The Unbearable Lightness of Horse Feathers


Last Saturday, the front four rows of listeners at the Turf Club were given a beautiful little treat of folk music. Horse Feathers, a small stringed trio, played a delicate set. They’re not the band one would expect to hype the crowd for Blitzen Trapper, the Cascades mountain rock band. And indeed, most people inside the Turf paid more attention to the flatscreen television at the back of the bar tuned in to the Timberwolves/Blazers basketball game.

But oh did they miss something sweet.

The little band has two gorgeous vocalists. The first, Justin Ringle, a homely looking man who tucks his upper lip into the front of his teeth when he reaches for high notes. He has voice that inspires curiosity. It has lilt of Bon Iver, the whisper of Sufjan Stevens and the timbre of Nick Drake. It’s a voice to listen to late at night in your car, with an empty county highway and stars stretching out in the distance.

Regrettably, it’s not something that soars over the hum of chatter inside a rock club.

Combined with Ringle is the backing voice of Heather Broderick. It’s like wool scarf that wraps around the lyrics of their songs, blending perfectly with the soft strokes she makes across her cello strings. There’s a tender beauty to it. It holds up life yet can also blow away with the smallest gust.

Unfortunately, the crowd blew-out their songs as though they were spent candles. But it’s not something one can get mad about, or something that would cause a listener to start shushing fellow patrons. It’s something fans of folk just have to live with when seeing this style of band at a rock club: frustration. You can see Ringle fingerpick his guitar, but can’t hear the individual notes. You can watch violin player, Nathan Crockett, take out a saw. But you can’t hear its high-pitched cry. And the entire time you just keeping hoping for a magical hush to blanket the crowd, knowing full well it won’t occur. Parts of you wish they were playing down below in the small confines of the lounge.

But they’re not.

So you just pack in close and try to focus your ears on the band. They played a sound that welcomes winter, warming the ears of those who chose to listen.

And if you’re at work right now, or someone who went to the show and wants to hear more of Ringle’s voice, put on your headphones, click below and close your eyes (the picture in the vid doesn’t change. So really there’s no reason to look anyway...).