It’s been a long, pandemic-induced break, but slowly bands are coming back to the road, Band of Horses very much included. The alt-country/rock group eased back in this year by playing the likes of Splendour XR virtual music festival (QRO recap) and in-person at Austin City Limits Festival (QRO photos), and came to New York City on Monday, October 18th, for the first of three back-to-back-to-back nights at the new Brooklyn Made.
It was great when Brooklyn Made (QRO venue review) opened up just back on September 30th, but the space is relatively small for that far out in Bushwick, if tilting upscale. This was how a group like Band of Horses could play three nights at the intimate place, but also meant that the venue was packed, and its design, from odd walls to narrow spaces, did not help matters. Moreover, this was just as the pandemic has been easing (hopefully for good), and as the weather was turning colder, so even for those who’d seen some outdoor events & festivals in the late summer, this might be one of their first indoor shows – and very likely their first at Brooklyn Made, plus first show where the crowd got their heavier jackets out. You kind of had to pick whether you wanted to see or be able to move, and hope there wasn’t a tall person or pillar in your way.
None of this dissuaded Band of Horses, who were excited to start their three-night run there, frontman Benjamin Bridwell remarking at one point, “I want to see your band here!” Sometimes the multi-night run can wear or daunt an act, other times it can energize, and this was definitely the latter case. While Bridwell did start off seated on pedal steel for opener “The First Song”, for the rest of the show he & the Band bounded about the small stage.
One question with any Band of Horses show is how much they’re going to play of their earlier material, particularly 2006 breakthrough debut Everything All the Time, which Bridwell made before any of the rest of the Band were Horses. This was answered at the get-go with Everything’s “First”, and the record was healthily drawn from, including, “Our fake last song; we’ll come out and do one more,” – of breakthrough single “The Funeral”.
Bridwell did also mention that they would be varying the set list, night-to-night, so that some of their staples might not be played that night, but it was impressive how many great songs they did get to; but they really just have a lot of great songs, from Everything’s “The Great Salt Lake” (with amusing expectant pause in the chorus by Bridwell as the audience hung on) and tragic “St. Augustine”, plus “Weed Party” in the encore, to a number from 2007 follow-up Cease To Begin (QRO review) including “Is There a Ghost” & “Ode to LRC”, plus “Detlef Schrempf” (where Bridwell turned to his band to clap for them) & “The General Specific” in the encore, rollicking “Laredo” & “NW Apt.” off of 2010’s Infinite Arms (QRO review), and “Casual Party” & “In a Drawer” from 2016’s Why Are You OK (QRO review), their last new record.
[note: just the week before, Band of Horses announced a new record coming in January ’22, Things Are Great, and released single “Crutch” – QRO review – but neither that nor anything else new was played this night]
Getting to widen and play around with the set list over the run also meant pulling out some covers. Earlier in the night, there was “Neon Moon”, a full-on Brooks & Dunn cover, to remind you of Band of Horses’ country roots. But there was also The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait”, an amazing pop-punk song with an amazing opening riff that lit up the room [or at least your ‘Mats-loving correspondent…]. The Replacements were known as an excellent cover band back in their eighties day, and it’s come full circle with great covers of The Replacements.
Oh, and special note of Bridwell wishing happy birthday to their tour manager, Brian. Bridwell repeatedly tried to get Brian on stage, to no avail. But guitarist Ian MacDougall did note that he had been touring with Brian since MacDougall was 17 (someone in the band asked if it had been legal for Brian to take a minor across state lines…).
With a new album out in January, and likely/hopefully the country/venues being more open in 2022, it won’t be that long before Band of Horses are on the road again. But then it’ll likely be there usually big places & traditional set lists, and couldn’t be special like this night.