Horse the Band has been around since 1999, and has built a strong following with their unique brand of metalcore that uses 8-bit sounding keyboards (jokingly referred to as “Nintendocore”). The band is known for their wildly fun and exciting stage shows, and they go through long periods of not playing shows in certain areas (the last Los Angeles show was in November of 2012 despite being from Orange County). Because of this, there was a lot of build up and anticipation for February 15th to arrive. When it finally did, the line outside the regent was long and ready to enter the building. Doors opened on schedule at 8 PM and everyone filed in to grab a spot.
To go on a brief tangent, this was my first time at The Regent (since it recently opened after being bought by the owner of The Echo and completely redone) and I was very impressed with the venue. Security was efficient, the sound and lights was great, the layout was simple, and the set changes were quick. This is probably my favorite venue in the Downtown area of Los Angeles (where I used to dread going to for shows).
The first band was a local band called Nineteen Eightyfour. This was a two man band. The drums and beats were already prerecorded on keyboards. The men supplied the guitars and vocals. The music was very 1980s style (as the title would suggest). A mixture of electronic, dance, disco, funk, and pop, it was a throwback for a lot of people who haven’t heard this style of music in a long time. James focused more on the guitar with a wide array of tones, and Dave focused more on vocals with effects on them to give them that old school quality. The crowd was full of people bobbing their heads and dancing silly. But most importantly, it was full of people having fun. A band that would have been out of place at any other metal show, they fit perfectly at a Horse the Band show because that is what we expect from them when choosing bands to open for them (like when I saw Kitten open up for them the last time). Interesting to note is that Dave used to be one of the original members of local metal band Antagonist, but he seems to really be enjoying his new chosen direction.
Next up was another local band named Seizures. My friends and I had fun guessing what the band was going to sound like as each member made their way on the stage one by one to set up, while ambient drone played behind them. We were thinking it would be indie rock mixed with shoegaze, until the band got into their heavy and sludgy first riff together. From there, the lead singer came out and started yelling, which solidified the sound. They mixed together sludge, doom, punk, and technical death metal all together. A strange combination on paper, but they made it work. They moved effortlessly from the ambient sections, into the fast paced heavy sections, and all the while they did it in odd time signatures with dramatic start and stop riffs that had the audience members trying to count in their heads. They are as tight as any band that I ever saw and wowed me with their ability to all be on the same level. The singer grabbed the audiences attention as he moved around the stage and even went into the crowd at one point. The drummer was extremely talented and had some amazing fills over the complicated music. I was sad to hear when they said that they only had 1 song left, but it was an excellent tune which started light and ended fast and heavy, showcasing all that the band had to offer excellent in a single track.
Next was a band called Taken. Taken are a band from Orange County that has been around since 1997. They had made a name for themselves during a time when hardcore, metalcore, and post-hardcore bands were all the rage. I remember listening to them back in high school when those were my favorite genres, but hadn’t listened to them since. So when I heard they were going to be on this bill, I was really interested. I had not known what they had been up to since their breakup in 2004. I was unaware that they had briefly reunited in 2008 and got back together last year. They are writing new songs and don’t play shows much, but wanted to play with their good friends in Horse the Band. So there was a lot of excitement for their return. They took the stage with confidence and sounded like they hadn’t missed a beat. The songs flooded back to my memory after all these years, and sounded as good as they did on CD (if not better). They set flowed effortlessly through their brand of melodic and technical songs. Like Misery Signals, they are able to go through ambient sections, technical sections, and melodic sections, all while having a very emotional vocal delivery of lyrics that are easy to relate to. Their presence on the stage was similar to Seizures in terms of delivery. The singer made great use of the stage and the band members just focused on playing and enjoying the moment. The guitarists had great tone and the drummer was perfect at knowing when to restrain himself and when to let go. The bassist was a fill in as their usual bassist also plays in Circa Survive, but he blended in perfectly in terms of stage presence and also in terms of the notes he played. The audience responded very well to them and cheered loudly at the announcement that there would be new material form the band on the way.
Finally, it was time for what everyone was waiting for. The crowd started pushing even before music started playing. The members had a drink together right before the set. Their camera crew and friends got situated around the stage. The lights went dark. Horse the Band walked on the stage one at a time to one of the loudest cheers I have ever heard in a venue of that size. All of them walking to their instruments with giant smiles on their faces, because they knew what was in store. Anyone who has been to a Horse the Band show knows it is an experience, not just because of the band, but because their fans are just that crazy. The band started playing and the crowd erupted. From that point on, it was all crowd surfers, stage divers, and the antics of lead singer Nathan. The band went through fan favorite after fan favorite, and did so with a spring in their step. Daniel hit the drums as hard as possible (as he always does in this band and in Silver Snakes). Eric karate chopped at his keyboards while jumping side to side in his tee-shirt and short shorts (looking very much like Napoleon Dynamite). Dave played guitar and smiled at the audience, singing along to all the words. And Jerimiah just chilled while playing bass always smiling and bobbing his head. Nathan was getting in the crowd as much as possible and messing with the people who got up on stage. The set was full of things being thrown onto the stage, as their friend took to microphone to ask for his wallet back, Nathan asked for his shoe back (which resulted in many shoes that weren’t his), and Nathan jokingly told people to give Dave money (which resulted in a barrage of coins being thrown at the band). They band were all sharing a big bottle of Fireball and Nathan had no problem sharing it with the people in the front row who were of age. The set consisted of songs that encompassed most of the bands career. The highlights for me were “Shapeshift” and “Murder”, and “Birdo”. The friends that I went to the show with were happy to hear “House of Boo”, “A Million Exploding Suns”, and “Manateen”. And the guy that was standing next to me went absolutely crazy when the band finished their set with “Cutsman”. It seemed to me like everyone left satisfied hearing the song that they wanted to hear coming into the show. All in all, the band played a nice long set which made their fans who have been waiting to see them for a while (or who had never seen them before) extremely happy, and everyone left the show tired, sweaty, and for many people it left them looking around the floor to find something that they had lost.
It was a very diverse night in terms of music, and it seemed like that’s exactly what the fans wanted. All the bands brought their A-Game and people left the venue with smiles on their faces that rivaled the ones that the members of Horse the Band had.