Band of Horses and the Whigs at the Variety Playhouse 12/30/08

I know, I just saw them at a small venue in Austin, but my buddy wanted to go, and I thought it could be a pretty cool New Year’s Eve Eve experience.  I was right.

The Whigs Open

I had heard from a few people that this band is good and that I needed to check them out when they opened for Kings of Leon in November.  I was late in November, but I’m glad I got to check them out this go ’round.  They’re a trio, and as soon as they started I liked them for two reasons: 1) they’ve got a great drummer and 2) They’ve got really active bass lines in most of their songs.  Everything they played, they played with authority and it really makes a difference.  I later remembered that someone told me one of them went to my high school, but I really didn’t recognize anyone while they were on stage.  I looked it up and ALL of them went to my high school, but alas they’re much younger than me.

Still they rocked pretty hard and I’m proud to share an alma mater with them.  The best line of the night was uttered by my (straight) buddy about the bass player: “his hair is awesome, do you think it does that naturally?”  He also later noted that his hair reminded him a bit of this guy from Fat Albert:

Band of Horses:

(a cool SC landscape was projected behind them after the curtain opened up.  I didn’t even know the VP had a curtain!)

I don’t think I’ve yet mentioned that it was sold out.  Thanks to Craig’s list we were able to get tickets day-of (albeit at a slight premium).  I really think we saw this band at the optimal popularity level.  The crowd was very into the show, but we were still able to comfortably get about 4 rows of people from the stage.
The band took the stage, and they were trying harder than Broken Social Scene to make it look like they just rolled out of bed and hadn’t showered in at least a week.  It’s a good rock and roll look – lends a lot of credibility.  After the opener (which I think was a new song), the singer announced that they were going to be doing a lot of new stuff, and “if you get bored, let us know and we’ll play some old stuff.” They followed through on the promise and played a lot of stuff I didn’t recognize.  I liked most of it, and only a little bit of it sounded slightly formulaic – i.e. too much like other BOH material.
We did have one dude standing right behind us who was a little too enthusiastic to see this band.  He knew the second half of every line to every song and he was ready and willing to yell the lyrics at the top of his lungs as soon as he remembered them.  He was funny for a little while, then really annoying.  Luckily he kept disappearing to get beers and I have to assume he got distracted because we got a nice reprieve from him for a good part of the show.
When they played “The Funeral,” there was a couple in front of us slow dancing and making out.  Strange choice for a make out song if you ask me.
When they played “the General Specific,” the singer was hitting a tambourine with a drumstick, and about 2/3 of the way through the song he broke the tambourine.  He then made a critical mistake – one I hope he never makes again.  He tossed the broken tambourine into the audience… only the show wasn’t over.  The dude who caught the tambourine enjoyed his 15 seconds of fame, and we thought the excitement was over.  Unfortunately, he thought catching the tambourine was akin to being appointed the Audience Tambourinist for the rest of the show.  For each subsequent show he would spend the first half of the song trying to feel out his Tambourine part, then he’d belt it out for the middle of the song, before becoming tired and resting up until the next song.  He sucked.
I remembered from the last time I saw them that the keyboardist sang lead vocals on one song, and they played that (new) song again.  The chorus goes something like “after all my plans, they sink into the sand…” and it’s a good song – I look forward to when they release it.  The remarkable thing is that the keyboardist sounds EXACTLY like the lead singer.  It’s just crazy to me that two people with that voice wound up in the same band.  The keyboardist also looks like Bam Margera’s dad.
When it came time to play the encores, we could tell the band was enjoying themselves.  They played a few, and spent a long time discussing things before they played the second-to-last song.  It was a slow song (I think it was Detlef Schrempf), and while the performance wasn’t anything that exceptional, as the song came to a close the singer announced “we’ve never played this one before, we don’t know how to end it.”  After a while the song just wound down, but it’s always special to get to hear something like that for the first time.
Overall, they put on a great show.  Now is a perfect time in their career to see this band, so if you get the chance I recommend you jump on it!
Other songs and instruments played:
“Am I a good man” (Them Two Cover)
Two Pedal Steel guitars
A mini keyboard with one of those hoses attached that you blow into (what is this thing called?)
Happy New Year!

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