While people across Madison fixed their eyes on the Badger game Saturday night, a meager but appreciative crowd settled into the High Noon Saloon to hear music from folk band the Pines.
The Pines stopped in Madison on a mini tour around the Midwest as they put together their sixth album. With Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt on guitar and lead vocals and Alex Ramsey on keyboard, the band played crowd favorites from their previous albums and peppered in some yet-to-be-released tunes.
After a performance by Milwaukee Americana artist Hayward Williams, the Pines took their seats on stage. The band has played alongside the likes of Bon Iver and Trampled by Turtles. The Pines greeted Madison with the humility and gratitude of an up-and-comer. Donning straw hats and leather boots, their Midwestern roots were present throughout the entirety of the show.
The Pines’ songs are often inspired by the stark landscape and infrastructure of Iowa, where the band members grew up.
“I feel like for us it’s about seeing a place where we can go that is sort of unconventional. The things that can open up, the things that can convey feeling without words,” Huckfelt said.
Ramsey and Huckfelt now live in Minneapolis, but their show Saturday night proved the ambient feel of their music is fully intact. The sound that emerged from their instruments was so crisp and pure it was nearly identical to the recorded version.
Accompanying the complex picking of their guitars and eerie softness of the keyboard, the Pines’ lyrics are often reminiscent of early American folk music. Ramsey told the audience sometimes the folklore in their lyrics confuses fans.
“People sometimes come up to us after the show and they’re like, ‘did you really murder your wife?’” Ramsey said.
While Ramsey and Huckfelt stopped to talk to the audience or sip their Spotted Cow from time to time, it was clear this band is pretty down-to-business. And that business is delivering beautiful folk songs.
They said they were happy to be back in Madison despite the fact the Badger game happened to fall on the same day as their show.
“I’ve never seen so many people in one room that hate basketball,” Huckfelt said to the audience.
Ramsey smiled and told him that maybe they didn’t hate basketball. Maybe they were just too anxious to watch.
“One in seven Americans suffer from severe anxiety so I know at least one of you guys is freaking out right now,” Ramsey said.
Anxious or not, the audience contently soaked in the artists’ honest performance and sang along to the encore performance of “All the While” before the spotlights went dark and the Pines waved goodbye to their fans.