A few miles north of the Zilker Park madness, fans piled in to Stubb’s outdoor amphitheater for a different kind of sonic celebration within the Austin City Limits. Band Of Horses, along with local dream-rock outfit Bee Caves, played to a tightly squeezed mass of music fans on Friday for an official ACL late night show. While Zilker Park halts all music at 10PM, Stubb’s freely lets the sound waves vibrate until the clock strikes twelve. This rollicking Red River venue took full advantage of its privilege and kept fans buzzing until their parking meters expired.
With his otherworldly dance moves and whimsical song painting, Bee Caves’ lead singer Reed Calhoun cast a spell on the accumulating crowd. After a concise 45-minute set featuring songs from their EP, Animals With Religion, Bee Caves cleared the stage for the headliners. Another anticipatory 45 minutes creeped by, but no one wanted to unglue their planted feet. Some people worked hard for their clear window to the stage, and they weren’t about to jeopardize that (no matter how much icy cold condensation dripped from the beer cans at the bar). Luckily, Band of Horses claims a friendly fanbase, for conversations bubbled throughout the air and helped the time pass by. Because they don’t tour extensively, many people haven’t gotten the chance to see them live. Some went so far as to claim them as their musical ‘white whale.’
When the drums dropped during “On My Way Back Home,” all antsy feet and aching back muscles melted away. Lead singer Ben Bridwell, comfortable and relaxed among the blinding lights and vibrating amplifiers, made the fans feel like his best buddies. The band performed like they were in the middle of a face-melting garage concert. The ethereal, whispy quality in their recordings were replaced with visceral bass booms and soaring guitars. Even the lyrical “Detlef Schrempf” reverberated with energy.
Lead guitarist Tyler Ramsey celebrated his birthday with the entire amphitheater singing in his honor. His twangy solo transitioned into the folksy “Everything’s Gonna be Undone.” This short little ditty sounded more like a traditional travelling folk tune than the rest of their heart-pumping rock cannon, and its lilting melody left the audience visibly refreshed.
The aural fireworks returned with “Funeral.” Bridwell’s forward falsetto skyrocketed above the grounded bass and the euphoric percussive crashes. He informed the audience that this song would be “good as shit,” but I don’t think everyone absorbed the truth of his statement until the song ended.
Like any rebellious band of garage rockers, Band of Horses could hardly bare to stick to curfews. They ended the evening just a few minutes past midnight, but I get the feeling they would have rocked all night if they city would let them.