Record of the Month Curator
January 2024 Curator Letter
Band of Horses Acoustic at the Ryman, Vol II
Curated by Carter King of Futurebirds
We had the chance to play the ultra-historic Ryman Auditorium this past May. It’s an exciting notion, but that high roofline of incredible history can also loom real heavy. The day before the show, when the nervous energy had long-passed the speed limit and was drifting into the oncoming lanes of anxiety and self-doubt, we texted Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses to get his advice and some balm for our minds. We’ve known Ben and the band since they took us out on tour back in 2012, but we were deep fans of theirs long before that. Since then, he’s become a great friend, mentor, and a walking Masterclass in STOKE for the world around him. Ben is never shy about texting over a great, obscure song that you’ve never heard in the middle of the night, right when it strikes him. He has also never been shy about relaying the truth of his experience as he sees it - for instance, what it feels like to be sitting in the middle-school carpool line in Charleston, SC with a neck tattoo of a lion vomiting blood. Not many people get to live that, but Ben, through his songs and his actual being, invites you right in there with him and pours you a drink, happy to have the company to laugh with at the absurdity of everything.
Ben sent back a two-minute voice memo in response to my text - a thoughtful stream of consciousness to the whole band of uplifting descriptions about the warm and magical nature of the room, kind words about our band and music, and great advice on how to be mindful of the experience amidst the whirlwind of people and stress that a ‘big’ show can be. He asked that we “really soak in the room, and let that room soak you in” and to really take in, and be a part of, the acoustics of that “old, beautiful wood.” He made sure to also let us know multiple times in that recording that he was currently driving a trailer of “nasty ass trash” from his house to the dump back home in South Carolina.
From the outset of this record, Acoustic at the Ryman Vol II, all of Ben’s advice to us is on full ‘practice-what-you-preach’ display. It begins with him addressing the crowd, talking back and forth with some folks like they’re just sitting in his living room together. It’s hospitable, grateful, self-effacing, and funny. It disarms the bullshit and shines a light on what’s important about their evening together. It’s a feeling that this record captures perfectly throughout. Ben intentionally sets the tone for everyone in the room, the exact same way he kindly did for us in his psychedelic-pep-talk. Then he and the rest of the amazingly talented band proceed to do their thing, beautifully and joyously - they become one with that old beautiful wood. This is what Ben always seems to see and is never afraid to instill in the world around him: don’t fear the Ryman, don’t fear the carpool line, don’t fear the bullshit - This world will blow your mind if you just let it. So if art serves to reflect that fact, it should be made with intention, purpose, and heart. And whether it be an obscure song, or a 132-year old building (or a Band of Horses live acoustic record from the Ryman), those creations should be revered, celebrated, fully lived with, and appreciated, but don’t mistake that with taking any of it too seriously, because at the end of the day, man, we’re all out here just trying to get the trash to the dump.
I hope y'all enjoy that beautiful wood,