Band of Horses / Mt. Egypt
Schubas; Chicago, IL
Considering the fact that this was
an all-ages show starting at 7:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night, the crowd there to
see Band of Horses for their first of two sold-out shows was a surprisingly
older, more mainstream crowd. I guess the idea of getting home at 10:00 p.m.
to get good night's sleep before getting up early the next morning for work
appealed to more than just me. I must be getting old.
With such an early start time, opener Mt. Egypt, a one-man band from
California that plays melancholy folk in the vein of Will Oldham (with the
beard to match), kicked off to a mostly empty room that gradually filled
throughout the set. Backed by the bassist and drummer for Band of Horses, Mt.
Egypt's music was generally engaging and at times very beautiful. Band of
Horses' frontman Ben Bridwell eventually made his way onto the stage for their
last song, a more rollicking number, to sing back-up vocals. He later
professed his love for Mt. Egypt's music by saying, "Mt. Egypt is amazing. His
music makes me want to cry. So you should all check it out. If you like
Meanwhile, Band of Horses is a brand-new band playing their first tour ever.
While it's true that Bridwell has been in the scene a long time (previously
with Carissa's Weird), it's still a new sound with a new group of players. As
a result, the band definitely played like it was their first time on a stage,
and it was clear they had many kinks to work out in terms of their live show.
The band spent countless minutes in between songs tuning and changing
instruments, from lap steel to guitar to bass to a different guitar.
Unfortunately, all that tuning didn't always pay off, like when Bridwell felt
forced to put his bass down altogether during "Our Swords." Their playing at
times seemed rough, and the band blew all the obvious encore material during
the set, leaving the audience with a slow solo ballad so brand new that
Bridwell needed to bring out a sheet of lyrics to help him through the finale.
That being said, I still really enjoyed the show, even though everything I've
described so far might normally have me heading for the door. This was
primarily due to one reason: the fantastic stage presence of Ben Bridwell. His
personality and energy were so engaging it was impossible not to like him and
everything he did, especially when he threw his fists up in the air after each
song, seemingly victorious that they'd made it through. He could spend too
much time tuning the guitar, but the effortless jokes he told while we waited
made it bearable. When he gave up on the bass during "Our Swords," I laughed
with him rather than sigh in frustration. Instead of seeing a band that had
trouble getting it together, I saw a band just getting started. And regardless
of the roughness of the show, everything still sounded good. Bridwell's voice
rang out clear and crisp across the small venue, stronger than the album might
imply; opening song "Monsters" especially showcased his voice as he sat behind
his lap steel, spastically tapping his foot while the band waited to join in.
About halfway through the set, the band asked each other, "Should we do the
cover? How about we do the cover? Let's do the cover!" and then broke into a
slowed down version of Hall and Oates' "You Make My Dreams Come True," which
was hilarious and awesome at the same time. The majority of Everything All
the Time made its way onto the set list, including "The Great Salt Lake,"
"Wicked Gil," and set-closer "The Funeral," with Bridwell's enthusiasm shining
through them all the way. And even though the new songs seemed unfinished or
ill-placed, they still provided a glimpse into future material that most
likely won't disappoint.
Great, memorable shows need three things: good source material, good execution
of that source material live, and a good stage presence by the band. Band of
Horses put on a good show because they got two out of three; with so much time
ahead to refine their ability to bring those great songs to the stage, there's
potential for a great show yet.
The First Song
Great Salt Lake
You Make My Dreams Come True (Hall and Oates cover)