18 Apr 2009: Mercury Lounge New York, NY
If An Horse were an indie rock smoothie, they might be three parts heartbreak, one part yearning, and a dash of Tegan and Sara. Really though, all comparisons aside, Brisbane-born An Horse has an awful lot to give, emotionally speaking. On their recently released LP Rearrange Beds, Kate Cooper and Damon Cox have tightly arranged ten catchy songs that explore feelings, feelings, feelings. It has been my experience when attending shows that the more emotionally wrought a band’s album is, the more energy they’ll exhibit onstage. True to form, An Horse’s performance at the Mercury Lounge was as energetic, tight, and appropriately expressive. No, they didn’t quote Keats or end up on their knees sobbing mid-set, but they brought the vulnerability home, nonetheless.
Attending the second of two shows the band was playing that night (this one opening for indie veterans the Appleseed Cast), Cooper and Cox arrived onstage in a timely fashion and were met by an alcohol-slicked crowd: Definitely the ambiance of a later performance. Doing their best to ignore the boisterous cries of “AN HOOOOORSE! AN HOOOOORSE!” omitting from a certain pocket of the audience, the duo kicked off the set with “Postcard”, the second track off of their new album, and moved through the song effortlessly, pouring their little hearts out in the first of many melodic indie pop songs to follow.
While Tegan and Sara are an obvious comparison, An Horse also take after fellow bass-less musicians the White Stripes in terms of utilizing very little to create something very large. Using only a guitar and drum set, Cooper and Cox managed to build a string of guitar-driven emotional pop songs that hit the nail on the proverbial head each time around. The duo looked particularly comfortable on stage. In fact, they looked like they had done this a million times, which is perhaps an excellent indicator for their future success. Moving steadily into such songs as “Company”, “Horizons”, and “Little Lungs”, An Horse stayed consistent with what their debut album advertised: Melodic and hook ridden indie pop music with a heaping helping of heartstrings.
Their onstage banter was equally likable. Cooper kept it real by noting the drastic change in the audience when going from a 7:30 PM performance to a 10:30 PM performance. This may have been her way of shutting up the small but rowdy group towards the front of the audience, who insisted upon heckling the Aussies at every song break. “You’re all being quite rude. I’d appreciate it if you’d take it down a notch,” Cooper finally retorted before moving into the first track off of their new album “Camp Out”. In all honesty, few opening bands playing a city halfway around the world from their hometown could muster the audacity to tell off an audience, let alone a New York audience. But that’s just Cooper’s style: Incredibly straightforward but not particularly condescending. Her songs may be written in a vulnerable manner, but in person, Cooper (who is quite tiny) demands a certain kind of respect. To tie off the set, the members of the Appleseed Cast joined An Horse onstage for a spirited rendition of “Shoes Watch”. Each band member carrying a tambourine or secondary instrument to add percussion, An Horse got what most headlining bands get in an encore: The chance to rock out with their tour buddies, only generally speaking it’s the openers who return to stage, not the headliners.
The thing about An Horse is that while do they follow in the footsteps of myriad indie pop artists—they sport a sound that has seemingly been done before—they are thankfully talented enough to hold their own onstage. They’re not working with much either. But despite the vocal themes that An Horse has a tendency to return to song after song, the duo actually has an awful lot more to give. They certainly defy expectation, if not only on their album then most certainly on stage. What An Horse actually is, is not just another comparison, but a pair of foreigners who pack more punch into their shows than one would ever have expected.