Quick Concert Review: Band of Horses

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An obscene amount of bands out there are moniker-d with animal-related names. And some fictional ones, as well. Most of them are annoying. Most of them are not Band of Horses. There are a lot of bands out there that can string a set together on a Friday. There are a lot of those same bands that would have a hard time entertaining you on a Sunday night. Most of them are not Band of Horses.

This isn’t to say that the performance and its accompanying video presentations were perfect (is it really necessary to project a photo of the Great Salt Lake while playing….The Great Salt Lake)? And there was That Guy standing in front of me that smelled like he either: (A) had peed himself 12 – 16 hours ago, (B) was homeless, (C) needed to Occupy a shower.

Most of the time, the band was fittingly and soothingly backed by a bucolic scene of a mountain, an elk, a river….but occasionally they got a bit cute. At one point, in fact, I swear that the video in the background made the jump to hyperspace. And that was wonderfully-mockingly-ironically fitting, on some level, because the crowd had definitely gone plaid.  Seriously, I haven’t seen so many people in plaid since Singles….from hipster flannel to the Southern Swoop types with their JCrew plaid shirts….yes, it was a testament to the crossover popularity of plaid these days. Not that the attendant fellas of U.S. Royalty were following that trend. Nope, these fashionable scenesters were resplendent in wool fedoras and vintage Sherpa sweaters. And, at least one of them – bearing a resemblance to a certain member of the Sforza family – found some time mid-show for PDA with a cute brunette (Sooooo rock n’ roll….nice move, bro’!).

ANYWAYS….for a Sunday night, the crowd’s density was impressive. There are sold-out shows and there are SOLD-OUT shows. This one didn’t quite reach the insane levels of those shows at 9:30 Club, (The Pogues, The Hold Steady), where it is insanely crowded due to the BMI-related reality of a crowd that is 90% dudes – or one all-these-years ago when they significantly oversold a Tori Amos show in her heyday – but there weren’t many no-shows, to say the least.

The band seemed suitably impressed with the scene before them to comment about how DC crowds are their favorite (bands aren’t overtly and obviously patronizing like that in the Internet Age, are they? Nahhhhh…). And, at times, they are clearly not patronizing and perhaps a bit masturbatory as the jams jam on….and on….and on. It might have been during this moment that I was reminded that we weren’t properly primed for this experience….yep, “we should have shotguns for this sort of deal”. Of course, if we HAD been smoking before the show, these extended elements would surely have been nothing short of glorious. And who says masturbation can’t be glorious, anyway?

Oh yeah….back to the music. There are moments where one can hear that more recent Seattle sound (formed in Seattle, their southern accents are less disconcerting now that they’re based in Charleston, SC). There are dramatic moments reminiscent of the saccharine sweet indie pop of James Mercer’s Shins. There are moments where jam band influences become undeniable (they are soon to serve as the opener for My Morning Jacket, after all). But most moments, one observes two guys serving as the backbone of the live show (that would be your hirsute and plaid-sporting lead singer/ guitarist Ben Bridwell and keyboardist / guitarist Ryan Monroe). One heard a tight performance, melodies that soared and receded in wavelike fashion, and high-register vocals that meshed effortlessly. Emotional shifts in the crowd occurred solely as a result of minimalist chords that build throughout each song. And, ultimately one left the show sated but not wowed, pleased but not orgasmically so. While the performance may not have set our hair on fire, it was the right vibe for a Sunday night show. Good crossover band, good crossover show.

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Behrnsie has a love for music that dare not speak its name. He attends many shows and can often be found counting out the beats for no discernible reason. He played alto saxophone in his middle school jazz band, where he was best known for infuriating his instructor when it was revealed that he played everything by ear, and could not in fact read music. He takes great pride that this is the same talent/affliction that got Tori Amos kicked out of the Peabody Academy. He does not live in his parents’ basement….except during the holidays.