The Wild Feathers rolled into the 9:30 Club with a full head of steam, on the next-to-last stop of their 2014 work-a-holic tour. Showing no signs of burn out from relentless touring, the boys exuded a cocksure confidence and took the full-house crowd for a ride through rock, blues, country and folk, exhibiting the swagger of men who have come into their own, solidly sure of their strengths, and, echoing Tom Petty, not backing down. Ricky Young, Joel King, Taylor Burns, Preston Wimberly, and Ben Dumas demonstrated why this band deserves your attention. Welcome to the melting pot.
Next up was "Backwoods Company," the lead-off track to their 2013 self-titled debut. The message to the crowd was clear; hang on, you're in for a ride, and the band is in the driver's seat. One thing about these road dogs; they are a guitar band with excellent harmony vocals.
The Feathers are young musicians with old, deep roots. I first saw them on Guitar Center Sessions with Nic Harcourt. I turned the show on, listened to three songs, and immediately went to Amazon to order the cd. Their influences are all the basic ingredients of an American gumbo that is properly spiced; Freddie King, Levon Helm, Tom Petty, The Allman Brothers, The Byrds (circa Sweethearts of the Rodeo), and Dylan. When you hear good vocal harmonies on disc, you hope that the tracks haven't been "sweetened" too much, that the artists can actually reproduce that sound live. No one at the 9:30 felt let down.
Throughout the night, the guys worked almost every song on the debut record, as well as some choice covers, including Led Zeppelin's "Hey, Hey, What Can I Do." What was most noticeable was the strength of each performance. While the Guitar Center Sessions show was good in its own way, the force projected from the stage at the 9:30 Club said these guys had honed their act, they knew who they were, and if you didn't, well, they weren't apologizing.
In between songs, Ricky Young thanked the crowd, which he noted was, "a good bit larger," than the last time they played here. During the course of the fifteen-song set, the group debuted two gorgeous new numbers, though no titles were given. Young let slip that the group was going into the studio in the new year to record, to the raucous approval of the audience.
Joel King, on bass, along with Ben Dumas on drums, provided the solid underpinning the group needed, creating a sturdy framework for the guitar and pedal steel fireworks that fostered a festive atmosphere for a crowd that needed its own Independance Day, a break from the work week, pre-Thanksgiving, and bursting on the edge of an approaching winter. As if that was not enough, Wimberly's pedal steel on "Kitchen Breeze" bordered on the holy and the sublime.
This is particularly noted on "Left My Woman," a country-rock song detailing the frustration of a musician who is out of money and has to go back on the road, leaving behind his lover, On the TV program, the song is heartfelt and earnest. Months of performing have turned that mellow ache into a full-blown anthem, replete with the obligatory part where the band pauses while the audience sings the chorus back to them, before the guys on stage pick it back up and drive it home and into the audience's collective memory.
Due to the horrible DC traffic I missed the opening act, Apache Relay, and all but the last two songs by the second act, Desert Noises. Throughout the evening The Wild Feathers' classic rock and country (they have opened for Willie Nelson and Dylan several times) kept me yearning for a coda along the lines of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken." Again the Feathers did not disappoint. For the encore they brought out all of the members of both opening acts and launched into a soaring version of "The Weight." They couldn't have ended the night more perfectly. Get to the studio boys, we're waiting on the next one.