Band of Horses, CO.
The Music Farm filled up to capacity early in the night on Monday as throngs of dedicated Band of Horses fans, young and not-so-young, hoped to catch some new BOH tunes and some old favorites. The club announced this show only a week and a half out, so local and out of town fans scrambled for tickets at the last minute. Those in attendance clearly enjoyed the setting and the sound inside the club.
Local indie-rock four-piece CO. (formerly known as Ko), stood in tight formation at the stagefront and started things up around 9 p.m. with a low-key opening set of guitar-driven originals (they added a medium-tempo rendition of Guided by Voices' "A Salty Salute," replete with the shouty chorus of "Come on, the club is open!"). They shifted between shoegazin' drones and melodic tunes, adding a bit of visual foreshadowing: with his beard and ballcap, lead singer/guitarist Brian Hannon resembled the familiar "look" of BOH singer/guitarist Ben Bridwell. CO. played their rock well, but earned only polite applause.
The crowds cheered enthusiastically as Bridwell and his bandmates — drummer Creighton Barrett, guitarist Tyler Ramsey, bassist Bill Reynolds, keyboardist Ryan Monroe, and guest violinist Laura Cortese — stepped on stage. Gracious and confident, Bridwell welcomed the audience, thanked the opener, and slowly strummed into a quiet opening tune — one of many brand-new songs from a forthcoming album the band recently recorded up in Asheville. A few minutes into the set, the whole band kicked in with an elegantly rockin', bass-heavy push. Monroe's oscillating organ blended with chiming guitar tones from Bridwell and Ramsey.
Bridwell's spot at the front of the stage put him in an oddly-lit shadow. Sometimes, all one could glimpse underneath his wide-brimmed calvary hat was his bushy beard ... it was a Johnny Paycheck-meets-Chuck Mangione (by way of Stonewall Jackson) kind of thing.
Most of the locals who'd never been to a Band of Horses show before must have been stunned by Bridwell's wide range and soaring tenor. The frontman's delicate, emotive delivery — paired with beautiful harmonies from Monroe — mesmerized the die-hards as he and the band unveiled new material through the first pile of songs. With the extra guitar, piano, and occasional pedal steel, some of the new tracks picked up where the waltzy country-rock and pop/folk of half of Cease to Begin left off.
The Horses carefully gained momentum through the last half of the set, revving up on such fan-familiar songs as the dense, pounding "The Great Salt Lake" (from Everything All the Time), and the echo-y, high-pitched "No One's Gonna Love You" (from Cease to Begin). Other highlights included a solid, dramatically heart-tugging rendition of "The Funeral" (from Everything All the Time) and the hand-clappin', sing-songy bouncer "The General Specific" (from Cease to Begin).
The audience certainly got their 20 bucks' worth, all the way through the three-and-a-half-song encore.