• Review

An Horse. An return. With Saves the Day and Kevin Devine

Somehow, I missed Australia’s An Horse when they first arrived in the states, fully realized as an introspectively melodic two-piece indie rock outfit, in the late aughts. Considering their touring pedigree, and the fact that they released two albums on Mom + Pop, it’s honestly shocking that they flew so far under the radar for me. I’m genuinely sad to have lost the chance to see them sooner, and then subsequently lament their disappearance. Imagine my delight, though, getting to see them open for Saves the Day and Kevin Devine at the Southgate House Revival this weekend, have these realizations in real time, and watch others go through the exact same process.

To start at the end, Saves the Day’s set was an oddly jarring mix of old and new. Their second album, Stay What You Are, is an all-time top fiver for me. And, to be fair, the tracks they played from both that album and their breakthrough,Through Being Cool, were great and elicited the biggest responses of the night. It was everything else - including the jackets and the sunglasses and the bizarre stage presence - that left me confused and unsure how to feel. It’d been at least a decade since the last time I’d seen them live. And my first time, all the way back in 2001, was as close to a religious experience as I’m ever likely to experience. So, there were a lot of mixed up feelings going into and then coming out of this show. It’s never about what it’s about. You know what I mean?

Kevin Devine’s performance was brief - and sadly so. He’s such a dynamic performer, be it solo or with a band, his presence so genuine, that the time we had with him Saturday night wasn’t even close to enough. I’ve jokingly said that I’ve accidentally seen him perform more than just about any band I’ve seen intentionally, but each time was memorable, and each time was better than the last. I genuinely look forward to his next time through and expect to get chills during the always stirring track, “Brother’s Blood.”

As further proof that the world is full of infinite possibilities yet impossibly small, it turns out that An Horse drummer Damon Cox is a once and future member of Kevin Devine’s touring outfit, The Goddamn Band. The two tracks he performed with Devine were fantastic.

But before that, Devine joined Cox and guitarist/vocalist Kate Cooper onstage to play bass for their new track - their first in half a decade - “Get Out Somehow.” 

An Horse moved quickly through a set that was as consistent and it was incredibly listenable and entertaining. While early touring brought them to what I imagine were sizable stages around the world, I couldn’t help but think to myself as I was watching them that they were made to play tiny clubs and basements, and how amazing of an experience that would be. They have a shockingly full sound for a two piece, and it doesn’t lean too heavily on either member to carry the weight. It’s a true partnership, and a delicate balance to maintain live, let alone on an album. It’s a testament to their talent and musicianship that they can just as easily tour with a band like Tegan & Sara but also hold their own with another two piece I adore, The Gay Blades (this is my putting the pairing out into the universe because I think that would be the ultimate).

I’m excited to have seen An Horse live this weekend, and am genuinely looking forward to what comes next for them. If they come back through Cincinnati, I’ll be there singing along - all it took was one live show and not being able to do that to make me realize what a mistake it was to not have paid attention a decade ago. I won’t make that mistake again.