Band of Horses at the Rave
The heat index in Milwaukee had dropped considerably by Friday night. Unfortunately, even the über-darkness of the Rave could not save it from an overload of concertgoers sucking up all the oxygen and cramming every last space on the main floor.
The effect was a sweatbox, meant to transport those inside to a more transcendent place while the dreamy, laid-back rock sounds of Band of Horses filled the room. Eventually the whole thing turned into a big modern Americana lovefest sing-along with a mass of heads bobbing along and watching the Montana Big Sky-inspired multimedia show that filled the entire backdrop onstage. As I hid in various balcony corners to find the best mix of cooling, rickety ceiling fan and vantage point, it began to feel a bit like Invasion of the Body Snatchers — where I was one of the few left unpodded.
Despite little airplay on mainstream radio, some SXSW success and only a few seconds of pop culture exposure as BOH’s song “the Funeral” had the ‘ooooo-woooo’ harmonies part used in a 2008 Ford commercial, there is a lot of expectation of success around the 2010 release of Infinite Arms. It’s the first to be a real hybrid of indie under major label Columbia’s watch, and it’s a pretty well-thought out album.
The cover art speaks exactly to the audience BOH hope to reach: alt-country rock kids in goofy love rolling on a hill underneath the passing stars.
Affecting the same tempo and pace throughout the evening, it’s all very pleasant and shows mellow shades of Neil Young, Wilco, and the Flaming Lips. The lyrics and sound were perfect for a nighttime summer session, but yet I just wasn’t getting that transportative feeling.
At one point, I decided to make a suicide run across the front middle just to see what the fuss was about. I literally shoved an arm out straight from the Rave’s entrance doors parallel to the stage until I was dead center. On the way, front-to-back cuddling couples looked bewildered, a young woman’s trance whilst staring at skinny, bearded frontmen was broken, and a giant dude recording the concert on a camera looked peeved at me. Pausing for a moment, I looked straight into Tyler Ramsey’s eyes.
My God, they were full of stars.
No, not really. I realized at this point the audience had handed themselves over to a desire to feel good rather than having BOH prove themselves worthy.
The band was engaging with the audience in spurts, but was mostly meandering in a pattern about the stage: Bass player backs up a few steps, juts his chin out, then walks back. Lead guitarist wears trucker hat until it gets too hot. Lead singer cries into the microphone, the lights go crazy, and he goes to see what the drummer looks like for a few bars.
The most fun was when Band of Horses pulled out songs from Cease to Begin or Everything All the Time. Despite the fact that most of the band has rotated characters since those albums, they sounded spot on. The epic soar that comes with “Is There a Ghost” was soaring and the near crowd-karaoke hit fever pitch with “Weed Party”.
I honestly have nothing bad to say about Band of Horses or their performance at the Rave as part of WMSE’s Radio Summer Camp. The great irony was that if this concert was held at Bradford Beach with a few giant bonfires, it might have been perfect.
But in the dark oven of the Rave, it will have to do.