We've all had the experience of showing up to a club gig and being disappointed by the turnout. But how often can you say you were pleasantly surprised?
Such was the case Tuesday night for An Horse's headlining gig at Kilby Court. It wasn't a huge crowd, by any means—maybe 50 or 60 people, tops—but that is about five times the number of folks who were on hand for An Horse's last appearance in Salt Lake City two years ago, when they played to about 10 in a small room at the Murray Theater. And the crowd gathered at Kilby Court Tuesday clearly were fans, singing along, dancing and taking a slew of pictures that are probably dotting Facebook pages across the valley as we speak.
The Australian guitar-and-drums duo of Kate Cooper and Damon Cox is touring in support of its sophomore album, Walls, a catchy-as-hell follow-up to their debut, Rearrange Beds. Tuesday, they blasted through much of both collections in an energetic, hour-long set that wasn't at all slowed by the musicians' respective head colds—except for when Cooper stopped the song "Postcards" after one verse to use a tissue one fan had put on stage after Cooper's between-song plea for help.
An Horse's songs are simple and to the point, often reflecting on the ups and downs of relationships via Cooper and Cox's intertwined vocals. I've been a big fan of boy-girl vocal exchanges forever, probably since I first heard X's John Doe and Exene Cervenka a couple of decades ago, and while Cox mainly sings harmonies to Cooper's lead voice, together their vocals make for a powerful instrument in the band's arsenal.
With Cooper kicking out hook after hook on her electric and acoustic guitars, and Cox delivering intricate percussion, An Horse was equally strong on both the new and older songs. Songs like "Camp Out," "Little Lungs" and "Horizons" offered vivid reminders of what made their first album so strong. And newer tunes like "Brains On a Table," "Not Mine" (with the great line, "Summer is not being itself tonight") and the acoustic-driven title track from Walls all showed a band that has matured a bit in the two years since their debut.
Part of An Horse's appeal is also the obvious chemistry between the two musicians. Tuesday night, the crowd was treated to discussions about Cooper's mom getting on stage at a Neil Young concert, her own caffeine addiction and mysterious substances found on the walls of a Kansas Motel 6. And when the traditional time came for the set to end, followed by an encore, Cooper said the band was going to skip all the fake theatrics and simply continue playing because, "Really, where are we going to go?"
With that, the duo rocked out killer versions of "Shoes Watch" and "Leave Me," leaving the crowd satisfied and even wanting a little more -- always a good way to exit.