Band of Horses master dynamics, epic emotion

Band of Horses plays on the Jumbotron at ACL Fest weekend on Friday September 30, 2016. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Band of Horses plays on the Jumbotron at ACL Fest weekend on Friday September 30, 2016. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

by Erin J. Walter

First and foremost: “The Funeral” is one of the greatest songs of all time, and if all Band of Horses songs were this epic, they’d be headlining ACL Fest.

There is precious little as moving as seeing and hearing “The Funeral” in person again tonight — from the quiet parts, where frontman Ben Bridwell alone is lit from above by a narrow white tunnel of light and his haunting voice pierces the dark, to the robust full-band sections, with all seven instrumentalists bursting into a wall of sound, their figures bathed in red strobe lights.

Eleven years have passed since “The Funeral” was released on Band of Horses’ debut record, Everything All the Time, and somehow the song still feels urgent and essential. People who up and leave home to follow a band from city to city make perfect sense in those five minutes that Band of Horses are playing “The Funeral.”

Band of Horses performs on the first day of the 2016 Austin City Limits Festival on the Great Lawn at Zilker Park Sept. 30. 09/30/16 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Band of Horses performs on the first day of the 2016 Austin City Limits Festival on the Great Lawn at Zilker Park Sept. 30. 09/30/16 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“The Great Salt Lake” and “No One’s Gonna Love You” (the second and fourth spots, respectively, in the band’s 12-song, 7 p.m. set) resonate almost as strongly, in their own ways.

“If ever beat down / we know who we are,” the huge Friday night crowd sings along with Bridwell in “The Great Salt Lake,” and it feels like a lyrical lifeline connecting the hillside sea of thousands.

Bridwell changed the end of his “Love You” ballad to pointedly declare to the crowd, “No one’s gonna love Y’ALL more than I do.” And indeed, the band’s set created a country family reunion vibe. What Band of Horses lacked in smooth transitions between songs, Bridwell made up for in aw-shucks affection.

“I love music! The sound! The feeling!” he called out after jangly pop jam “Laredo.”

“I feel like we’re just shooting the s— together,” he said after “NW Apt.” “What have you guys been up to? … Here’s a song!”

The affection of the crowd was loose and mutual. Newer songs came across as less essential than the older ones, and the set’s omission of 2010’s spiritually perfect “Compliments” does sting.

But the band rose above a brief glitch with drum gear — “The drum thing broke! It’s all right because we are best!” Bridwell half-joked — and competing sound from M83 across the park. (“Wow, that’s loud over there!” the singer interjected during a quiet part of “The Funeral.”)

Band of Horses’ shimmery sound and joyful energy, topped by Bridwell’s piercing, singular singing voice, are not to be taken for granted more than a decade in. They are what the most beautiful windchime would sound like if it were an indie rock band that sang about lakes, ghosts, and first apartments.

 Is There A Ghost
The Great Salt Lake
Casual Party
No One’s Gonna Love You
Laredo
In A Drawer
Throw My Mess
[Indeciferable mystery song with lots of “oh oh” in it. Help me out, BoH superfans. What was it?]
NW Apt.
Solemn Oath
The Funeral
The General Specific

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