According to the flyer, Saturday night was the “Rockin’ for Racks” breast-cancer benefit show at the Ten Eleven. The only possible indication in the room was propped up behind the bar — a presumably empty breast self-exam kit that appeared to be a leftover from the 1970s. I didn’t see anyone lining up for “free hand mammograms,” either.
Lonely Horse hit the stage at 9:30 with acoustic opener “The Racist and I,” which happens to be my favorite of their songs. It’s reminiscent of old Marcy Playground (not the singles) with singer Lonely Horse (actual name) mimicking John Wozniak’s breathy croon almost perfectly. According to the band’s Myspace page, Lonely Horse plays “Native American story music” — though you probably wouldn’t have gleaned that based solely on the music were it not for the brief chanting at the end of their second song, “Tall Grass.” They follow that with “Seven Sisters,” which opens up with drummer Justin Garcia playing at an almost Thursday-ish panic, then shifting into more straightforward indie pop. By song’s end, Lonely Horse’s voice sounds so downtrodden you expect to hear his heart breaking over the PA.
Guitarist Fernando Garcia fills in appropriate solos and electric accompaniment when applicable. His parts give the band a more accessible, contemporary sound. Fernando does tend to drown out Lonely Horse’s acoustic, which could be corrected by tinkering with the mix. Since the emotional quality of the performance is intrinsically attached to Lonely Horse himself, drowning him out tends to detract from the overall experience.
Moving away from the Ryan Adams-esque “Lloyd and Karen Walten,” Justin Garcia and bassist Andrew Elizalde build slowly into the more energetic “Seven Brothers,” with the kick and thump of the bass driving the swell of instrumentation. Justin Garcia crashes his cymbals in fits of controlled chaos, while Lonely Horse bounces across the stage. For closer “The Sun and I,” Lonely Horse swaps his acoustic for the electric guitar that had been lying derelict on the floor throughout the set. Switching guitars appeared to cause some technical difficulties, marring what would have probably been a very impressive closer. It ultimately comes together with all four members singing, “I’m a dead man, I grew my horns and grew my fangs just a couple of days ago,” followed by an erratic climax in which Lonely Horse grabs an extra drumstick and makes sure the cymbals keep crashing. — Steven Gilmore