MANHATTAN, NY—Vocalist/guitarist Ben Bridwell washed dishes at the famed rock club The Crocodile in Seattle, Washington, all the while dreaming of playing in a band that would be better than the ones he saw perform there. He was promoted to line cook, but came to resent many of the promoters, managers and musicians who made him feel like a second-class citizen. He formed a band, originally called Horses, then Band Of Horses in 2004, and saved every tip he earned so he could record his music in a studio. Band Of Horses soon circulated a demo and secured a recording contract. With increasing success looming with the first two albums and constant touring, Bridwell yearned for a genuine sense of home and relocated the band to his native Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Bridwell is the sole remaining original member of Band Of Horses, but today the quintet is comprised of reunited old friends. Bridwell and keyboardist Ryan Monroe played baseball together in grade school. Drummer Creighton Barrett met Bridwell at a party as teenagers, where they reportedly bonded instantly over a mutual obsession with Dinosaur Jr. Guitarist Tyler Ramsey and bassist Bill Reynolds knew each other from the music circuit in Asheville, North Carolina. This lineup of Band Of Horses recorded and released a 10-song unplugged album, Acoustic At The Ryman, on February 11.
Citi Presents Evenings With Legends continued into its second night tonight with a performance by Band Of Horses during the New York/New Jersey area’s week of pre-Super Bowl concerts and attractions. In advance of an acoustic tour to promote its acoustic album, the band performed a soft acoustic set at the McKittrick Hotel. The tables and chairs were removed from the area in front of the stage, allowing fans to draw very close to the performers. However, the stage was less than a foot high, so most of the audience had compromised views of the band, especially of the musicians who sat to do their work (keyboards, drums and pedal steel).
Despite poor sight lines, the group gave its audience a personal and even intimate musical experience, in that the performance lacked traditional rock star pizzazz in favor of an unpolished front porch jam flavor. Between songs, Bridwell spoke informally with those pressed against the stage just a few inches away, adding to the homey atmosphere. The set of 13 songs began with “Neighbor,” showcasing the band’s easy vocal harmonies, now uncluttered by amplified instruments. For most of the set, these harmonies began and ended the songs; they were not relegated sparingly to the choruses. This became the strength of the show, and often made the band sound like the Grateful Dead’s early 1970s acoustic period. Early on, the set featured a cover of A.A. Bondy’s “The Mercy Wheel.” The set then featured stripped-down reworkings of the group’s catalogue, with some tempos and arrangements significantly altered for the new format. It turned out that the show indeed was better than most of the shows Bridwell saw at The Crocodile.
Band Of Horses return to New York to perform an acoustic set at Town Hall on Feb. 28. They’ll also play at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia on March 1. For more information, go to bandofhorses.com.