During this pandemic, most everybody have been trying their best, just making it up as they go along. That’s definitely true for musicians, who’ve seen their main activity/income, live performances, disappear. They’ve done Instagram livestreams from their living rooms on their iPhones. They’ve done drive-in shows to cars. They’ve done livestreams from their cars. But slowly, the web concert game has been raised, with professional production & performance. Benjamin Bridwell and Ryan Monroe of Band of Horses brought their A game on Friday, October 9th thanks to Topeka Live and Cease To Begin (QRO review).
Topeka Live is definitely a high-end performance stream platform, as not only did Bridwell & Monroe have a very nice set-up, but they were facing a crowd – sort of. The Front Row ticket-holders had their own live faces put up on the four screens in front of the musicians, like a giant Zoom musical performance. Though one where the band could only see those up front, and not those who bought tickets for the Balcony.
[your correspondent didn’t know that Band of Horses would be able to see anyone who was watching, and freaked out when he thought that they could see him. But his ticket was Balcony, which was really all for the best…]
Bridwell and Monroe were there to perform sophomore album Cease To Begin for the 2007 album’s anniversary. No, Cease isn’t Band’s breakthrough Everything All the Time of the preceding year, but that was with Bridwell’s old Carissa’s Wierd bandmate Mat Brooke, while Cease was Monroe’s first Horses album. This was also the first time many of these songs had been performed basically acoustic. And it & the evening opened with the wonderful single “Is There a Ghost”, still moving after all these years.
And there had been a lot of them, as Bridwell often remarked during the livestream. He flatly stated that it had been a while with many of these songs, to the point where he didn’t know exactly how to play them or sing some. During “The General Specific”, Bridwell (on bongo for that one) stopped in the middle and asked for help with that part from the Zoom audience. On the following “Lamb of the Lam (In the City)”, he literally sang at one point, “Can’t remember what the hell I said before…” While such uncertainty might have been a bit grating if they were playing some giant stadium, up-close-and-personal it was hilarious.
Bridwell also discussed some behind-the-scenes making-of tidbits, though most seemed to involve living in a little red caboose (memorialized “Ode To LRC”) and living near an awful neighbor referred to as “Pigman”. “Detlef Schrempf” was named after a Seattle SuperSonics player despite not being featured in the lyrics, “And no one at the label noticed…” One fan in the Front Row on screen proposed to his girlfriend (she accepted) – not during “Cigarettes, Wedding Bands”, but the preceding “Islands On the Coast”.
After finishing Cease To Begin, Bridwell & Monroe did a few other songs, including of course a newer one in “Throw My Mess” from the most recent Band of Horses record, 2016’s Why Are You OK (QRO review) – but also of course closed with the Everything breakthrough that made the Band’s name, “Funeral”.
We’re still gonna be stuck on pandemic lockdown through 2020 and into 2021. But until we can rock out again, thankfully there are artists like Band of Horses who are willing to ride the livestream bronco, and platform like Topeka that can pull it off.