Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Horse Feathers w/ The Wilderness of Manitoba @ The Drake Hotel, 28 April.

This was one of those rare seated shows---as in, butts-on-floor---at the Drake Hotel's basement music venue, and, my, was it ever lovely. I'd heard of and sampled Portland, OR's Horse Feathers in the past few weeks and was seriously considering hitting up the show, but the announcement that the Wilderness of Manitoba would open sealed the deal for me.

The Wilderness of Manitoba---always Scott Bouwmeester, Will Whitwham, Stefan Banjevic, and Melissa Dalton---took to the stage just after 9pm, with their drummer, Sean Lancaric. The band doesn't always bring Sean along for gigs, and it was a nice treat for me to see them in full force in such a nice-sounding room. They started off with a couple songs from their 2009 debut EP, Hymns of Love and Spirits, namely, "The Great Hall" and "Bluebirds." The crowd was quiet and respectful to the point of being completely silent during many of the songs and little breaks between them. The first few rows were made up of people sitting on the hard floor. It made for a nice setting, with the Drake's good lighting and stage dressing. "Hermit," the first single from the WOM's first album, coming in June, was next.

The first two highlights of the set for me were "Dreamcatchers" and "Orono Park," performed next. The tribal, driving drum beat and harmonies were great on the former; the latter's banjo / guitar / ukele arrangement was beautiful, as were the Will and Melissa's harmonies and call-and-response vocal tradeoffs. And I gotta say: If audience members weren't completely sold on this band by this point, they have no souls. "Evening," a song originally penned and recorded by Will's mother, Wendy Blackburn, in the 1960s, was next, following by the newer "St. Petersburg." Both are gorgeous, and fan favourites. A couple more new songs ended the performance---"November" and "Summer Fires." The buildup at the beginning of "Summer Fires" was stunning. Just great.

Catch the WOM opening for Matthew Barber at the Mod Club on 12 May, and for Basia Bulat (and Julie Doiron) at the Phoenix on 4 June.

Download: The Wilderness of Manitoba, "Hermit" (When You Left the Fire, 2010).
Watch (below): The Wilderness of Manitoba, "Orono Park" (Southern Souls live performance, 2009).

Photo credit: WOM by Zuzana Hudackova.

After a healthy break to get things properly set up, during which we were treated to Owen Pallett's Heartland over the house system, Horse Feathers performed in the headlining spot. (Timber Timbre's self-titled album was the soundtrack before WOM's set.)

I'm not nearly as familiar with this band's output---and, indeed, it was their first time performing in Toronto---but others in the audience clearly were, showing keen appreciation during and after songs. Like Toronto's WOM, this band trades in lush 4-part harmonies and country- and folk-inspired arrangements. But there are classical elements in their ballads, too.

The band played a lovely 12-song set, plus an encore. To me, many of the songs sounded alike, but to my mind that was just fine. "Curs In the Weeds," performed two-thirds of the way through the set, seemed like their hit number; it was warmly received by those around me.

Horse Feathers will be back around this part of the world in July for the Hillside Festival in Guelph.

Download: Horse Feathers, "Belly of June" (Thistled Spring, 2010).
Download: Horse Feathers, "Curs in the Weeds" (House With No Home, 2008).

No comments: