Noise Pop Show Review: Mirah and Thao with Horse Feathers at Swedish American Hall, 2/27/10

by Jason LeRoy on February 28, 2010

Photo by Kata Rokkar

“We are aiming for sincere energy, not professionalism or fluid transitions.” Those were the words of Thao Nguyen, of Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, halfway through her immensely crowd-pleasing collaborative performance with Mirah last night at Swedish American as part of Noise Pop 2010. And while Ms. Nguyen may have felt the need to defend herself with this disclaimer, there didn’t appear to be a single fan in attendance who wasn’t in complete ecstasy for the duration of the evening.

Before we got to the main attraction, we were treated to the breathtakingly beautiful sounds of Horse Feathers. Maybe I was just tired when I got there, or maybe my fatigue caught up with me when I plopped down in my chair, but when Horse Feathers came on, I nearly fell asleep. And I mean that in the most complimentary possible way.

The band, consisting of Justin Ringle (lead vocals, guitar), Nathan Crockett (vocals, violin, saw!), Catherine Odell (vocals, cello), and Sam Cooper (vocals, banjo, violin, percussion), sounds somewhat reminiscent of Iron & Wine, if Sam Beam and his acoustic guitar were backed by an astonishing string trio that also sang harmony on every song. It was just heavenly. I felt the uncontrollable urge to text everyone I know and say “Horse Feathers is pretty much the greatest band in the world.” But like I said, I think I was also just glad to be sitting down.

Photo by Kata Rokkar

And then, Mirah and Thao took the stage. As Thao mentioned, the entire thing was a somewhat unpolished affair. This was just two awesome musicians who enjoy each other’s company, jamming to each other’s songs in the city they both love (Thao is an SF native, and Mirah is a recent transplant — that’s right ladies, Mirah lives here now).

They hopped back and forth between each other’s songs throughout the night, including at least one new Thao song, which played out as a dialogue between two people, “the asshole” (Mirah) and “the non-asshole” (Thao). “Are you typecasting me?” Mirah demanded. Sometimes Thao sang Mirah’s stuff; other times, Mirah sang Thao’s. About midway through their set, they were joined by three additional musicians who played various percussion instruments and sang harmony.

In a truly awesome full-band moment, Mirah really let it rip on Thao’s “Bag of Hammers.” This was as animated as I’ve ever seen her, but I guess when you’re sharing the stage with a performer as physical as Thao, you want to up the ante a bit. In addition to guitar, Thao also wailed on the banjo and, in several explosively sexual moments, the drums.

Photo by Kata Rokkar

Umm, yeah. It was an arousing evening. Which wasn’t lost on the ladies. In the midst of an ongoing impromptu trivia contest to give away beers to the crowd, Thao asked, “What is the expression that is most commonly used to describe Mirah’s voice?” “FUCKING HOT,” thundered a male voice from the audience. “Close enough!” Thao said, handing out the beer. “But specifically, the phrase most often used to describe Mirah’s voice is ‘the sexiest voice in indie rock’.” Much ooh-ing ensued, at which point Mirah pointed to Thao and said, “And you know who my stiffest competition is?”

The women’s combined presence was almost absurdly hot. It’s amazing that anyone in the audience was even wearing pants. If ever there was a Noise Pop show that people would have attended in trench coats and dark glasses, it was this one. But mostly, it was just a fantastically enjoyable celebration of two of the most fantastic, distinctive, intelligent women in indie music. A truly memorable evening.

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