Indie rock stalwarts Band of Horses released their fifth studio album, Why Are You OK, back in the summer of 2016. The album garnered favorable reviews, but would prove to be the last for guitarist Tyler Ramsey and bassist Bill Reynolds, who both departed the band after ten years. Not to be deterred, frontman and sole original member, Ben Bridwell brought in guitarist Ian MacDougall and Archer of Loaf’s Matt Gentling on bass (who also played with Band of Horses prior to Reynolds) to join long-term members Ryan Monroe on keyboards/guitar and Creighton Barrett on drums. With the lineup filled back out, the Horses galloped on, touring through North America much of last year. This Spring, Band of Horses headlined the High Water Festival in their hometown of Charleston before embarking on a condensed summer tour that was just winding down when we caught them at their sold-out show this past Friday night at the Ritz in Raleigh NC.
With the Friday night crowd already starting to reach capacity, Detroit quartet Bonny Doon took the stage and proceeded to play a set of mesmerizing lo-fi indie pop that was dusted ever so slightly with a folky alt-country flavor. The songs, culled from their self-titled debut and new album, Longwave, released earlier this year, combined complex songwriting with a swirling sound that ranged between blissful and dreamy to low-key and moody. It was the perfect musical appetizer.
After a short break that saw the stage enveloped in a murky cloud of smoke, Band of Horses emerged from the haze. Frontman Ben Bridwell took a seat behind a lap steel at the front of the stage and the band reached back to 2006’s Everything All The Time to kick off the evening with “Monsters.” Bridwell remained at the lap steel for “The First Song,” before standing up, strapping on a guitar and kicking into “NW Apt.” The high-spirited vibes emanating from the stage were infectious, and it was hard to tell whether the band or the crowd had the bigger smiles. A rollicking run through “Islands on the Coast” early in the set pushed the wildly cheering packed house over the edge and the Ritz was transformed into a full-blown house party. What followed was a solid mix of songs that pulled from across their catalog, with highlights including, “No One’s Gonna Love You,” “Laredo,” and “Throw My Mess.” Bridwell and band masterfully regulated the energy and momentum of the set with the just the right blend of energetic rockers and softer introspective numbers. The evening closed out with the slow building anthemic “The Funeral,” before the band returned for a two song encore that included a cover of the Replacements “Can’t Hardly Wait” followed by “The General Specific.”
Band of Horses + Bonny Doon @ The Ritz – August 17th 2018