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Lonely Horse sits under the blue hue of light, lead singer Nic Long’s dreads and guard down as he opens up to the musical spirit through a guitar and a microphone, the muscle and kick to his weathered gaze pounds a powerful tom and cymbal crash, and you’re off – along for a ride equal parts soul-exploratory and battle cry.
At Sam’s Burger Joint Friday night, Lonely Horse’s Long and Travis Hild unveiled their latest EP, Death To Our Death, along with T-shirts of their long-haired humble countenances, ones which spoke of gratitude and grit as they kicked off their three-month tour with a hometown crowd who howled under the full moon alongside them.
Lonely Horse’s resurgence, especially with the power they possessed Friday night, demonstrates the resolve of two men who believe in their creation more than anything else.
“We were in a messed up place, in a messed up contract situation,” Long said of the group’s breakup more than a year ago. “We made sure things got better, we were men about it. Money can change people, but Travis and I are not that kind of people.”
The desires of the two men to play together again never waned, and the quiet friendship observed in the silences exploded through their music.
“It’s like a Pentecostal church, you’re like ‘holy s—‘ for the Lord, you know what I mean?” Long said of the spiritual experience of the musicians’ performance. Both Long and Hild grew up with ministers as parents.
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“When I write songs it’s honoring the creator, it’s a form of worship,” Long said. “I’m sure we’re crossing a ton of lines of reverence in our own way.”
Sonic sounds slipped sonorously from Long’s guitar in the more meditative moments, his love for the blues allowing the audience to experience him as if in his living room, Hild keeping a passionate eye on his brother in stillness, or the opposite of it.
“I always think of my ancestors, the Negro spirituals,” Long said of the creative element. “When I’m really in it, entranced in my music, I have visions sometimes. We’ll even write a song in the middle of a set, we’re just lost somewhere. I’d say it’s some of our best stuff.”
If the downstrokes were the tide crashing to shore, the upstrokes of Long’s guitar, a highlighted shimmer of distortion, were the rise of the wave as the dark haired, bright eyed onlookers jumped on board and took a trip that certainly felt like walking on water, or lying face first in the sand as the sun bakes you.
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“We’ve been doing this a long time,” Long said of his partnership with Hild, which started in 2010. “It’s like growing two different plants next to each other – it takes a while for them to grow in harmony but it can happen.”
As Long climbed down into the audience for the encore – “I need a longer cord, I gotta get down there (in the audience)” he said earlier in the show – with animal-like wailing into the microphone as the crowd poured over him and held him from falling over in his trance-like state, Hild released his tom from its tethers and came down with the heartbeat that had kept the music going the whole time.
“We had to humble ourselves yet again, and we are now free from our record contracts,” Long said of the band’s current state of mind, inevitably giving rise to the symbolism of Death To Our Death. “The sky’s the limit, we can do whatever we want.”
Top image: Lonely Horse performs an energetic set at Sam’s Burger Joint. Photo by Scott Ball.