You want music to save your life part two-Band of Horses Live Nov 10 2007

I was reading an interview on “Pitchfork”: (sorry Alex I can’t help myself, some folks read People Magazine, I read Pitchfork)- where in an interview with “PJ Harvey”: the interviewer said that music didn’t mean as much to him now as it did when he was 17. I actually paused on that one. I felt worried for a moment that this might be true for me. Then I realized, naaa, my tastes might have changed subtly, but I probably depend on music more now than I did when I was 17. Like a lot of 17 year old disaffected youth, I *might* have used music as part of my identity. I am this sort of person because I listen to this type of music. Or was I that sort of person because I liked that sort of music? It’s really a semantic or theologic question. Was there light and then god, or was there light because of god?

Back then the question was how punk rock could you be? How many obscure 7″ singles could you own from bands that were together for less than a year. In some cases those bands are still really cool, and the music is really good. But I have to say I’ve gotten out my Beatles Revolver, my Johnny Cash, my U2 albums a lot more often than Slint’s Spiderland LP. This is not a knock against Slint, but more to say that obscurity for the sake of obscurity is for me becoming more and more irrelevant. I listen to music almost all day now at work, (headphones are on as we speak) and music serves so many purposes I couldn’t even list all of them.

Having been through the dark times when getting a babysitter was hard, money was tight, and life generally prevented us from going out very often, we’ve only now started to squeak back out a bit. This week was unusual in that we saw two concerts in one week. I haven’t done that since college. I used to go see some punk band in somebody’s basement twice a week in college. But now it’s unheard of to be entertained so much in one week. Broken Social Scene and Band of Horses in one week made me feel 20 again. Unfortunately there were some 20 year olds next to me to keep it real. I am balder, crankier, and smarter than most twenty year olds.

“Tyler Ramsey”: the guitarist for Band of Horses opened the show. He had a delicate finger picking style of guitar playing, and some nice songs. His voice was delicate and sort of hovered between singing full out and speaking which was pretty complimentary to what he was playing. He has an album coming out in January of 2008, _A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea_.

The Drones from Australia played next. This four piece walked out, turned everything up to eleven and started wailing. Their songs had that type of quiet loud quiet loud dynamic, with a bit of the swamp rock, death loving, I’ll screw your sister when you’re not looking type of mojo going on. Some of the songs were over the eight minute mark, and their singer really gave it his all. It was fun to watch. Gabriel would have enjoyed it I think.

Band of Horses came last. Their first song, _Monsters_ from Everything all the Time minus the banjos was belted out with style. I love the following lines from Monsters,

??a tree for all these problems
they can find us for the moment
then for all past efforts
there buried deep beneath
our hearts and somewhere in our stomachs
and hey, transform all others
when awful people they surround you
well hey, they just like monsters
they come to feed on us
giant little animals for us??

The next couple of songs were also from the debut album, but were plagued by feedback from the vocal microphone. Everything seemed sorted out by the time the band played _Is There a Ghost_ . The full band sound behind this short, but full on driving number had the crowd on its feet. The drumming was solid and forceful backed by a three guitars bass and organ lineup.

_The General Specific_ an upbeat southern church stomper of a tune was dead on, if not better than the albun backed by the crowd clapping, and good piano. I’ve unfortunately been seen all over town clapping along to the downbeat of this song, and keening along in my poor falsetto while running. While this is my new favorite tune, if you see me in Kalamazoo singing along to this in running tights at night, do not film me.

??If your trials end, are really getting you down
We had a close call, I didn’t even see it, then another one, I hardly believed it at all.
What the writers say, it means shit to me now.
Plants and animals, we’re on a bender when it’s 80 degrees, the end of December was coming on,
Only for you and me.
When the showing up ends, going back to the south, where hungry necks that I know, and runnin’
A blender in a lightning storm, disguised as a blessing I’m sure.
Knowing up here, there comes a fork in the road, pants have gotta go, we’re on an island on
The fourth of July, looks like the tide is going home.
In time I’d find a little way to your heart, down to the general store for nothing specific,
Gonna wash my bones in the Atlantic shore – only for you and me??

My dead center front row spot in the crowd began to be challenged by a group of twenty-somethings who talked through all the songs, used blackberry’s and whoo-hooed at bizarre moments. I was ready to throttle them by the end of the next few songs. One of them tried to cut in between me and the stage with drinks in her hand in the middle of a song and I politely stepped in front of her so she had to go behind me. She promptly started talking again, and then whipped out her blackberry to text someone. She paid her ticket price too. I suppose she had the right to e-mail, talk, and whoo hoo her way through the show, but lord how I wanted to tell her to shut the f#$k up, snatch her blackberry out of her hand, crush it under my heel. I think it’s official, I’ve gotten to be that cranky old-fart at the concert that wants to parent the twenty-somethings rather than date them.

By the time the band got to Funeral, the twenty-somethings had thankfully either left or gotten with the program. Funeral is probably the signature tune from Band of Horses, and they nailed it, the sound was full, with the whole band digging in, making it bigger and more dramatic than the record.

Having listened to this song for over a year on long runs, I was waiting with eager anticipation to see if they would play this tune. I had my rough period in 2005 with four funerals of people I knew well, my cousin Scott Lussier, Grandma Field, Jason Wagner, and my Grandma Reimer, the song for whatever it means about death, gave me something. I don’t think it needs to be said, much like the “white dog in the snow post”: This is what music does best. Perhaps art in general does this too. The expression of something we know inherently, but is never spoken.

For what little material reward there is in making art the spiritual rewards seem tangible to me. Americans I think sometimes are too focused on practical matters. We appreciate the things that sustain life, but give very little value to things that enhance life. We take little time for good food, poetry, music, thoughtful films, novels, or any sort of visual art because these things unfortunately take some thought to process. And we, as a society can’t be bothered to think about our entertainment. As sure as the day is long without these things, music, novels, poetry, painting, I would never have made it out of the eleventh grade, and I certainly would never have made it to 2007. Each day is brighter because of things like music. There is always plenty to mope about, and I am sure darker times might be ahead. But this week because of these two shows was an upswing back towards happier times.

One Comment

  1. Hi Keith, thanks for this great post about BOH. I’m sure you know how VERY rare it is to find a fellow paddler with great music taste! I’m out in Seattle, just started paddling in August and going to see BOH on Monday night. Very stoked! Keep up the great site!Elise