I don’t know why, but it keeps happening. You’ll go to a show planning on a night of music, you get to the club, and there it is: A comedian has been added as an opener. I know indie labels have been putting out comedy albums lately, and I know I don’t have to buy ’em. But why has the rock show become the new format for up-and-coming comedians? Or even established ones, like un-funnyman Fred Armisen, who’s been a Saturday Night Live cast member for years now? And what the hell does he have to do with Band of Horses? I say keep comedy in comedy clubs for the people looking for comedy. Or, at least let the comedians go on before the musical acts.
This is what Band of Horses did at Webster Hall September 10. Additionally beneficial to the band’s reputation was that the two musical openers were perfect buildups. Simon Dawes’s strong vocals and strapping guitars were first. The four-piece brought an air of excitement, elated to be playing a large venue for a newly revered band just before the release of its new album. After all, it was opening for Iron & Wine last year that helped Band of Horses gain a fan base. Singer Taylor Goldsmith is comparable to the Walkmen‘s Hamilton Leithauser in the belting category, so it’s not surprising that they’ve found themselves label mates at Record Collection. After Simon Dawes’s brief set, singer-songwriter and Horses’ label mate Chad VanGaalen trotted onto the stage, a one-man band in a non-traditional sense. Bringing a snare and bass drum, acoustic guitar and harmonica harnessed to his neck, a seated VanGaalen hammered out his excellent barebones songs, veering from quiet to chaos, with exceptionally odd banter in-between. We all now know more about his ass-wiping habits, for example.
More than three hours into the Sunday night show, Band of Horses finally took the stage, with two members of Simon Dawes accompanying the trio to lend a hand on guitar and keys. Nixing any sort of cathartic climax for their set, the band members opened with the bombastic “The Funeral,” the invigorating centerpiece of their debut, Everything All the Time. After two songs, the always audience-friendly Ben Bridwell casually let us know that since that album only runs thirty-five minutes, the band will have to play some new tunes so as not to rip anyone off. The new material seems to rely more on the members’ alt-country leanings than the walls of guitar heard on “The Funeral” and “The Great Salt Lake.” And they did bring their lush and ear-splittingly loud game as well, with the added guitar enhancing their layered scope. This combination made for nice transitions throughout the set, which ended with an encore of covers from the New Year and Neil Young, ending a strong night that established and reinforced alt-indie as a genus that still has some life left.
“The Great Salt Lake” video
Band of Horses audio: http://www.myspace.com/bandofhorses
Chad VanGaalen audio: http://www.myspace.com/chadvangaalenSimon Dawes audio: http://www.myspace.com/simondawes