Dead Horses will bring Americana-rooted music to Elkader Opera House

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Daniel Wolff and Sarah Vos, the Midwest duo known as Dead Horses, will perform at the Elkader Opera House on Friday, July 8. They’ll bring the sounds of Americana to the stage as they promote the release of their upcoming fourth studio album, Brady Street. (Submitted photo)

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


The Milwaukee-based folk duo Dead Horses will perform at the Elkader Opera House on Friday, July 8, as they prepare for the release of their upcoming fourth studio album, Brady Street—due out on Aug. 12. 


The band came to the attention of the Elkader Opera House Board by way of fan and local resident Brian Gibbs, as well as their following in the surrounding area, like Waukon, Manchester and Dyersville. They piqued board member Kay Moser’s interest after she listened to their music, which is available on Americana playlists on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon. 


Of course, the media attention Dead Horses has received also helped. That’s come from the likes of Rolling Stone, which labeled the group an “Artist You Should Know” in 2018, describing their sound as containing “smoky vocals, cinematic lyrics and rustic instrumentation that draws on bluegrass, gospel, country, folk and Americana.” The duo of guitarist/singer Sarah Vos and bassist Daniel Wolff has also been featured by Billboard and Noisey and even on Democracy Now! 


The local following was something Moser felt was “good for Elkader. The music itself “will provide more intimate, folk-inspired songs which are different than what we have had in the past,” she explained. 


Once the band was brought to the attention of the opera house board, it fell to Moser to communicate and recommend them for final approval, which in this case, Moser clearly got. 


Bringing in a new band highlights the Elkader Opera House’s efforts to provide a variety of performance options to the public. The biggest challenge during this process isn’t finding, or even deciding on, the performers; it’s the financial details, which Moser is always acutely aware of. 


It’s the dollars in the deal that has the largest impact on performer availability, mostly due to the opera house wanting to keep shows priced at reasonable rates. 


“We work very hard to bring in performers that allow us to keep ticket prices at a reasonable rate,” Moser said. “Bringing a wide variety of entertainments at a very reasonable cost to our small community is so vital.” 


On a smaller scale, promotion is another challenge. Moser noted letting people know about a show is helped through the internet, music streaming services, radio and the newspaper. All the promotion is meant to bring people into town, to the opera house and, of course, to help sell tickets. 


On the ticket front, the Dead Horses sold quickly when the show was first announced, likely to the dedicated following that made Moser aware of the show. Since then, unfamiliarity with the band NPR Music stated has an “evocative, empathetic storytelling” style has slowed sales. 


On this point, Moser said, “I hope that those who are unsure will take a chance and trust that we do the best we can to offer them quality events. If someone has heard them before, it would be great if they bring two or three more people along.”


Attracting people to the community is always in the mind of Moser as well as the opera house board. 


“In addition to the entertainment value, we strive to help bolster the economy with the hopes of drawing those in the entire region to eat, shop and be entertained. Having events in the opera house on a regular basis helps bring new people to town, and hopefully they will return,” Moser added. “Often, when someone who has never been to the opera house before attends an event, they are amazed at the beauty and offerings of Elkader. I want to see that continue, and that makes it all worthwhile.”


As for what concert-goers can expect from Dead Horses, though it’s a dark sounding name, it’s actually meant as a “loving tribute” to a friend of the band that passed away after struggling with opioid addiction. 


As a result, the music of Dead Horses, according to Vos and the band’s bio, is “about hope and joy, all while sharing an important message that you’re never alone in your battles.” 


Some of those struggles are contained in the duo’s upcoming album, Brady Street, which takes audiences on “walks through the city, past all the old churches and bars with rich histories.” It was largely written during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020, a time that, according to a recent Facebook post by Vos, “brought perspective and healing…a much needed sabbatical of sorts.” 


Once the pandemic started to recede, the lockdowns came to an end, and outdoor shows returned in 2021. The duo returned with unparalleled determination to record an album that Vos explained would reflect how much the band had grown and “how many trials [they’ve] endured, as well as many blessings.” 


Anyone interested in spending a Friday night listening to the sounds of the Dead Horses, with a concoction of “back-porch roots music,” Americana and emotive storytelling that sometimes finds inspiration in the poems of Robert Frost, can head to the Elkader Opera House stage at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 8. Tickets are available at, by calling (563) 873-2378, emailing or by stopping in to the Elkader Floral Shop on Main Street. Tickets will be available at the door as well.


According to Gibbs, the main person behind bringing Dead Horses to the attention of the opera house, the concert will be a “big, magical thing!”


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Other Upcoming Shows at the Elkader Opera House

• Mean Mary James - Award-winning musician and songwriter, sponsored by GEAR Elkader | Sunday, Aug. 14, 3 p.m.

• Monroe Sun - Adam Pope's Country, Rockabilly, Bluegrass Show | Friday, Aug. 19, 7:30 p.m.

• Carol Montag's Tribute Concert to Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins and Joan Baez | Saturday, Sept. 10, 7 p.m.

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