In the biggest Pool Party to date, Band of Horses rode into McCarren Park Pool like the greatest cowboy lifeguards you’ve ever seen. Less than a month removed from the finish of Cease to Begin, their follow-up to their breakthrough debut full-length, Everything All the Time, the Horses split their Sunday, July 22nd set roughly between an Everything-heavy first half, and a Cease-heavy second. If what they played is any indication of what’s to come, Cease looks to contain more straightforward guitar rock, which can even verge on the alt-country, but still to be no less awesome.
The Horses played to a packed McCarren Park Pool (QRO venue review) – this was an event that no hipster could miss, and the line to enter that stretched down the park attested to that fact (not to mention all the über-VIP’s who lined the side of the now-harder-to-access stage). Sure, the perfect weather played a part, as did a higher-than-usual indie fan count in the Big Apple that weekend, thanks to the previous day’s Village Voice Siren Music Festival, but mostly, it was the Horses. Despite the Band’s Seattle roots and western twang, there’s long been a place for them in Brooklyn, and the crowd took to the Horses like it was the Belmont Stakes. It was all very different from their recent much-talked-about experience in San Diego, where the crowd was largely apathetic until Band of Horses played their ‘hit’ single, “The Funeral”, and most of the audience there spent that song making their own poor quality films for their own poor quality blogs; that all led Horses singer/guitarist Ben Bridwell to flip one off and denounce the whole process, sending the indie internet into a tizzy. In general, New York City indie fans are far too hip and jaded to video-record any band’s song, let alone the most obvious choice.
But perhaps knowing that the crowd might not react quite as favorably to an initial overabundance of new material, Band of Horses played mostly Everything in the beginning, though they still took advantage of the crowd’s overeager anticipation to open with the new song, “Ghost”. Probably the leadoff track on Cease to Begin, “Ghost” was expansive like all good Band of Horses, yet it was also brighter (though that may have also been due to the sunny, open setting). Then the Horses wowed the crowd with the two best Everything tracks that aren’t “Funeral”, “The Great Salt Lake” and “Weed Party”. The ironically fun – but also just plain fun – “Weed Party” had the crowd dancing, while “Salt Lake” is probably, to a Brooklynite, the best thing about Utah this side of Karl Malone.
Band of Horses then delivered the best song they’ve released that isn’t on Everything, the beautifully wafting “The Snow Fall” (from their 2005 self-titled, self-released EP). Everything numbers also in the middle of the set included the well-worn “Monsters”, that was maybe a bit too slow, especially when paired up with a slow new song (that is, in Bridwell’s words, “about October”), the not-that-impressive on Everything – but certainly impressive live – “Part One”, and yes, “The Funeral”. And again, yes, “Funeral” got the biggest cheer of anything that Band of Horses played – but not as big as when they came on, or when the crowd wanted them to come back on for an encore. More importantly, played live, one can easily understand why everyone wants a live video of it for his or her site.
As Band of Horses got further and further into their set, they played more and more new songs. While some were like “Ghost” and the one about October, and were reminiscent of the intricate, expansive material they made before Horses co-founder Matt Brooke left, others leant more heavily on the kind of western guitar-rock that would suit Bridwell’s full, lustrous beard. There were some other steps into different directions, like Bridwell sharing singing duties on one song with keyboardist Ryan Monroe, and returning to his Carissa’s Wierd-era bass-playing roots one another (though he did not go all the way back to what he originally did in his old band, and play drums).
Now just about a full year removed from Brooke’s departure, Band of Horses is definitely Ben Bridwell’s band, but all in all, they seem better for it. That kind of pressure can probably weigh on a guy (and San Diego frat-boy surfer-dude crowds suck), but nothing will do you more right than Brooklyn, and nothing in Brooklyn will do you more right than a McCarren Park Pool Party. And it’s hard to think of a band that will do a Pool Party crowd more right than Band of Horses.