06 Dec, 2012

Horse Feathers at the Fox Theatre

Jet lag from gigs in Europe didn’t keep Horse Feathers from ending a superb night of folk at the Fox Theatre on Thursday night in Boulder. Although I had never listened to the Portland based, string laden, chamber-folk five piece, word from my music friends assured me they were worth the time.

But what really got me to the show was Colorado’s champion singer-songwriter Patrick Dethlefs. Advancing his second full length LP Fall & Rise Dethlefs began strong and spirited with the album’s opening track “Far Away”.  Although I was slightly disappointed the record’s band didn’t come along I was reminded of Dethlefs’ raw talent and power to take the stage with just his assured voice, wise words, and acoustic guitar. Still, I couldn’t help but hear and feel the fine instrumentation and backing vocals from Fall & Rise in my head and feet (to be fair, the album has been in my playlist for months, check it out at http://patrickdethlefs.bandcamp.com).

After a recent return from a west coast tour, Patrick Dethlefs plays to a crowd on December 6th at the Fox Theatre.

After a recent return from a west coast tour, Patrick Dethlefs plays to a crowd on December 6th at the Fox Theatre.

After a recent return from a west coast tour, Patrick Dethlefs plays to a crowd on December 6th at the Fox Theatre.Patrick performed emotionally and technically with almost as much perfection as the album yet I wondered during some wilted moments if he wished his music friends had joined him on stage (next week that will happen at Swallow Hill, details here).  Playing album favorites such as “Done and Done” and “Another Colorado Song”, the audience was attentive and soaked in what Patrick put out. Even during the quietest moments between tunes he was charmingly easy going and talked up the crowd like a seasoned pro.

Perhaps in a moment of humility after announcing the upcoming acts he told the audience, “I am just here to listen too.” I can’t disagree enough. Patrick’s stage presence and superior song writing signals an artist that, without question, belongs in venues across the country. And during the performance of the emotive LP’s title track, I hoped that many people would continue to experience and benefit from Dethlefs’ budding incomparable talent.

Frank Fairfield readies his fiddle before opening for Horse Feathers.

Frank Fairfield readies his fiddle before opening for Horse Feathers.

Horse Feathers’ cellist Lauren Vidal performs.

Horse Feathers’ cellist Lauren Vidal performs.

Another talent was not far behind as Frank Fairfield sat down and grumbled unintelligible words while he resin’d a fiddle bow. Dressed like a Deadwood character I wondered if this was more of a performance shtick than musical act. Within a minute or so of hearing his old-timey voice, rich fiddle, and light foot stomps that bled beautifully through a single condenser mic, I realized Fairfield most certainty brings the latter. A skilled fiddle player, he brought woos and whoops from the crowd that were soon followed by a leg-stomping hootenanny hoedown. After speaking with him at the merch booth (as well as picking up his praised LP Out on the Open West) I think Fairfield may be the real vagabond counterculture deal that brings a much-needed freshness to American folk traditions and our music industry.Weary yet dynamic, subtle yet demanding, Horse Feathers is a must see for concert going aficionados. With a refined and deeply perceptive skill, Justin Ringles leads a duo of violins, a cellist, and a percussion mallet-utilizing drummer. Horse Feathers met my sonic needs with bright sweeping string lines, bouncing rhythms and riffs and introspective lyrics. Most of the shortened set was dedicated to songs from 2012′s Cynic’s New Year. Although the mood remained mostly on the softer side there were plenty of elevated moments that even with their travel exhaustion managed to bring all the attainable energy.  My friend suggested that a 3-hour folk show would be too tedious but the assemblage of the diverse but complimentary acts proved to be an extraordinary night of music.

Justin Ringles.

Justin Ringles.

Photos and review by Amy Moore-Shipley, Radio 1190′s program director and host of Local Shakedown

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