Thursday, July 18

Concert Review: Horse Feathers

If the opening bands were good, then Horse Feathers were in an entire class of their own.

Though they looked and sounded like the definite (if unofficial) headliners, the night was evenly divided into a satisfying four-hour joint show that also included Loch Lomond, All Spots To Black and Helen Money. Money played the cello standing up, letting the rich resonance of the acoustic instrument come through, but mostly she made use of effects pedals and fed in pre-recorded and looped cello sounds.

Don’t let that mislead you to think of sweeping, heart-wrenching strings. The sound of Money’s cello is pure devastation, played in the vein of death metal doom and gloom.

Money’s harsh-sounding instrumentals are occasionally comedic because of their cliche angry melancholia. Nevertheless, the concoction of melodies and discordant chords struck a refreshing balance.

All Spots To Black is a five piece that tuned out folk-infused and country-tinged sounds with all electric instruments, including slide guitar.

Frontman Fil Krohnengold’s tender, nasally voice may not work for everyone, but it helped pull up their fairly generic sound that, for a young band that just put out its first record, was still lacking in direction.

The band did best when the songs were more twangy and country-influenced and woven with narratives.

Loch Lomond of Portland, Ore., did bring out the acoustic guitar and even added viola, clarinet and, for their last song, violin.

It is no surprise that frontman Ritchie Young started the now six-piece band as a solo project. A small, blond-haired guy in black glasses, Young has a wondrously engaging voice that is the most distinct feature of the band. Richly resonant and capable of reaching low registers, it also has an effeminate lilt ““ think Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote.

Though the swelling, chorus-like vocals were beautiful, they were also a tad boring against Young’s solo moments that were much more interesting.

Horse Feathers proved themselves to be the folk purists, playing on acoustic guitar, violins, cello and mandolin. Justin Ringle’s soft, mellow and slightly grainy vocals held just as much command as the instrumentals, which were meticulously crafted and effortlessly delivered.

Percussion was sparse, but when the bass drum banged and the cymbal clashed, they really made an impression. Horse Feathers brought a self-assured yet humble presence to the stage. It was clear just from the expression on each member’s face that the band was fully emotionally invested in the music-making.

And it paid off. The emotional pull of the music held the crowd in rapture even late into the night.

E-mail Zhang at [email protected]

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