James the Magician gazed out into the sluggish crowd for approval in his bright green hat with a red feather, gray vest meant for a high school dance, polka dot button up and cargo shorts with too many pockets. I was immersed in his dramatic — and sensual — ring-tossing trick choreographed to “Run me like a river” by Bishop Briggs, which seemed out of place for the half empty Bur Oak bar.
As I took glances around the room, noting the primarily young crowd populating the tables closer to the stage, I was suddenly called out by the magician to participate in a magic trick. However, this was not the performance I was here to see.
“The magician? It’s a tough act to follow,” the Silk Stranger band members said in almost complete unison as they glanced at each other with smiles dancing on their faces.
“He made kids laugh and smile … we can’t do that!” chuckled Noah Vanevenhoven, the tall, lanky guitarist and occasional bassist for the band.
The “new and improved” Silk Stranger, as they call themselves, are a local Madison indie rock-revival band. The original band had a falling out, but after a short hiatus, they are back and better than ever. There is Jake Vanevenhoven, a blacksmith, Noah Vanevenhoven, a Buffalo Wild Wings line cook, Hannah Dorshorst, a school psychologist, Joshua Marineau, a civil engineer, and Elliot Jewell, a self-proclaimed artist of all sorts, who have come together to produce an entrancing sound. The band is a potluck, with each member having a distinct style that separates one from the other.
In regards to their sound and what they played, Noah practically shouted with excitement, “Does it sound cool? Alright, we’ll do it!”
The lead singer, Dorshorst, who just so happened to be the only female in the group, stood strong in all black, head-to-toe. Her hands thoughtfully gripped the mic to announce the start of their show — the lights changed to hues of pink, yellow and blue and the chatter of the bar silenced for a moment.
“BUM BUM BUM”
The drum player hit the ground running, his beats signaling all the other members to begin their first song. The energy was electric, with every member on stage dancing around, swaying back and forth, nodding their heads. My eyes attempted to focus on the talented guitarist wearing a bright red Hawaiian shirt, but my attention was stolen by the bassist dressed in flowy, floral attire with rings that glistened like the reflection of the sun on a pond. The stage was their pond, and they were taking laps in it.
“We had the most energy we have ever had on stage tonight, and I think that’s because we acted so goofy yesterday at practice,” Dorshorst said, waving her hands in front of her in fluid motions, symbolizing the connectedness of the band.
There was no denying how well the artists worked together on stage. Each member snuck glances and smiles at one another with the shift of a beat or a strum of the electric guitar. The bartender shaking cocktails even functioned as a secondary percussionist, filling all gaps of silence in the music as though it were planned all along.
As the set came to a close, the crowd booed, hoping for one more song that, unfortunately, the band didn’t have the authority to give. This didn’t matter. The cheers of the crowd echoed through the bar and brought it to life for the first time that evening.