Modesty. Most bands—at least the bands I tend to follow—could use some. An Horse are not one of those bands. Standing on a small stage in the back of Valentine’s, backed by a plain brown tapestry, under the cover of three colored lights, Kate Cooper and Damon Cox, the guitarist-and-drummer duo from Brisbane, Australia, ripped through a quick, concise set that highlighted tracks from their recently released Walls, performing for a crowd of maybe 50, bartender and doorman included.
Opening the show with the pounding, churning “Trains and Tracks” before moving directly into “Know This, We’ve Noticed,” Cooper and Cox set the pace for the night: punchy, jaunty indie pop, filled with soaring vocals and guitar, supported by efficient, flash-free drumming and backing vocals.
Making quick work of their stage time, Cooper and Cox tore through Rearrange Beds and Walls cuts like “Postcards,” “Dressed Sharply,” “100 Whales,” “Little Lungs” and an amplified acoustic version of Walls’ title track.
Between songs, Cooper and Cox interacted with the crowd: They fielded questions, talked about their mothers and “getting baked” at waterfalls, and thanked the crowd for making it out on a Thursday night. The conversations, like the set, were brief and casual.
An Horse’s live highlights are, somewhat unsurprisingly, also their studio highlights. The aforementioned “Know This, We’ve Noticed” and Walls gem “Brain on a Table” seemed more fit for an arena than then close confines of Valentine’s downstairs stage. Cooper’s massive, soaring chorus on “Know This” and the slow, lurching build of “Brain on a Table” matched the intensity of their album-based counterparts.
Last Thursday’s set spanned, by my count, 13 separate tracks and clocked in around 50 minutes, audience banter included. The brevity was not a drawback. An Horse have a limited pallet to work with, so compact, powerful sets work in their favor. After all, it’s only a woman on guitar and lead vocals and a man on drums and backing, so their live possibilities are tempered. But what they do work with separates them from the legions of feckless indie poppers parading around as their contemporaries. Cox’s raw vocals fit nicely behind Cooper’s highly annunciated twists of tongue, and his tight, direct approach to his modest drum kit, combined with Cooper’s buzzing, restrained guitar, left plenty of room for the duo’s anthemic hooks.
Closing the set on the Rearrange Beds single “Camp Out,” Cooper and Cox once again thanked the crowd for turning out, set their instruments down, and walked over to the side of the bar to work their own merchandise table, where they sold their gear, shook hands, signed autographs, took pictures, and thanked their fans for showing up. That’s some modesty in action.