• Review

REVIEW: Band of Horses at Bogart's

Photo Cred: Scott Preston (Cincy Groove)

You know that guy over in the corner of the house party? The one who’s all quiet and introspective? If you talk to him, it’s always a bit too deep for the feel of the party, maybe they're pretentious, and it can be a real vibe killer.

But then, over with all booze, games, and fun conversation is that guy who’s the life of the party. Their light-hearted, they don’t take themselves too seriously, and know when and when not to have those deep conversations. Then at 2 am, as the party begins to die down or the crowd has left for the bars, you find yourself smoking with the fun, easy-going guy. It’s then maybe you find that they’re a bit more deep and inciteful than you thought. That guy at the party guy is Band of Horses. Not the overly-introspective one in the corner of the party.

For the layman that only knows the three hit singles from the band, “Is There a Ghost,” “No One’s Gonna Love You,” and “The Funeral,” you would assume the former. However, seeing the band live, you realize quickly that they’re more of a house party band that does have those deep emotional and introspective moments.

Saturday evening, the now Charleston, SC, based by way of Seatle, Southern Rock Indie outfit took the stage at the historic Bogarts. For two and a half hours, they didn’t lull fans with these melancholic tunes of despair but instead had a rock-forward party.

Opened with an incredible 30-minute performance from Cincinnati natives Heartland-Indie rocker Carriers (My review of their performance will be featured in a separate article), whom Band of Horses hand-picked to open the show. It was clear that Band of Horses wanted to make the evening special for Cincinnati fans.

After Carriers’ performance, the crowd was buzzing. There was a feeling in the air that I really don’t get too often at shows in Cincy anymore. Fans were already on a high and couldn’t wait to see the Indie Rock troubadours take to the stage.

Band of Horses, like many of their peers do these days, has a strong contingency of dedicated fans that nearly sold out the 1,500-capacity club in Clifton. Formed in 2004, the nearly 20-year-old act has honed its stage presence and has made its large and grandiose choruses able to fit any venue in the country.

Having now seen them four times prior to this performance, I realized this venue was right in their wheelhouse. I’ve seen them play festival tents, opening for the Black Keys last year at Riverbend, and now in a rock club setting. Their mix of Southern Rock, Atmospheric Indie, and tinges of ‘90s Emo fit perfectly with the crowd and sound of Bogart's.

Coming out swinging, Band of Horses opened with the very fitting “First Song.” It is a song that eases fans in with its elements of country twang, twinkling guitars, and Lead Singer Ben Bridwell’s at times whiny and delicate voice, who began the set by playing the steel pedal guitar.

Bridwell is the heart and soul of the five-piece band. That guy I was referring to early is Bridwell. As he walked out on stage, he dawned a simple cut-off, a mohawk-mullet that was bleached blonde. There is this certain aesthetic that few can pull like Bridwell. This cross between Indie, Punk, and Hillbillie dirtbag that, when pulled off well, is so down to earth and endearing to audiences. The Indie-everyman, if you will?

However, as mentioned before, unlike many may assume from his music, Bridwell is a fun-loving rocker at heart. Smiling ear to ear throughout the performance, he makes you feel like you’re watching them at a house party and they are having the best time ever. It’s a sign of a band who doesn’t take themselves too seriously as artists and are perfectly comfortable with who they are and where they’re at in their career.

Not letting the crowd dip, the band broke into “Loredo,” the single off of their third record Infinite Arms. With elements of Emo greats and fellow Seattle musicians, Sunny Day Real Estate they draw fans in with the jagged guitars, but Bridwell eases them with his West Coast style of melodic singing.

After running through a few other up-tempo tunes, Band of Horses surprised audience members with an incredible cover of Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon.” A ‘90s Country classic that somehow made complete sense for the band to cover. Showing off their now Southern cred, Bridwell’s West-Coast style of singing made for such a fun and light-hearted anthemic sing-along.

This is really when the show kicked into second gear. After running through “Dilly,” the band swung right into “Crutch,” the single off their latest and still very good release, 2022’s Things Are Great.

A true highlight from the evening came when the band dimmed the lights and bursts into “Casual Party,” an undeniably catchy tune, that highlights the band's sense of humor and pop sensibilities. The reason for it being such a great moment was not because of my personal affection for the song but because of the crowd’s reaction. The song got the entire crowd moving and singing along. Their reception to the tune was so energizing that it kept that buzz going and amplified it.

From there, fans were treated to nearly an hour of classics from the band, starting with “No One’s Gonna Love You.” One of the two singles off of their second record, Cease To Begin. The somber and melancholic tune is what helped catapult the band into 2000’s indie stardom. A lovely song that features that classic twinkly guitar and anthemic chorus the band has become known for.

After that came my personal favorite song from the band’s catalog, “The Great Salt Lake.” This song should really be the first song fans should show people who are unsure or unaware of the band's work. It captures Bridwell’s ability to draw fans in with his voice and storytelling, with the band’s ability to build that tension and release that they're so good at doing, with the release being this barreling and epic chorus.

Giving fans no time to recover from the emotional highs of the previous song, Bridwell began playing the haunting and atmospheric intro to “Is There A Ghost.” Arguably the band's second most popular tune, the song follows a similar formula that they and bands like My Morning Jacket have perfected. The quiet to loud crescendo that many of the great Grunge and Seatle bands of the ‘90s created.

I love when a band breaks the third wall of the traditional show construct. Like at this point, we know they’re going to play “one more song” and then come back out for an encore. Bridwell’s humor and lack of self-seriousness are once again on display when he tells the crowd, “We’ve got one more song for you guys… well, this one, and then we’ll come back out. You know how showbiz is.”

That “final song” was, of course, “The Funeral.” The song that got the band critical and national recognition in 2006 off of their debut record Everything All The Time. A somber and once again haunting tune that truly feels like it emerged from the misty and dark Northwest forest the band’s roots come from.

As they came back out to a still-roaring audience, Bridwell and company seemed beat. They had given this audience every ounce of energy they had, and it was reciprocated. As they continued to give everything they had, they played their actual final songs, “Detlef Schrempf,” named after the Portland Trailblazer, and “The General Specific.” Both of which are off of Cease To Begin.

After thanking the crowd and shouting out Cincinnati multiple times, Bridwell made a point to mention the historical significance of the nearly 120-year-old venue they were playing.

“And thank you, Bogart's,” said Bridwell. “I mean that, when people talk about institutions, this isn’t just a Cincinnati or Ohio institution. No. This is a National Institution.”

Maybe it was something in the air that evening, or maybe Bridwell truly meant it. Either way, that was by far the best performance I have seen Band of Horses give. I would see them 100 more times at Bogart's because of their energy, sound, and the sheer fun that fans had that evening.

Band of Horses are still touring their North American tour and you can stream all of their music wherever you get your music.