Band of Horses, an American-Rock / Indie-Rock band, have released 5 albums now, including 2010's Infinite Arm – its Grammy nomination was clearly a pretty big seal of industry approval. Their most recent album was 2016’s release Why Are You OK, suggesting they are touring between albums and testing some new material.
The age-diversity of the crowd shows how far-reaching and accessible this band’s message is. Band of Horses' following seemed to include people with tattoos, people too young to buy alcohol, and people wearing those padded waistcoat jackets that make them look like fishermen.
Once the band took to the stage, the whole crowd was infected with their contagious enthusiasm. Ben Bridwell impressed on lead vocals, showing a remarkable range, sadly slightly dampened by sound engineering problems throughout the gig which hindered lyrics from being fully heard and understood. It was obviously a mic problem, as the clarity of their (albeit limited and awkward) between-song banter was also affected. They reclaimed some showmanship points by pausing, teasing the crowd on the verge of major-chord bangers' choruses such as the one in 2016’s 'Solemn Oath'.
But at the end of the day, this is a band that is dedicated to the music; they don't need tricks and jokes between songs. Their music and talent speaks for itself, and certainly did on Thursday night. The venue was busy, leaving only enough room to air-drum with static legs or bob awkwardly, 90's grunge style - which was admirably mirrored by bassist Matt Gentling's Kobain-esque style of getting lost in the music. Passion for their music was conveyed in every single closed-eye, head-bob and wistful eye-gleam the band shared.
Band of Horses regaled the crowd with highlights from their fifteen year career by including such tunes like their 2006 release 'The Funeral'. Ryan Monroe demonstrated his musical prowess and dexterity by alternating from his impressive guitar ability, seen and heard in 2016’s 'In a Drawer', to songs like 2018's 'Into My Arms', on keyboard. The sound engineering challenges didn't prevent the audience from singing along and connecting deeply with the band's lyrics. I found myself in a sea of people crying following 'No One's Gonna Love You', and people holding their hearts and smiling at the stage.
As an introvert and generally uncool person, it is a big, reluctant deal for me to ever go somewhere featuring crowds, loud music and unfamiliarity. But in a night with all those worst-nightmare ingredients, I was pleasantly surprised to not be pining for my dressing gown and cat at any point. Instead, I had the privilege of experiencing a collective trip to the emotion, authenticity and roots of being that are only experienced when a band truly connects with their audience through their lyrics, music and talent. Despite being Grammy-nominated, this band showed no sign of having Hollywood’s tentacles embroiled in their being, standing in their vulnerability of not being 100% polished as is seen in a lot of mainstream acts.
Unfortunately, Band of Horses are only playing one date in Oxford, but there are still plenty of other opportunities to catch them in the UK - find tickets on their website if you enjoy genuine musical talent, woven in with the magic of Boho story-telling.