I went to the esteemed Troubadour last night to see the rising artist Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses. I arrived just after the band went on and was not regretting my decision, despite having missed a few songs. Although the room was packed (I believe the show sold out), the music, at first, seemed like plain old vanilla cowboy country rock. By the end of the night, I felt the exact same way (to their credit – there were two or three songs that actually piqued my interest).
After moving to a different side of the room to get some more space and check out the other instrumentalists, I was a bit more impressed. I was on the far side and closest to the mandolin/guitar played, who is easily the most talented musician in the band. He definitely can rip it. I enjoyed watching him play the mandolin and guitar, especially when he made his instruments weep and wail. He was a great compliment to Bingham’s less than stellar guitar skills. The chemistry between the mandolin player and Bingham is pretty good – the mandolin player reads Bingham’s clues and understands when he needs to come in and give the lead man help to carry the music.
What bothered me about their dynamic is that anytime the song called for some unique musicianship or the highlighting of an instrument, Bingham would not be singing. Bingham’s asset is his voice…definitely not his guitar picking…and it would have been nice to see how his vocals shine when combined with the guitar player going off. Instead, each time the song called for some good guitar lines, Bingham stopped singing and gave his cue to the mandolin player. As I watched this dynamic unfold song after song after song, all I could think was that either the mandolin player (along with the bassist) should start their own band or Bingham himself needs to get better at his instrument.
It was not until the final song before the encore, which is clearly their most popular song, that I got to see Bingham unleash some musical talent that is worth paying for. Their final song was exciting, energetic and Bingham was actually playing and controlling his guitar.
The other highlight was Marc Ford’s son, who plays bass and keys for The Dead Horses. As I mentioned above, I think him and the mandolin player should consider starting their own group….unfortunately, they lack the pretty face appeal that majors (and major agencies like CAA) look for and find in a guy like Bingham.
The lowlight of the show was the drummer’s stoic appearance. I saw nothing that resembled enthusiasm or excitement in the way that he played. He essentially looked like he had no emotion whatsoever. He wasn’t bad at his craft, but they could find someone who can play the exact same and at least smiles while he is doing it.
All in all, it was a half-decent night of music. I’m not much of a cowboy type anyway, but the music was nothing that I am writing home about. It was more than tolerable, but I definitely left wondering what all the buzz is about and why the room was so packed. Either there are a lot of Texans in LA that I’ve never met or half of the CAA office was in attendance to make Bingham feel good. I’m quite confident it was the latter (I met like 10 people who work or formerly worked at CAA).
I don’t think I will be going to see Bingham again, at least not anytime soon, unless they get a new drummer or someone pays for me to go and buys all my drinks.