Band of Horses w/The Shelters | 11.30.16

Ben Bridwell’s energy output onstage was a spectacle to watch, as his body twisted and turned with every musical nuance.

band-of-horses

The Pageant, St. Louis

105.7 The Point continued its holiday tradition of “Ho Ho Shows” with Band of Horses and The Shelters at The Pageant. While The Point carries on with its annual tradition, I am starting a new one of my own. In order to expand my own musical horizons, I have asked my editors at PLAYBACK to start sending me to shows I normally wouldn’t cover.

While rock music is certainly my wheelhouse—and both Band of Horses and The Shelters certainly fall in that milieu—they are the type of bands my mainstream predictability would shield me from even giving a side glance. I really want to open myself up to the musical universe and see what is out there. Fortunately for me, this night would turn out to be the perfect on-ramp to this journey I needed to take.

That said, the night didn’t start off on the right foot. The early crowd was made up entirely of Millennials. As I am a member of the Gen-X tribe, the Millennials have served as my own anathema. While I have made strides in accepting them as they are, this group did nothing to help me bridge the age gap. Constant showing of texts, conversations debating the merits of the latest IPA, and the dreaded onslaught of selfies and then applying animal filters to those selfies made me think I had made a horrible mistake. Did I wade too far from the safe confines of the mainstream? Did I leap before I looked?

All of their manic panic and wildly gesticulating arm-waving made me seek refuge in an area I usually avoid: the Under-21 playpen. While I found solace in this area, I also found dads who had taken their young kids to the show—and who just happened to be playing Pokemon Go. Now this is a crowd with which I could roll.

The Shelters took to the stage to a smattering of applause. At first I thought we were being rude as a city to our guests, but this is the first time the L.A. group has ever played St. Louis. On tour to promote their debut self-titled album, the band launched into “Birdwatching,” followed by “Surely Burn.” Both tracks showcased the band’s high energy and impressive guitar work.

I was immediately fascinated by how polished this relatively new band sounded. Despite extensive touring, Josh Jove’s vocals were on point and full of rock ’n’ roll goodness. The vibe of the bands was ’60s AM rock mixed with that undeniable Southern California, laidback vibe. The band’s harmonies were solid and helped create a fully realized Beatles-like sound.

As the band plowed through an arsenal of rock tracks including“Fortune Teller,” “Never Look Behind Ya,” and “Rebel Heart,” I appreciated how they mixed rockabilly with their British Invasion vibe. The highlight of their impressive set was their performance of “The Ghost Is Gone.” Obviously influenced by The Doors, this song is full of trippy guitars and classic John Densmore drumbeats. Any pent-up aggression I had left my body after this mind-expanding performance.

If you only get one chance to make a first impression, The Shelters certainly made full use of this opportunity, as St. Louis seemed to fall in love with the band. My only critique was that I wished they interacted with the audience a bit more. Despite this oversight, The Shelters’ set was a perfect set-up to Band of Horses.

As The Point’s Donny Fandango took to the stage to introduce Band of Horses, I had to pause and reflect. I know Donny from years gone by: Both he and I cut our radio DJ teeth at St. Louis Community College’s radio station, KCFV. While we were both on our way to become legendary DJs, it’s interesting to see how choices in our lives have led us down different paths. He has had an impressive radio career here and in Chicago, and here I sit in the audience furiously scribbling notes. I wanted to scream (with one fist in the air), “He has my career!” but jealousy in this industry is a killer, and I truly am happy for Donny and his continued success.

Band of Horses took to the stage to an overwhelming amount of love coming from the crowd. Where The Shelters were clearly a four-piece band, Band of Horses seemed more like a commune of musicians. While the spotlight stayed on lead singer Ben Bridwell, the rest of the band seemed to lurk in the shadows, concentrating on their contributions to the overall sound of the band.

As they created a very laidback, groovy vibe by kicking off their set with jams such as “For Annabelle,” “Factory,” and “Cigarettes, Wedding Bands,” I couldn’t help but fall head over heels in love with Bridwell’s vocals. His spirit is overwhelmingly genuine and passionate. His energy output onstage was a spectacle to watch, as his body twisted and turned with every musical nuance. This man not just a musician, but a passionate performer, to boot.

No matter if they debuted a new song from their latest album, Why Are You OK, such as “Solemn Oath,” or a more established song like “Laredo,” the crowd went all in, giving the band back as much love as they gave the crowd. While the high-energy songs were great to watch, it was when the band slowed things down and Bridwell sang in his lower register that the emotional realness was all consuming.

Another enjoyable aspect of the show was how humble the band members appeared. There seemed to be an absence of ego in the band. Bridwell joked with the crowd about how there was 102 albums put out this year and they didn’t even make the list of “Best 100 Albums.” It’s that kind of spirit that not only entertains the fans, but endears them at the same time.

Giving the audience what they came for, Band of Horses continued their jam session with song after song (a whopping 20, in total), including highlights such as “Our Swords,” “Hag,” and a very impressive version of “The Funeral.” The band played well into the 11 o’clock hour (on a school night!) before leaving the crowd exhausted but happy.

Band of Horses may not be what I consider mainstream, but they should be. This was the first time I have ever seen this band, and I am now a permanent fan. I don’t see how this performance won’t make my list of “Top 10 Concerts of 2016”—which you can read right here on PLAYBACK in the near future.

Funny how the (musical) universe works: When you ask for something, you get it. | Jim Ryan

Follow me on Twitter @PlaybackSTLJim. You never know where I am going to pop up next.

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