Due to the propensity that Brooklyn has for flash rainstorms, I was late to the show, which infuriated me. A monsoon erupted right around the time I got off work, and I managed to get caught in it not once, but twice. But, I was going to see Band of Horses even if I was a bedraggled mess of a journalist, so when I showed up to House of Vans in Greenpoint a half hour after listed set time, I was pleased to discover I had only missed three songs. Not only that, but BoH veterans went on to play 21 full songs, after months of indie band shows seeing a major band perform again felt a bit odd. I mean 21 songs counting the encores? It was almost too many, but the musicianship of Band of Horses live allowed them to carry it off.
Sadly, since I was late, I missed my absolute favorite nostalgic jam “NW Apt.” off their third full length record Infinite Arms. This track is basically a love song dedicated to what life in Seattle feels like and it reminds me of driving through those streets late at night with my sister Natalie. Band of Horses got their start in that beautiful emerald city, sparking the interest of Sub Pop, but have since relocated to South Carolina where lead singer Ben Bridewell is from. However, their stint in the Northwest inked something of that area into both their sound and their demeanor. Bridewell’s heartfelt interaction with the crowd and humility, even after all these years, was a far cry from many indie bands’ stone-faced-hipster game.
I luckily was able to see several of my other favorite songs as the band leaned heavily on their back catalogue. Probably because their new album is honest-to-God pretty terrible. The only track that even hints at their former chops is the whisper-gruff album closer “Heartbreak On The 101.” The first song I was really settled in for was “No One’s Gonna Love You” which has been an anthem for times of disaster for me since I first fell in love back in 2007.
Surprisingly, a large part of their setlist was taken from the album that track appears on, their second record Cease To Begin. Other highlights they played from this record include the mysterious powerhouse opener “Is There A Ghost” and almost defiant “Ode To The LRC.” They actually played every track off this record except two, which pleased me immensely because until Infinite Arms this was their strongest release. But this was also a bit confusing – this show was supposed to be in support of their new record that came out that day. Maybe they realize their latest record is a little slapstick too?
On a personal note, two days ago was Bridewell’s wife’s birthday, and he dedicated “Marry Song” to her. She happened to be standing right behind us and tried to go up to the stage a little bit to show him she saw him, but alas, it was a missed connection. I’m sure they celebrated later. Another funny moment was when a drunk bro to our left took advantage of a lull between songs to plead the play “On My Way Back Home” from Infinite Arms. Bridewell tried to shrug it off, but it was so awkward that he literally couldn’t. Somehow, he drugged up the words from his memory and kind of convinced the other members of the band into a chord progression. He admitted after the rugged rendition that the band had never actually performed that song live. But still, classy that he attempted it just to make some kid’s night a little bit better. I’m not trying to be biased as a native Oregonian, but that’s the type of shit you see Northwest musicians (and people, for that matter) doing all the time. Maybe there’s something about closer contact with nature that facilitates greater care for other beings. I’m probably being biased.
They played about three songs from their new record – none of them were memorable sadly. From their debut record they played “The Great Salt Lake” and closed their regular set list with their biggest hit, thundering “The Funeral.” After a lengthy, and I mean lengthy break, the re-took the stage and played “Detlef Schrempf” (Go Blazers!) and “Infinite Arms.”
Overall, everyone at House of Vans seemed pretty happy. I was pretty happy. I’d never seen this band live despite the fact that I’ve liked them quite a bit since 2006 when Cease To Begin came out. They had a raw energy when playing live that has weirdly never been captured on any of their albums, despite different producers and even band lineup changes. I’m genuinely sad their new record is so terrible, but I have to admit that it honestly is. Well, the good thing about bands is they come at us in phases, here’s to their next try, or, here’s to their back catalogue.