Donate Now to Support KDHX

Listen Live
Friday, 25 May 2012 17:25

Concert review: Horse Feathers (with Matt Bauer) serenade and stun fans at the Firebird, Thursday, May 24

Horse Feathers at the Firebird Horse Feathers at the Firebird Abby Gillardi
Written by Will Kyle
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Portland, Ore.'s Horse Feathers, helmed by frontman and singer/guitarist Justin Ringle, is not to be missed. Once a collaboration with Peter Broderick, Horse Feathers has grown into an artful orchestra complemented by fine singing and poetic lyrics.

Matt Bauer opened the show at the Firebird and gave an excellent performance. He stood alone playing his mostly banjo-led tunes that consisted of heartbreak and dark observations that recall Robert Frost. The songs that really struck me, "Rose and Vine" and "Don't Let Me Out," were all from Bauer's 2008 release, "The Island Moved in the Storm."

After Bauer finished and Horse Feathers was setting up, I walked over to the merch table to shake Bauer's hand and inform him that I had learned about his music and Horse Feathers' at approximately the same time in 2008. I found it both extraordinary and fascinating the two were double billed, on this night, four years later.

A rotating cast of musicians appeared on stage and Ringle stood starkly before the microphone with his scuffed-up Gibson acoustic. Besides the band leader, the only other semi-permanent member of Horse Feathers is first violinist Nathan Crockett, who appeared with Horse Feathers last year at Off Broadway. This time the performers included Dustin Dybvig providing a heavier and more exciting form of drumming, Lauren Vidal on cello and Angie Kuzma on the second violin.

The first song, "Last Waltz" from the 2012's "Cynic's New Year," opened with long violin draws from Crockett and Kuzma. Ringle's voice broke above the orchestral bed with a near falsetto clarity. Weaving through the venue, the sound caused the jaws of beer-sipping fans to drop in awe.

In "Belly of June," from 2010's "Thistled Spring," drummer Dybvig rocked the tune to new heights with liberal use of the bass pedal and mallets on the snare drum. This raw sound, beautiful with the ornate cello, Ringle's voice and the two violins, was a nice juxtaposition.

"Better Company" rose from a cacophony of strings and concerned itself with images of two lovers at Puget Sound. The song built toward a heady chorus and ebbed back to nothing like vapor trails following a jet.

Dybvig took to the piano for "Where I'll Be," also from "Cynic's New Year," as Ringle closed his eyes and leaned into the melody of the fan favorite. The violinists pulled their bows across their strings to create a lonely country-vibe. "Bird On a Leash" was warm and catchy with more studied drum accents, while oldie "Finch on Saturday," from 2006's "Words Are Dead," featured, from Ringle, fatalistic lyrics like poet James Wright's: "Remember we are born to die, she was born to cry, cry, cry, herself to sleep."

"Thistled Spring" cashed in on its fan-forged success with perfectly-timed keyboard and violin polish that melded into Ringle's voice and verse, "A blossom that's bloomed, in a house that's a tomb, trapped in the rhododendron fumes, bit by the spring." "So Long," about Ringle's hard-working blue-collar family, spun into a poppy, full-band sing-along, perhaps the most satisfying, if a touch too accessible moment of the evening.

"Cascades" featured more welcome heavy bass from Dybvig's drums, which, with deft precision, he layered under the pre-chorus and chorus. "The Drought," though enjoyable, suffered a tad with its tempo sped up, as compared with the album version. For "Fit Against the Country," Ringle invited Bauer (and his banjo) to join Horse Feathers on stage, and they all rocked the song to the rafters. With its working poor theme, wandering banjo and Neil Young-style rhythm, "Fit Against the Country" reminded me why its among the band's best songs.

Horse Feathers left the stage and returned with "Curs in the Weeds," from 2008's "House With No Home," for a one-song encore. Flight-of-the-Bumblebee violins phased into Ringle's contemplative verse and honeyed timbre. All too soon, accompanied by a pained moan from the audience, Horse Feathers humbly quit the stage to greet their fans and wind down for the evening.

Upcoming Concerts

Sponsor Message

Become a Sponsor

Find KDHX Online

KDHX on Instagram
KDHX on YouTube
KDHX on SoundCloud
KDHX on Facebook
KDHX on Twitter
KDHX on flickr

Local Artist Spotlight

Dad Jr: Get Down. Hard.

Sun June 29

Graham Pagano

Mon June 23
Graham Pagano's debut album Quit Complaining is a high charged mix of old and new music. his old blues and classic country feel blended up with a rock and roll attitude makes this stripped down album explode…

88.1 KDHX Shows


KDHX Recommends


Genevieve at Harvest Sessions 2014

Genevieve at Harvest Sessions 2014 Harvest Sessions welcomes Genevieve -- featuring Rebecca Ryan and Leslie Sanazaro -- to the West Pool Pavilion for a morning of acoustic music. This free Saturday morning concert series takes place at the Tower Grove Farmers'...


88.1 KDHX Musical Merry-Go-Round Welcomes Sugar Free All-Stars

88.1 KDHX Musical Merry-Go-Round Welcomes Sugar Free All-Stars 88.1 KDHX Musical Merry-Go-Round welcomes Sugar Free All-Stars for a family matinee Sunday, July 27 at Noon. Kids under two are free. $8 advance tickets on sale now. Tickets available at the door for $10. Kids under two are free. For...


Bradford Lee Folk & The Bluegrass Playboys

Bradford Lee Folk & The Bluegrass Playboys KDHX presents Bradford Lee Folk & The Bluegrass Playboys at The Stage, July 31 at 8pm. Tickets available online.   Born in Louisiana and raised in Missouri, Folk remembers watching his Dad pick the country blues on a...

Get Answers!

If you have questions or need to contact KDHX, visit our answers portal at

Online Users

6 users and 10461 guests online
Sign in with Facebook


Login/My Account

Sign in with Facebook