Blind Pilot @ The Horseshoe Tavern, Monday, July 31st, 2017

Sextet Blind Pilot took the glitter-spackled stage of The Horseshoe Tavern Monday night, to the impressively loud sound of whoops and claps. They stood silently, seriously, and then, without greeting, Israel Nebeker began brushing his guitar. In a matter of seconds, the entire bar went silent. Conversations halted as the song’s opening chords sounded. Then Nebeker started singing.

His tired eyes opened and closed to the rhythm of his lyrics, matching his soft strumming almost as perfectly as the hush that had descended. Earnest trumpets floated in, followed by soft harmonies from bandmates Luke Ydstie and Kati Claborn, rounding out this introduction to make way for the entire band to join in for one final verse before their sudden collective silence. This opener comes from their 2016 album And Then Like Lions, a smooth graduation from their almost decade-old freshman, 3 Rounds and a Sound. This dreamscape is peppered with familiar fragments of guitar picking and reflective lyrics, the harmonies sweeping and the drum beats deep that arouse the fervor to turn the dark unknown into a frontier.

Blind Pilot was kind enough to play to the nostalgia of their audience, following their opening track with a throwback to 3 Rounds and a Sound. Smiling patrons sang along to Nebecker’s familiar lyrics, hearing the same skillful wailing later in the night from “Go On, Say It” that Nebecker achieves on its album. By the third song, Israel’s singing was met with encouraging yelps and hollers, and by the fifth, arms were slung around shoulders, patrons swaying, smiling. Ydstie shared an anecdote about his last visit to The Horseshoe, a big smile on his full, flushed face, aiding the closeness the band fostered that made the concert hall feel like a friend’s basement. Their songs ebbed and flowed like a smart stream, drawing an excitement that would crash only to be built up again, with care and skill that lasted the whole night.

By Grace Bueler