedonism, a combination that's always been a hallmark of the Seattle music scene.Lalario cites the costs associated with the December 1 deadline for sprinkler installation as a driving factor in closing the club. Regardless of the reason, it's a shame to see it go.Across town in Ballard, Tractor Tavern proprietor Dan Cowan is coughing up the substantial sum necessary to comply with the sprinkler regulations, a daunting expense that he's hoping to offset with the caliber of his shows, which continue to do decent numbers since booking agent Greg Garcia was brought on last year.The Dutchess and the Duke packed the house on Thanksgiving eve, and though she probably won't draw a crowd that size on her own, Portland-based singer/songwriter Sallie Ford certainly deserves a big audience when she takes the Tractor's stage this Saturday, Dec. 5. Her Nov. 6 Tractor set, opening for Southern Culture on the Skids, was compelling enough that they've asked her back to offer up her salty-sweet, barb-riddled ditties about shitheel boyfriends and fickle music scenes (among other topics).Backed by an impressively nimble trio of players, including upright bassist Tyler Tornfelt, guitarist Jeffrey Munger, and drummer Ford Tennis, the Asheville, N.C., transplant possesses one of those voices that either ingratiates or grates, a la otherworldly oddball Joanna Newsom or former Sleater-Kinney leader Corin Tucker. There's an unconventional bluegrass undercurrent to what Ford does, but also an obvious love for jazzy, ragtime flourishes, and pop centers.Though she played classical violin throughout her Southern childhood, Ford lost interest in later adolescence, falling into visual arts and not rediscovering music until her migration to the Northwest. "I didn't start writing my own songs 'til I moved to Portland in October 2006," she says. "I really fell in love with music when I realized it was the best way to express myself. I got into jazz female vocalists."Ford and her band, which she's dubbed The Sound Outside, recorded and self-released a charming EP, Not an Animal, this past spring, and have been slowly building a national following while landing some prime opening gigs alongside the likes of the Avett Brothers and Langhorne Slim. Saturday's bill finds her logically paired with the Duluth, Minn., "thrashgrass" outfit Trampled by

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