Washingtonians seldom have seen a band as original and exciting as Love Tractor out of Athens, Ga. Saturday night at the 9:30 club the group delivered two sets of punchy, lyrical pop without uttering more than 20 words in all. Love Tractor was unique in performing rock instrumentals without any significant reference to surf music, jazz or blues. The material was carefully thought out, purposefully structured with a strong emphasis on melody; they didn't jam at all. This gang hasn't done away with lead singing as much as transposed its function to the instruments. The two guitar players stole the show, weaving lead and rhythm licks together into a silvery latticework.
"Around the Bend" was reminiscent of the shimmery Byrd-calls of the group's Georgia neighbors R.E.M. "Seventeen Days" effortlessly attained precisely the moody, reflective groove English post-punk bands such as New Order have tried vainly to perfect for years. Love Tractor is as cool as they come.
The Beat Rodeo from New York opened the show with a mixed bag of twangy country tunes and bouncy roots-pop. Steve Almaas' strong, tuneful vocals dispelled most misgivings about the group's traditionalist trappings, any remaining doubts giving way in the face of Bill Schunk's fiery lead guitar playing. It was good, clean, uncomplicated fun.