Tonight’s performance by Horse Feathers at Wisconsin Union Theater was presented with openers Sara Jackson-Holman, then John Mark Nelson and band. Overall, I was exhausted from a late night of studying, a midterm in the morning, homework after that, and was still very impressed by the performances.
I arrived early to do an interview with artist John Mark Nelson and I took a front row seat in the theater. The theater seating was amazingly comfortable and the room was quite dark, which may have had an adverse effect on the crowd’s engagement with the artists. There was laughing and clapping as the artists interacted with the crowd, but no one stood or danced.
The first opener, Sara Jackson-Holman, re-started her first song just a line or two in. She asked for more volume on her vocals and continued. This awkward-laugh-inducing pause was well worth what followed. She sang, in my opinion, like a softer-voiced Adele. I unfortunately did not have time to research her music before this, so missed song titles, but my personal favorite included the lyrics, “I could be the one.” It had an awesome base, and even she got into dancing to it. The last song she performed was a cover of “Baby come back” by Player. Despite the completely different eras of music, she adapted it well to her voice and style. Her crowd interaction was pleasant, but minimal. She did say she was sick and when she spoke normally her voice was much higher. Given this, I still find it impressive that she went through seven songs.
John Mark Nelson and his band played next. He himself played electric and acoustic guitar, Kara Laudon sang and played keyboard, Steve Bosmans played electric guitar, Benjamin Kelly played base, and Gabe Hagen played drums. They came across as very crowd friendly especially as Nelson did a small introduction while playing his guitar. On a non-musical note, they presented themselves very well. Going across the stage they looked almost uniformed all in jeans cuffed at the bottom and either a light blue or plaid shirt. Watching how much they enjoyed themselves on stage actually made me smile back at them.
They opened with a song off of his album “Waiting and Waiting” called “Home.” It was well performed, but as I expected he asked sound for less base so his lyrics would be clearer for the next number. Slightly muffled lyrics were unfortunately common throughout the show, all artists included. The band interacted really well with each other and they were all clearly introduced. He next played “Boy”, and “The Moon and the Stars” which is about Duluth, from his album “Sings the Moon.” The band also played an original number by Laudon who is starting to compose. They played four other numbers with varying degrees of their modern folksy feel and connection to pop or singer/songwriter styles.
Horse Feathers, the headliner came on shortly after. Whereas John Mark Nelson had a unique sound because of creative composition, this band had similarly creative composition and unique instruments. They played a saw, a banjo, a trumpet and a harmonica throughout the show. The cast was introduced, but once again the sound was muffled and I could not make out who was there and who wasn’t. The band usually consists of Justin Ringle with Guitar and Vocals, Nathan Crockett on Violin, Mandolin and Saw, Dustin Dybvig on Drums and Piano, Lauren Vidal on Cello, and Angie Kuzma with Violin and Vocals. They were crowd pleasers but seemed less interactive than the earlier John Mark Nelson.
Horse feathers played several of their older numbers including “Fit Against the Country.” Next they played “Where I’ll Be” which is when they introduced harmonica to the performance. They played a total of ten songs and two as an encore. The encore included a catchy performance of “Belly of June” and it was in their last song that they broke out the trumpet. It was a total crowd pleaser and applause continued until the lights came on.