Something strange was in the air this night. It could have been the pasta I had for lunch. Or maybe it was the fact I received $6.66 in change from an annoying yet wordy attendant at a local gas station. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that I was going to see Horse the (or that) Band at a venue I had barely heard of, much less never been to before. In any case, The Ritz in Warren, MI was my destination for a show that turned out to be both the shortest and strangest I had been to in a long time.
For the few of you surely from the Detroit area, they've been putting on shows at The Ritz for a couple years I believe -- or at least since I can remember all those horrible radio commercials they ran for it. And seeing as it is primarily a bar, the all-ages show supposedly showed conflicting times between Horse the Band's and The Ritz's MySpace pages -- or so I was told by someone who was trying have a conversation with me in the bathroom. In any case, the show started slightly after 7 with St. Louis natives So Many Dynamos kicking things off. Having not really listened to them before, I was rather impressed by their mixture of spunky keyboard-based tunes that were accompanied by a trio of vocals. Definitely worth checking out if you are into either of the other two bands mentioned in this review [Ed.'s note: This band's last album, from 2006, actually sounds like a lot Dismemberment Plan, though who knows what their new stuff sounds like]. The rather empty venue seemed to enjoy it as much as I did, and after a quick set (and confusion over how many more songs they were allowed to play) from So Many Dynamos, Heavy Heavy Low Low took the stage.
I have to say that while a fan of HHLL, it has been rather difficult for me to enjoy the band's latest offering, Turtle Nipple and the Toxic Shock. Knowing the band would certainly be playing a good chunk of songs off of this record did not really bother me, though, as I was interested to see what these tracks would sound like live. They seemed to be a little less connected to the crowd this time around, having last seen them wedged in the all-day shredfest known as the Sounds of the Underground tour. Kicking older tracks like "Mall-Nutrition," "Tell Shannon Her Crafts Are Ready" and "There's a Bat" into the set made for a good balance between old and new. The newer songs do sound a little more tangible live (which can be said about most bands, I know) and seem much more in place with the band's other songs bookending them. They certainly put on a good show considering how empty the venue was -- in addition to telling a hefty amount of extremely awkward jokes.
At this point in the night, it was roughly only 8:30, leaving me to wonder exactly how long Horse would end up playing. Apparently, another show was booked for that night and would start as soon as this show wrapped up. Lame. In any case, Horse (not looking at all weathered or beaten from the Earth Tour) opened up with "Birdo" and nearly blew the venue's speaker system in the process. I only claim this because during soundcheck, the band wanted the synth turned up really loudly (for rightful reasons) and seemingly the only way to get anything else heard was to turn those corresponding parts up louder. Hence, most of Nathan Winneke's vocals were mixed in with the sound of speakers being fried. During the almost hour-long set, HTB blasted through songs like "The Red Tornado," "Seven Tentacles and Eight Flames," "Murder" and "Cutsman." Having never really seen them before, I'd have to say the set was pretty much what I would have hoped for. They also provided a few chuckles in an attempt to get people to make out in order to fulfill an audience member's song request, as well as messing with their tour manager (who was on his last night of the tour).
As a whole, I would have to say that despite the shortness of the show and the complete idiocy of a few of the people in attendance that this show was worth the drive out into little-known territory. Sure, it could have been better. But I guess some things you just can't change.