Last night, the Australian duo An Horse drew a decent crowd, a fact that wasn't lost on them since they thanked us several times. St. Louis was apparently the start of a 40 stop tour and Kate Cooper seemed a bit overwhelmed and slightly sad.
I think we forget how much work musicians actually do when they tour. Most of it isn't glamorous and all of it isn't home, but that aside, these two are going to have fun. They have a devoted fan base and extra doses of the typical Aussie "can do." If they started out a little bumpy in St. Louis, I'm pretty sure they're going to hit their stride in Chicago.
I'll get back to An Horse in a second, but first a bit about the opening band Middle Class Fashion.
Last night was the first time I caught the St. Louis band's show, but it's a good one. If they seem familiar that's because they are: Half the band play in the Paper Dolls and the other half play in Tight Pants Syndrome, with Jenn Malzone bridging the two. She sings and bangs on her keyboard with the enthusiasm of a happy, sugar-high kid (the best kind). I loved "My Attack," in which she flat handed chords like playful biatch slaps for a staccato effect. But really the whole set was fantastic and fun. If you get a chance to see them play, in any of the bands many manifestations, don't pass it up.
An Horse is a much different style, not so much fun filled, as angsty with a touch of leave me alone, wait don't go. Reading the lyrics now, a day after the show, I'm struck by how depressing some of the songs are. "Airport Death" is pretty much about pessimism and tragedy. While "Company" is essentially the struggle to maintain a brave face against mounting fears.
The material belies their engaging stage presence, but it's sincere -- never self-indulgent or overly broody. "Company" in particular is a great example of their style. It's plaintive and powerful, and when Kate sings, "I'm trying to be brave," you want her to succeed.
If you choose to, you can read into those lyrics and get the sense they are at profound odds with the displacement that comes with touring and traveling. There's a persistent longing to Kate's refrains and comforting reassurance with Damien Cox's harmonies. They obviously depend on one another way beyond just the music, as fellow journeymen, friends and refugees far from home.