Band of Horses - The Wiltern - September 8, 2011
Better Than: Sitting on the porch of a cabin in the woods with loved ones drinking a beer and listening to cicadas.
Band of Horses has two gears: mellow-pseudo-philisophical and crushing-rock-goliath, and they briefly cruised in the former to start their set last night. "Ode To LRC" began slow, without the rhythm section. Hell, folks were already putting lighters in the air. But then suddenly on a downstroke the drums and bass kicked, all the lights came on, and they started kicking ass.
The most exhilarating part of this moment, however, was that the blank wall behind them became illuminated with a giant image. Other rock groups might have used an exploding fireball, a detonating building, or wizards shooting lightning bolts at each other. Band of Horses, however, chose a duck. Taking flight. You can see it above. Okay, so maybe it's not a duck, but it's definitely waterfowl.
Other screen images for the evening included a marsh, a crumbling shack in the middle of a wheat field, and a lake. It was all quite Ranger Rick, but it fit the BoH aesthetic, which also somehow permits Ben Bridwell to wear a trucker hat circa 2011. Partly because the group removed their "Pacific Northwest Sound" stench by hightailing it from Seattle back to South Carolina a few years back, Bridwell is literally the only person playing sensitive rock who can pull off such headgear; one senses he's got just enough white trash in him to qualify, representing perhaps 1/3 of his being, with another 1/3 being hipster and the final 1/3 being bearded, presumed-amateur-pot farmer.
I absolutely adore this band. Some say that their latest, Infinite Arms, doesn't measure up, and the group seemed to take that to heart a bit, not playing many songs from the work. But I believe Band of Horses albums are like pizza, sex, and Coen Brothers movies -- even when they're bad, they're still pretty good.*
They performed their songs almost exactly the way they sound on their CDs -- always a good sign -- and on almost every track were able to channel the arena-rock aggressiveness you can tell they've got buried beneath all of those good vibes.
Critical Bias: I like bands who take themselves seriously but not that seriously but still sort of seriously.
Random Notebook Dump: The Wiltern's VIP section (located behind the soundboard and surrounded by velvet ropes) is the most permeable and pointless one I've encountered, but those complaining about the $7 beers have clearly never been to a major league baseball game.
The crowd: Way more women than I expected, maybe 4 in 10, many of them dressed like they were going to see Jason Mraz. The guys, meanwhile, were of the post-Ed Hardy school of fashion, yet somehow, not a single one had the balls to wear a trucker cap.
Set list below.