Live Review: Band of Horses at KEXP's Gathering Space 8/17/16

Live Reviews
08/23/2016
Jacob Webb
photos by Melissa Wax (view set)

Throughout Band of Horses' intimate semi-acoustic set at the KEXP Gathering Space, frontman Ben Bridwell repeatedly mentioned that the group's origins were only a few blocks away in a rehearsal space. "This is one of the first songs I wrote for Band of Horses, and I wrote it right down the street in Belltown," said Bridwell in one of his many between-song asides. "It's fuckin' awesome." What followed was "Part One", the closing track to side one of the band's seminal 2005 debut, Everything All The Time, and while it isn't the best known track on the album – that's "The Funeral", by a country mile – its template of '90s indie rock channeled through Appalachian folk filters may well make it the archetypical Band of Horses song. Hearing that song performed (relatively) quietly in a small room is an experience that doesn't come up often anymore since the Charleston-via-Seattle group has long graduated to bigger stages (they would play the Paramount the following night), but for 45 minutes – 15 minutes longer than they were supposed to play, as Bridwell pointed out – they were a bunch of pals fooling around in a rough Belltown rehearsal space.

The casual atmosphere of the evening was at least in part because of Bridwell's off-book banter, ranging from eye-rolled shameless plugs ("that's from our new album, out now on Interscope Records and as heard on KEXP!"), to silly band introductions ("Hey, look - it's Bill Reynolds!") to call-outs to La Marzocco ("shoutout to that strong coffee in the corner!"). His bandmates, while not as vocal, were certainly also in a loose mood, jumping into loose renditions of "In a Drawer" and "Laredo" as if they were still demoing the tracks on an Asheville porch and playing some tunes acoustic for the first time in front of an audience. Leaning equally on all their albums (except 2012's Mirage Rock, which Bridwell has recently diplomatically acknowledged as no one's favorite BOH record), the brief set felt like a small hit parade from the quintet - almost every one of their most loved songs were aired. Opening with a sparse, affecting "No One's Gonna Love You" played only by Bridwell and guitarist Tyler Ramsey and closing with a massive "Is There A Ghost?", the group's arrangements split the difference between their acoustic and anthemic tendencies. To put it succinctly, the performance felt like less like a gig and more like a rehearsal. Not in the sense that it was amateur or not put together in any way – quite the opposite – but in the sense that with the five musicians hanging out and cracking jokes while playing songs, it probably wasn't that different than what they were doing in Belltown a decade ago.

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