Words by: Sarah Hagerman

Band of Horses :: 05.22.07 :: The Scala :: London, UK

There was country music playing, but he didn't like it at all.

Ben Bridwell - Band of Horses
Everyone has their eye on Band of Horses at the moment. As the summer progresses, Ben Bridwell and company will retreat to the studio in North Carolina to record the follow-up to Everything All the Time. The buzz around them is so thick you can't swat it away with a frying pan. So, I was excited that my first chance to see them live would be at The Scala, a 600-ish capacity former grindhouse cinema situated a couple blocks from King's Cross station heading towards fashionable East London. Unfortunately, not many others in attendance felt the same excitement.

I will never understand why you would bother showing up at a gig to blather away with your friends. Larger venues can usually suck up crowd noise to a certain extent, but with the so-so acoustics and small size of The Scala, the constant chatter was amplified. And it definitely seemed to affect the band. Besides being unbelievably disrespectful, it belies what the experience of going to a gig should be about. Live music isn't merely performance - it's an exchange of energy between the fans on the floor and the band on the stage. It shouldn't be simply passive observation.

Ben Bridwell - Band of Horses
Despite the crowd, the set started out promising. There was a real sense of aggression and a distinct Southern rock passion layered beneath the melodic distortion and the high trill of Bridwell's haunting voice. "Great Salt Lake" was powerful, like a swift uppercut. "Funeral," predictably, got a decent response, as if to say, "Oh my god, we know this song!" The band played the hell out of it despite the audience belting out the words, often incorrectly. The song's tension was brought to a breaking point before the lovely final crash.

Sadly, a few songs in, Band of Horses lost the fire. To the eye, they were quite stoic and static, though Bridwell's vocals kept some of the emotional charge. But, unfortunately it wasn't enough. They played most of Everything All the Time, along with new material and a Ron Wood cover ("Act Together"), but many of the songs were cut short. For example, "Wicked Gil" seemed sawed in half. The set was rushed, barely clocking in at an hour including the encore. Which is a shame because what I love about Everything All the Time is its warm sense of expanse. Their music needs time to breathe so its subtle changes and building rifts can truly be appreciated.

Ben Bridwell - Band of Horses
Perhaps they were just trying to cram as many songs in as possible. Unavoidable London curfews create an environment where promoters and venues often are forced to confine live music between happy hour and last orders at the pub. Yet Band of Horses left the stage a good half an hour before curfew, and most venues will let you sneak in an extra fifteen minutes beyond that.

This gig seemed to be over before it really began. That being said, I am not deterred from seeing Band of Horses again. I remain a fan of their music. Hell, we all have our off nights. There were clearly other factors at play. Much of the crowd was obviously there because they read somewhere that Band of Horses is going to be BIG BIG BIG. They went to be seen and to say they went not because they had any genuine interest in the music. It's unfortunately not an uncommon experience in the Big Smoke. A fair number of the gigs in this town are filled with the beer swilling, the talkative and the tragically fashionable. And they don't take kindly to being told to shut up. Oh, to be young and jaded. Perhaps the gentlemen standing around me grumbling about football or the teenagers giggling and texting their friends would have had some interesting opinions about that. I would have asked them except, oh yeah, I was at a gig.

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[Published on: 6/19/07]

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kjm Tue 6/19/2007 08:09AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Wow, that's pretty sad. I can't stand to be at shows where people are blatantly disrespectful when I'm there to listen. Like you said, it really kills the energy that can be built, which is the reason people come out to see bands live. I like Band of Horses, hopefully they'll have a better crowd next time :)

Astronaut Jones Tue 6/19/2007 08:25AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Astronaut Jones

i think to a certain extent, this is due to being not so widely known. it's like my band playing a bar. no one is there to hear us. they all came to get lit. unfortunate at best. it'll be better soon.

QuantumTuba Tue 6/19/2007 06:22PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Sounds like when Umphrey's opened for DMB at Alpine Valley last year. The crowd clearly wasn't interested, they came to get drunk and hear Dave. It sucks when you get closed minded audiences.

redsub Wed 6/20/2007 07:52PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I have seen BOH multiple times. My big issue has been that there have been multiple line-up changes over the past two years which tends to take away from the shows being tight. I think Ben writes great songs and has a unique voice but new players every time they come into town makes it seem non-cohesive.

moejoerisin Mon 6/25/2007 09:12AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


"Live music isn't merely performance - it's an exchange of energy between the fans on the floor and the band on the stage. It shouldn't be simply passive observation."

nicely put, sarah.

caseycole starstarstarstar Sat 6/30/2007 10:07AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


yes......but did you see my band open the show? we're called wayne robbins & the hellsayers..the rest of the tour was excellent..we've also played w/ mmj,crowes,etc....their new album will be great....and check us out at