In this digital age when everyone you have ever bought a show ticket from e-mails you once a week to ply you with their line-up, the Stoughton Opera House is oddly quiet. I still get e-mails from the North Star Bar in Philadelphia where I saw the Wrens once eight years ago. Several times a week I get an update from the BOK Center in Tulsa, which is a little odd since I’ve never been to Tulsa. I try to keep up on what’s going on around the area, including the lovely Opera House in nearby Stoughton, so I was a bit surprised that I had no idea before Thursday that the Pines were playing there on Saturday. I love the Pines, and their pretty folk pop sounds best in listening rooms like the basement, the Café Carpe in Ft Atkinson, and the Opera House. I was disappointed that I was going to miss both of their appearances at the Carpe in May with Jeffrey Foucault’s new outfit Cold Satellite, so this show was a pleasant surprise.
The Pines is David Huckfelt and Benson Ramsey, sometimes they bring more players with them, but they are the heart of this band. Tonight they were joined by James Buckley on bass who switched between electric and an especially effective upright, and Benson’s brother Alex on keyboards. They followed their usual format, taking turns singing lead on a song while the other adds backing vocals and guitar. Ramsey lead off with a cover, Spider John Koerner’s tale of “Skipper and his Wife,” his low whisper of a voice projecting beautifully in the room’s great acoustics. They hit all the high points of their four records, but my favorites mostly came from Tremolo. Ramsey’s “Heart and Bones” and Huckfelt’s “Pray Tell” are a potent one-two punch. Last year’s Night So Gold gave us “Cry Cry Crow” (which may also be responsible for the well-dressed but minimalist scarecrow on stage) and “Rise Up and Be Lonely,” a great song as long as you don’t think too much about the directive of the title, which honestly doesn’t make much sense.
Despite the fact that the Pines live even further north than we do, Huckfelt couldn’t resist making fun of our unseasonably cool weather. He thanked us for braving the weather to come to their show “in the dead of spring,” and joked that they were going to take a break so that we could run home and make sure our pipes weren’t frozen. Though the other reason he gave for playing two sets- that we needed a break from sitting on the theater’s antique wooden seats- may have actually been the truth.
The Pines are a perfect band to see at the Opera House, and apparently it had been exactly one year since their last appearance there. I’d say we have the makings of a tradition here.