Band of Horses and Howlin Rain @ Marquee Theatre|10/26/12
By Mike Cryer
Please indulge a quick note about the Marquee before we talk music. All is right in the universe if Ricky Dimmick is tending bar there. If you haven't met Rick, she's the one who makes you feel grateful you're being served. Her style is so ambivalent her tips accrue on the bar-top until you force her to pocket her cash for fear the dough will get swiped. On occasion, Rick's customers have improvised collections at closing-time in the guise of philanthropy just to make her an extra buck. Her hustle is so persuasive it approaches genius. She's the coolest.
Now the music...
The Bay Area's Howlin' Rain opened last night, and their brand of guitar rock had some folks confused. Are they a parody of '70s and '80s arena rock? The answer is, no.
Rain isn't ironic but they do suffer from imitative fallacy -- if a band recreates a sound that was originally cheese-ball that band might suffer the same fate. You couldn't help but think while they rocked out, "If Trey Parker and Matt Stone had hired a band to compose the song 'Montage' for the first South Park movie, that band would've been Howlin' Rain." Something like synchronized head banging almost happened . . .
When Band of Horses took the stage, the room changed. And it changed dramatically.
There's no mistake about it. BoH is a great live band. Production on some of the group's albums has inadvertently cleaned up rough edges for the sake of "atmosphere" -- but the rough edges are what made last night's show incredible. Ben Birdwell isn't Jimmy James or vice versa. Birdwell's uninhibited charisma and the rest of the Horses' artistry is something to celebrate.
Last night, BoH dropped into songs such as "The Great Salt Lake" and "No One's Gonna Love You," attempting to express the calamitous sense of loss that surrounds us all. And they're not being melodramatic! That's the best part. Melancholy isn't a bad thing. It's a complex emotion. There's a sweetness to it that BoH understands.
The most interesting line from "No One's Gonna Love You" is redemptive: "We are the ever-living ghost that once was..." The 'ghost' is the nostalgic remnant from something lost. And nostalgia is always sweet.
If you looked around when that line was sung, many were embraced.
What's amazing is BoH's instrumentation supports the emotional complexity of its lyrics where other bands might self-consciously overshadow such a delicate gesture with too much attention.
Appropriately, their final song before the encore was "The Funeral" -- a song that begins quietly and then jumps into an aggressive, guitar-driven demonstration. It acted as an exclamation point ending the show.
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And as Big Papa Hemingway would have it, some of us left stronger in those broken places for having listened.
Critic's Notebook: Overheard: "I'm so fucking stupid I can do anything!" Weather: Moist Sports: Fierce competition for the most bearded. Politics: Politics and art don't mix. Thank god there was none. Economy: Rick Dimmick Fashion: Skinny sag.