There was no shortage of beards, flannel shirts or rock and roll on this beautiful fall night in the Blue Ridge Mountains. From an up and coming local band to an Indie Rock princess to low key rockers turned headliners, the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium had it all. The night was kicked off with Uncle Mountain, a true local band with a devoted fan base singing along to every word from the Auditorium’s back row. The band was tight, fun and rocked even though there weren’t many people there to see their opening act. These likable Asheville natives certainly peaked my interest, and with a free CD giveaway it wasn’t hard to get my hands on more of their music.
Next to the stage was indie music’s newest lovebirds turned band mates, Jenny and Johnny. The couple moseyed onto the stage looking as hip as expected, Jenny in her barely existent short shorts and Johnny in his all black Johnny Cash style duds. Theyopened up with fun and fast “Committed,” hopped over to single “Scissor Runner,” and kept things going with “Just Like Zeus.” In fact, the first 5 songs of the show were all the easy favorites from the new album I’m Having Fun Now - “My Pet Snakes” and “Big Wave” included. I started to wonder what hits they would have left for the rest of the set when they slowed it down with “Switchblade,” “Animal” and “Slavedriver” , but then Jenny hit us with “The Next Messiah,” an epic tune from her days with the Watson Twins. The front end of the set list certainly was loaded with most of the hits but the pair mixed it up well and sounded just as good if not better than on the album. There was tons of energy and perfect harmonies abound, although I have to admit that Jenny is the more charismatic of the two. She proved quite versatile as she played bass, guitar, drums and keyboard alternately throughout the performance, but it’s the combination of the two that makes it work and work it did. The duo did a great job setting the stage for the evening’s headliners.
Band of Horses woodsy midtempo rock may have been born in the Pacific Northwest, but it was right at home in the mountains of North Carolina. Asheville is not only the hometown of the band’s guitarist Tyler Ramsey and bassist Bill Reynolds, but the site of Echo Mountain, the studio where the band recorded most of their last two albums. It was apparent very early on that the Asheville crowd had a lot of love for the Band of Horses, and the Band of Horses had a lot of love for Asheville. The manifestation of the aforementioned love was an energetic and enchanting rock and roll show, much to the delight of the “hometown” crowd.
The set started with Ben Bridwell and guitarist Tyler Ramsey performing a stripped down version of “Ode To LRC”, before being joined by the rest of the band for a rocked out crescendo. Things never turned back from there as the band plowed through the setlist without a dull moment to be had. Slow tunes and tender moments blended together perfectly with uptempo rockers as the band put on a master class in how to pace a show. A giant screen backdrop showcasing some awing stop motion nature photography served as a perfect compliment to the etherial music being offered up by the band.
Despite the breakout success of their latest album Infinite Arms, the band didn’t shy away from the old favorites that the crowd was obviously looking for. While the new album provided a few of the show’s highlights, namely “Northwest Apartment”, “Laredo”, and “Compliments”; it was the old standards that brought the crowd to the verge of eruption. The band went on to play half of Everything All the Time, and practically the entire Cease to Begin album. Bridwell’s incredibly unique voice was even better live, bringing new life to many of the band’s songs. Whether a new song or something from the first two albums, the band played the hell out of it – providing passionate performances throughout the course of the 90 minute show.
The encore started the same way the first set did with only Bridwell and Ramsey taking the stage, this time armed with only an acoustic guitar. Ramsey delicately picked out the song as the two shared a microphone and harmonized perfectly for the suddenly silent crowd. Once joined by the rest of the band, they went into straight into “Is There A Ghost” which had the entire crowd chanting the short on words anthem over and over. When it came to the night’s final song Bridwell joked, “You guys probably know what’s coming”, and we all did. He went right into the delicate opening notes of “Funeral”, and by the time gritty guitar of the chorus hit, the crowd straight up exploded. At one point during the song, Ben Bridwell looked at only two people seated in the whole auditorium (who happened to be sitting in the front row) and said “You’ve got to at least effing get up for this” – and they did. The entire encore was nothing short of awesome, and served as a great closing to a wonderful evening. These guys took a lesson from George Costanza and ended on a serious high note.
Never before have I seen a show where the band’s music seemed to fit the experience of the town as well as the Band of Horses fit Asheville. While the show might have ended Thursday night, the band’s music played on for the balance of the weekend’s hikes and mountain drives furthering the great experience. In the end the Band of Horses proved to be a spot on live band, and a perfect compliment for all that Mother Nature has to offer.