I walked up the steps of the Commodore Ballroom shortly after 10PM on Wednesday to find a fairly typical bar scene: small groups of people drinking beer, people in lineups far too long waiting for the ATM and bathroom, and bussers frantically trying to keep up with the high volume of precariously stacked glasses. When the band came on stage, the seemingly calm crowd erupted in cheers. They took their time settling into to their spots on the stage, carefully adjusting their straps or seats. Before anything was played, Ben Bridwell thanked everyone for a great tour. Everyone clapped, and they started playing “Islands On the Coast.” I’ve noticed that many bands will start a performance with a song from their latest or yet to be released album. It’s unfortunate, because there’s something about starting a set with a familiar song that gets a crowd excited and engaged. Followed by the ‘thank you’ from Bridwell, it seemed like the band was saying, “Hey, thanks for the support everyone. Here’s a song that you have all loved for a long time.” It united the audience in a way that a new song couldn’t have.
Band Of Horses has gone through many lineup changes since their formation in Seattle in 2004. Despite this instability, they performed together flawlessly. Bridwell is undoubtedly the main focus of the group, and the other players do a brilliant job
of supporting him. They all seemed to be angled towards the lead singer, waiting for cues and contributing vocals when harmonies or power was needed. The band played through a few more familiar songs that were well received, and as the evening wore on,
the crowd seemed to be getting closer together. People weaved through little groups to see other friends and strangers exchanged smiles when they noticed others singing along with them. When they played “Marry Song,” it was hard to hear Bridwell’s voice
over the crowds. All of these songs were being played while beautiful pastoral images flashed across a stage-sized screen behind the band. Oceans, fields with broken-down cottages, birds, and trees… it made me think about the influence of the west coast on
its inhabitants. We are constantly exposed to the juxtaposition of city and nature and it can be both comforting and upsetting. We can easily reach the ocean or the forest if we want a break from city noise, but we can also see the receding tree line on the mountains as bigger houses are built. In spite of the cityscape that constantly surrounds Band Of Horses, nature has an apparent effect on the band. After playing “Marry Song,” Bridwell announced that they would play a few songs from the album they are currently recording
Band Of Horses quickly picked things up after testing some new material. When they started playing “The Funeral,” people near the bar rose from their seats to get closer to the stage, and I heard several excited fans yell “yes!” while leaning in closer to their friends. The band has been releasing good songs for long enough to elicit some nostalgia in its current listeners, and I am definitely one of those listeners. I was standing towards the back of the crowd when they played “No One’s Gonna Love You.” I watched two tall, burly, bearded men holding beers quietly sing along to the song. When they realized they were both singing under their breath, they threw their arms around each other’s shoulder, clinked their bottles, and sang together. I felt a little jump in my chest and couldn’t help smiling. The songs were akin to the band’s current style, only lacking familiarity. What I found
most interesting about the new music was the change in backdrop. The only time the images showed buildings and cars was when they played their latest songs. The band has been touring a lot in recent years, and the cities they find themselves in may be having an effect on their music.
The band left the stage without a goodbye and the audience cheered for more, though “cheered” may be an understatement. The crowd stomped on the floor until you could feel the room vibrating and clapped in unison until Band Of Horses returned. Bridwell was sweaty and looked a little tired, but the band played through their last three songs triumphantly. They finished with “Ode to the LRC,” and there couldn’t have been a more fitting song. Everyone in the room chimed in as loudly as they could when Bridwell
sang, “The world is such a wonderful place.” Singing along and looking at all of the smiling faces in the room gave me goose bumps. It seemed to be the perfect send off to a rainy, Vancouver fall evening. Together with Band Of Horses, we celebrated the end of a beautiful summer, and looked toward many wonderful days to come.
Photos of Band Of Horses © Jamie Taylor