Concert Review: Horse Feathers, November 8, Drake Underground

Toronto – Rather than talk about how it wasn’t that much fun to have to line up at the Drake when we arrived at the venue a little early, then saw about an hours delay in the stated open door time, I would like to talk about how great it is to watch an entire concert from a couch.  It’s…it’s pretty great. Sure, it may not have had a perfect sightline, and maybe it wasn’t an ultra-plush number like those couches you see on the TV ads, but I barely moved my ass an inch from the time I planted it in that couch to the end of the show.

Besides, it’s not like the delay in the doors opening was really anyone’s fault. Apparently the band’s van broke down outside Ann Arbor, Michigan. That plus the usual stress of crossing the border with a vanful of stuff led to a pretty long, tough day for Horse Feathers and opener Anais Mitchell.

Mitchell took the stage with just a guitar, and had a fairly decent set; her voice is interesting enough to make her solo acoustic stylings worth a listen, even if her songwriting rambles a little for my taste.

Horse Feathers, meanwhile, managed a terrific set, despite being clearly exhausted, and despite lead singer Justin Ringle breaking a string on nearly every guitar on stage. You may or may not recall that Horse Feathers were my favourite of the 2010 Hillside Music Festival, and while their Hillside set impressed me partly for the novelty of seeing a band feature four people all on strings (guitar, banjo, cello and violin) for many songs, while the banjo player also plays drums and the violinist sometimes plays a saw, their set Monday night impressed me with how tight it was. Band members almost literally dropped one instrument to grab another mid-song. For a group with some pretty complex harmonies, nary a wrong note was struck all night. And in a stunning show of band chemistry, after Ringle broke the string on his last guitar, then borrowed Anais Mitchell’s guitar but couldn’t get it plugged in, the band suddenly exclaimed “we’re going unplugged,” jumped down in front of the stage with their instruments, and closed the set with an energetic version of “Vernonia Blues”.

The show did run kind of late for me on a school night, being over 30 and gainfully employed as I am. The band did a nice job soldiering on despite their exhaustion, but it was pretty clear that they were having a hard time not thinking about how they had a whole lot more tour in front of them and were off to a bit of a rough start, which led to some quiet staring straight ahead from the band between songs.

Tickets were only $12, though, which is a tough price to beat to see a band this good, especially if you’re lucky enough to watch the show from a couch. Horse Feathers made sure to hit the highlights of their new album Thistled Spring, particularly “Starving Robins” and “Belly of June”, and their live renditions of some of their tracks really put the studio versions to shame. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the cities on their current tour, check them out.

Horse Feathers – “Belly of June” by TRACER_Magazine

Posted on by Brian in Concerts