Horse Feathers with Anaïs Mitchell
November 3, 2010
Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis
On a seemingly quiet Wednesday evening in Minneapolis, there was a lot of noise going on down at the Cedar. A subdued and simple kind of noise, but enrapturing nonetheless.
Horse Feathers traveled a very far distance to kick off the first night of their U.S. tour right here, for us, in support of their recent album release Thistled Weeds. With a fresh batch of songs and a demanding new season to portray them in, Horse Feathers has all of the mechanics of touring and recording down to an art. As they kicked off their set, fresh faced lead singer Justin Ringle proclaimed they were happy to be standing, as opposed to laying vertically on a van bench seat for the past 50-something hours.
[jump] Pieced together from Idaho and now Portland, OR you can begin to hear Horse Feather's musings throughout their songs -- there is a delicate sound of prismatic folk-country that makes you feel as if you should be standing in a wheat field in a flower dress, or at a barn dance with a Dixie cup full of wine.
Though there are only four people in the band, Horse Feathers' instrumentals would make you believe there was an entire orchestra in the room. Violinist Nathan Crockett, cellist Catherine Odell, and multi-instrumentalist Sam Cooper create a larger-than-actual feeling amongst the room, with Nathan even playing the saw during a song or two and Sam being a jack of all trades switching back and forth from banjo, drums, chimes. Literally sitting in a box of instruments, Sam quite easily took over the set for showmanship. The set opened with "Belly of June," a flighty song that woke everyone up from their November slumbers and brought back crystallized ideas of spring.
The greatest highlight of witnessing Horse Feathers live is be their remarkable ability to make their studio album sound farther away. This is one of those bands that you wish had a live album, because they played to absolute perfection. Justin's unique ability to flatten and engorge his vocals throughout tracks, and his carefully placed affections toward lyrical and instrumental spacing are what makes their sound simultaneously able to lull a baby to sleep or bring a grown man to tears. Neither lacking in emotion nor a fair sense of depth, the lyrical content is not dismissed. Followed heavily by seasonal adornment, and written from very dark, longing places, it was easy to feel November heartache in dimly lit Cedar auditorium.
Toward the end of the set, there were even two young girls that mustered up enough courage to be the only ones to dance in the empty space of the room. Some of the songs were not very danceable, but the rhythms of "Vernonia Blues" and "Heathen's Kiss" imposed a carefree act of movement in their own right.
This was the type of show you couldn't imagine seeing anywhere else in the Twin Cities, aside from your own living room... With the intimacy and the relaxed lighting carried by an ideal amount of reverb, the direct contact to that famous sentiment of touching the music couldn't be felt any more desirably than it was this evening. Ending the set (prior to the encore) with the song that I am quite sure the whole crowd was on toes waiting to hear, "Curs in the Weeds," took everyone home -- from the first few notes of the guitar you could silently notice everyone's eyes get a bit wider, the shining song off of their House With No Home (2009) record could easily be the favorite.
Last but certainly not least, or shall we say first, but cordially placed last in this article was Anaïs Mitchell, who opened for Horse Feathers. The two acts were an amazing mixture of artists, like cream in your coffee; it all seemed complement each other just right. Anaïs Mitchell played solo and acoustic, introducing songs from her most recent album, Hadestown, which came out March of this year with the Midwest's own Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) accompanying her on the record. She sang in a humbling, low voice, which reached the crowd with intense measures. Even being so daring as to cover a Bob Dylan song, "Hard Rain," Anaïs had all the respect and undivided attention as any artist of her talent should obtain.
It was a great night to hear a pin drop in the crowd; one could tell that the finest of Minneapolis's concert goers came out in appreciation of folk/indie music this Wednesday night.
Personal Bias: Pandora Radio introduced me to Horse Feathers, and Justin Vernon introduced me to Anaïs Mitchell.
The Crowd: All undoubtedly hailing in swarms from Uptown, the indie majority was pleasant, stylishly dressed and of the utmost respect; keeping quiet, and leaving their cell phones unlit during the beautiful music. Concert Etiquette A+!
Overheard in the crowd: They produced a bit of laughter when Justin Ringle made a comment concerning voting day, and liberals from Oregon, but other than that, the crowd kept relatively reserved.
Random Notebook Dump: For being as exhausted, and as travel weary as they were... There was no telling if these guys didn't just walk off the boat from a 7 day cruise in Tahiti.
"Wedding Song" - (includes Justin Vernon on the album recording)
"Why we build the Wall"
"I Raise My Cup to Him"
"Hard Rain" (Bob Dylan cover)
"Belly of June"
"Blood on the Snow"
"Falling Through the Roof"
"Curs in the Weeds"
(Encore)- "Rude to Rile"