Horse Feathers @ Swallow Hill Daniels Hall 9.30.2011

When seeing a band like Horse Feathers, especially in an intimate venue like Denver‘s Swallow Hill’s Daniels Hall, a music fan realizes just what real musical talent is. The band from Portland, Oregon put on an impressive display of songwriting along with formal and informal music education crafted by obvious hours of practice, rehearsals, and performances.

Local singer and songwriter Patrick Dethlefs warmed up the crowd first with a warm acoustic set and a few quick words delivered with a whimsically dry and witty sense of humor between songs. After seeing so many famous and well known up-and-coming names perform in Denver in 2011, it was refresing to see a local talent like Detlefs display an earnest performance that pleased the ears.

As Horse Feathers arrived on stage, lead vocalist Justin Ringle confessed with humor before he sang “Everytime I come to Colorado something strange happens. I feel like I’m going to die.” The crowd laughed in appreciation. Bands sometimes make such comments when adjusting to the mile high altitude. With his performance Justin found a way to set aside its affects.

The band started upbeat and meandered with purpose, like a clear mountain river through the Cascade range, through their songs between pianissimo and fortissimo volume and tempo. The crowd appreciated the talent and skill of the group with racous applause not often seen for a performance more toward the mellow side.

The artistic and musical talent of Horse Feathers was on quick dislpay. Drummer and mutli-instrumentalist Sam Cooper played guitar WHILE also playing drums and singing… Nathan Crocket played the violin with passion and style and also produced earily perfect notes during Cascades while fidding a hand saw…. Catherine Odell played the cello expertly and sang perfect harmony along with Justin and the rest of the band… and Justin‘s sultry voice and spot-on guitar and banjo playing all blended together with the music for something special. At times every group members’ eyes were closed as if they were in another place together. If I closed my eyes with them for a moment I could imagine we were all on the Oregon Trail headed west in the 1830’s, while sitting by campfire in the middle of a circle of prarie wagons.

Their drummer left the stage abruptly at one point in the show, and Justin said with a bit of bewilderment, “well… we’re just going to go with it,” and on seemingly on the fly played Curs in the Weeds accompanied by only vocals, violin, and cello.

After wowing the crowd with an hour and a half of songs from Thistled Spring to House with No Name and beyond, they said good night to the crowd and left the stage. The crowd stood and applauded to get the band out for one more song, which they quickly obliged. The crowd wanted more, but Justin said with disappointment that his voice couldn’t take any more this particular evening and said a final good night.

The disappointment of the crowd to not hear more was far outweighed by the pleasure of the performance. There is nothing wrong at all with being left wanting more, especially while knowing a performer powered through not feeling their best.