Band of Horses
July 5, 2007
Great American Music Hall
Better Than: The “gnarliest song ever, but also the awesomest song ever,” to quote one very passionate fan shrieking near me.
If you think music fans only get quieter as they get older, you’re wrong. Yelling out song requests, punching the air, and singing along loudly with your eyes pinched tight doesn’t necessarily wear off once you’ve left your teens. At last night’s sold-out Band of Horses show, for example, the “backup singers” I heard were literally in the back of the club, grown-ups who were so ecstatic at hearing, say, “Monsters,” that they proudly lent their voices in song. It’s the kind of enthusiasm I’ve seen a couple times at indie rock shows at Great American – when Arcade Fire first played there years back, for example – and it transforms the room into a sort of “you’re either with us or against us” vibe. Although “against us” isn’t even that hostile. Those who don’t get it -- for example, my friend Scott, who couldn’t get past the similarities between Band of Horses and “Jeremy Enigk’s the Fire Theft,” -- just stood there kinda confused. Personally, I was on the “with us,” side, standing smitten as the group gave life to tracks like “The Great Salt Lake.” But my happiness didn’t hit the rapture that consumed one superfan nearby. When Ben Bridwell launched into the opening lines of “The Funeral,” she grabbed her boyfriend and shrieked, “Oh! My! Fucking! God!” like Justin Timberlake had just beamed down on a giant disco ball. I guess these Horses guys are gonna stay pretty big.
The night wasn’t all singalongs and shout out louds, though. Overall the crowd let the band do its thing, whether that meant speeding up tracks off Everything All the Time – the once shy singer Bridwell has gained a lot of confidence performing live since the band started in 2004 -- or opening others with an acoustic guitar and pushing back the big build up. Band of Horses played each of the songs well enough to allow for some slight tinkering live, giving the fans something a bit different for cramming into the club.
Bridwell became so familiar with the audience by the end he was joking about “fake last songs,” teasing out two encores from their appreciation. And as rewarding as it was hearing original heartbreaker lines like “I’m coming up only to hold you under” from “The Funeral,” Band of Horses saved the best for the finale. Introducing a cover of “Act Together” as “something by Ron Wood,” the band hit its high mark. Bridwell sang lyrics like “We should try to get our love together/ Once in a while, put ourselves together,” like an old Stones or Faces tune, with the band’s keyboardist belting out gravelly harmonies to compliment Bridwell’s melancholy delivery. I guess if I had to pick my personal “Oh. My. God.” moment, the Wood song was it. The track momentarily transformed the band from another solid link in the legacy of moody Northwest indie rock (although, I know, the guys have relocated to South Carolina since forming) into a garagey roadhouse act full of hope, harmony, and a bit of mischief.
Random Detail: Band of Horses was recently back in Seattle, where they finished up recording the follow-up to Everything with producer Phil Ek.
By the way: Original Band of Horses member Mat Brooke has a new band, Grand Archives, which is also signed to Sub Pop. Before Band of Horses, Brooke, Bridwell, and Horses drummer Creighton Barrett had another band together, a Seattle slowcore act called Carissa’s Wierd. --Jennifer Maerz