First things first; if you haven’t been to Boot and Saddle yet, you’re missing out. A giant neon sign of a cowboy hat and boot with spurs beckons you in to a bar that is equal parts Western kitch and hipster grime. Nestled in the back behind the main room is an intimate concert venue, with restored yet perfectly distressed painted patterned tin tiles lining the walls and ceiling. The stage is a simple set up of a keyboard on the right, drums in the back. A tattered, hand–woven rug and tapestries artfully draped around the walls bring warmth to the otherwise bare stage. Boot and Saddle is intimate, fiercely non–mainstream, and perfectly quirky—in other words, perfect for an intimate night of indie folk.
Opening the night was Aussie folktronica singer–songwriter (and my new crush) Gordi. Before Gordi walked up to the stage (the venue’s set up requires artists to actually walk through the crowd before they can take the stage) she was unrecognizable from her audience. Clad in the artist’s uniform of black ripped jeans and black shirt, she calmly walked up the single step, picked up her guitar, and just started to sing. The room instantly fell silent—her soft but deep voice filled the entire space with vibrato and raw soul. Gordi sang a few songs off of her latest effort, Reservoir, alongside Courtney Barber covers, singles, and the title song of her 2016 EP, Clever Disguise. After her set, she left as coolly and humbly as she came. “I’ll see you guys again sometime.”
Turns out, that sometime was in five minutes when she joined Sean and co. onstage as part of the S. Carey live ensemble. Sean Carey, who performs under the moniker S. Carey, is best known as the drummer and back up vocalist for the indie folk group Bon Iver. After a decade long solo career (Sean first started recording his own music in 2008 while Bon Iver was on hiatus) he has finally come out from the shadow of Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon with whom he has been collaborating since 2006. On stage, Sean was flanked by Tallest Man on Earth drummer Zach Hanson, Tallest Man on Earth pianist and pedal steel player Ben Lester, and bassist Jeremey Boettcher—as well as Gordi on the acoustic guitar. Throughout the show, Sean demonstrated his musical proficiency and prowess, toggling between playing the drums, piano, and electric guitar all while singing lead.
The show opened with the song “Fire–scene” from Sean’s 2014 album Range of Light. With the first bars of the song (on the piano!!!), the crowd came alive. There were shouts of ‘oh yeah’ and ‘aaaaw shit’ accompanied by aggressive head nodding, which is just about the hardest you can rock out to indie folk at 9 o’clock on a Wednesday night. Throughout the set, there was a pretty even balance of old and new music. Most heavily played, however, were songs off of Sean’s freshly released album titled A Hundred Acres, from which the band played “A hundred acres,” “More I See,” “Chrysalis,” “Fool’s Gold,” and “Rose Petals.” The range of material perfectly showed off both Sean’s progression as a solo recording artist and his trademark soulful and nature–inspired lyrics.
The entire performance encapsulated Sean’s signature chill and ability to not take himself too seriously—after all, how many Grammy winning drummers still play bar shows after touring Europe and come out in beat up New Balance. While I came into the show expecting an off–brand Bon Iver semi–tribute experience, I came out with an appreciation of an artist who not only writes and feels his own music, but can proficiently play the role of any member of his band—lead singer, backup vocalist, lead and backup guitarist, pianist, and drummer, oh my. But his appreciation of his touring band and the chemistry of the group radiated throughout the entire night. These are guys who live and breathe music for the sheer love of it. They are stripped down with no gimmicks, just raw talent. And with someone as talented and humble as Sean taking point, all I can see down the road for them is more people falling as in love with them as I did.