Sensory Overload: Old Hundred and Wing & Tusk

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

I headed to The Treehouse last Tuesday to review Wing & Tusk on the first night of their weekly Tuesday residency for September, but this review isn't predominantly about Wing & Tusk. After all, I've been name-dropping them in print quite a bit lately. Might as well spread the love, right?

OK, maybe it's half about them.

Yeah, I saw the band, and yeah, my appreciation for their somewhat sleepy live show had increased astronomically after digesting their dense album-length folk tale The Secret of Toadflax Tea.

The five-piece makes beautiful music, but after a few songs it can begin to drag a little on album and in concert. The more you submerge yourself in their story, the more you come to appreciate the epic scope of their ambition - and how successfully they realized it.

Also, last Tuesday's show benefited from the intimate, "band practice" feel you sometimes get at The Treehouse when the crowd starts trickling out in the early morning hours. The band takes its music seriously and often performs with a note of solemnity, but their slap-happy demeanor in this setting was a pleasant new spin on Wing & Tusk.

That said, I was just as impressed with their opening act, a quirky folk band called Old Hundred.

Frontman Blake Skidmore has been playing solo under his own name for years, mostly in the house show scene. But when a couple friends from Boston moved in with him last winter, collaboration began to crackle.

The result, on display at Tuesday's show, carries a faint aroma of the DIY folk stuff you'd likely hear at a house show, with melancholy chord changes, an abundance of strummed instruments and post-Neil Young vocals filtered through decades of indie-rock affectation.

But these sounds ran a bit deeper than the undergrad bumblings sometimes associated with this genre. Chalk it up to his semi-veteran status, but Skidmore and his lineup of Jon Helm, Nate Gelinas and Hal Hixson crafted this stuff with subtlety and sophistication.

Playing his first show with the band, Hixson turned in an economical take on bass, weaving his parts in and out as necessary with a keen ear for dynamics. The remaining players traded an array of stringed instruments, sometimes hopping on a drum set to kick out a simplistic beat while still strumming away. They harmonized with grit, coming off more like contemporaries of Fleet Foxes than ankle-biting fanboys.

Throw in inventive covers of MGMT and Damien Jurado and it all added up to a promising performance by four guys putting a personal touch on a well-worn genre.

Denison Witmer with Old Hundred

When: 9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13

Where: The Treehouse, Grandview