In an increasingly cluttered world where electronic music and abrasive forms of pop and rap are becoming predominant (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it’s somewhat surprising that people have the patience for more subtle, organic sounds. The attendees of a packed Turf Club, who hung on every one of Sarah Vos’ well-annunciated words, which were wrapped in tender folk/pop melodies, certainly had that patience.
Vos’ story is interesting. Raised in a strict fundamentalist Christian home, when she was 15 her family was expelled from the rural Wisconsin church where her father was pastor. Since they lived in a home provided by the church, not only was her father suddenly unemployed, but her family was also homeless.
Vos went to college in Milwaukee at the age of 18, where she began coming to terms with her sexuality, something she had repressed in her strict religious upbringing. This led to a mental breakdown, after which she moved back home to Oshkosh to regroup.
It was then that she met her musical partner, bassist Daniel Wolff. They quickly developed a local following and began touring nationally. Vos channeled the tumultuous events of her life into Dead Horse’s music, especially their latest album, 2018’s My Mother the Moon.
Their show at the Turf Club was filled with songs from that release and their entire career. Their earthy indie folk was backed by a variety of instruments for different songs, sometimes as a trio with just a drummer, and other times with a small string section and a mandolin/bouzouki player. The variety of instrumentation kept things fresh.
I’m pretty sure, though, that even if it was just Wolff and Vos the crowd would have still been just as happy. Their fan base must be pretty hardcore, because the audience paid close attention, even during the quieter songs. Although their brand of folk is laid back and introspective, Vos still had fun interacting with the crowd, which cheered surprisingly voraciously when she mentioned random small towns in Wisconsin (but booed Milwaukee).
Sometimes, in a world that is shouting, it’s a whisper that gets the most attention. The subtle folk and indie pop of Dead Horses whispered at the Turf Club, and everyone was listening.