Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY
It was a surprisingly mild autumn’s evening in New York. I had just gotten off a flight from London and used a much anticipated Horse Feathers show at the Bowery Ballroom as battle against jetlag. I’d seen the fair quartet years back at Union Hall in Brooklyn and was won over by their warm melodies lead by Justin Ringle’s evocative vocals. With a slight departure from their last album, House with No Home, HF’s latest musical rendition Thistled Spring blossoms with warm rollicking strings. Seasonal shift? Probably, but don’t worry HF fans the same string heavy compositions and Justin’s poetic lyrics remain.
Horse Feathers took the stage early to an audience comprised of friends and fans. The crowd really took to “Working Poor” as they stomped along to the beat and was in a continuous sway. Multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Sam Cooper commented halfway into the set about how truly happy he was to be playing Bowery with friends from all walks of life present. Nathan and Catherine chimed in with their own shout outs, from a friend that had travelled (Justin and Nathan’s roommate from Portland flew in just for the gig) or fellow artists they previously played with (Catherine’s first band mates were in the house).
Then the concert got serious. Folk serious. Sam could not help but commend the shhhers in the crowd for being brave enough to shhh with conviction. I must admit the back end bar goers were cutting into the cozy cocoon of swaying tunes. Sam understood that chatter at concerts was a given because heck he chats at concerts. But a revelation came to Justin. While punk bands would spit on you, folk bands shhh. Amen Justin. Throughout the entire concert the shhhing continued.
They ended the set with an energetic performance of “Curds of Weeds”, but the real treat was the encore request. Sam provided the option of original ditty or cover. The excitable gal in front of me had been yelping out “Orphan Girl” pretty much after every song was completed. She was referencing Horse Feathers’s past cover of the bluegrass queen Gillan Welch’s classic, which they played at the Newport Folk Festival this year. Friends, we were in for a better treat. A cover of Nirvana’s “Drain Me”. It was unrecognizable to the original for me and what a cover should be at its best. Sooo gal in front – SHHH!