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I Break Horses at Empty Bottle

I am not a God-fearing man, but I’ve heard many say they’ve met God. Some claim they met him while sitting in the back row of the sterile, industrial, stadium church they attend on Sundays in between soccer practice and a trip to Target. Others while screaming for the ceiling amongst 20 people from their neighborhood in a small, humid, humble wooden church nestled comfortably into the hill side. The pastor of this church doesn’t need the dog and pony show of two projector screens and a $20,000 sound system. His lungs and the passion that runs his blood warm are enough to call the holy spirit into attendance. And to the people in the front row who occasionally get splashed with the sweat from the sermon, things feel all the more real. And ask the lady who’s been playing the organ in the corner for the last 30 years if she needs an overpriced sound system to get her job done.

The Swedish trio (they have an extra body for touring) I Break Horses turned The Empty Bottle into one of those small churches Friday. The sermon was lead by vocalist Maria Lindén with the support of pounding, hypnotic rhythms and layers of trance inducing, shoe gaze inspired vintage synthesizer melodies. The white sheet that was hanging from the ceiling on the back of the stage even resembled the sun washed, hand welded stained glass window if you let yourself be lost in the performance.

I had been waiting to see I Break Horses since I missed their opening performance with M83 in Chicago a few years back. Their songs “Load Your Eyes,” and “Hearts” have been in pretty heavy rotation over the last few years, and recently a few songs from their new release Chiaroscuro have joined the fray. Most notably the pulsing dance gospel “Faith,” which had the people in my near vicinity in the front row pushing their hands in the air and tossing their heads around with careless fervor. Were they being introduced to a higher power? You could’ve fooled me.

I’ve attended concerts at the rate that a righteous holy man attends church, and it’s the rare performance that blurs the line for me. I’ve seen enough shows of that caliber to maybe be running out of fingers on my hands to count them by. The Chemical Brothers at the Hollywood Bowl in 2010 was, to me, what a Catholic would experience seeing the pope conduct a service at St. Peter’s Basilica to a standing room only crowd. Friday’s I Break Horses show was an intimate, personal, experience akin to what your grandmother experienced in her church in rural America when she was your age. The small church that no one knows about; no one talks about. The church that, when the sermon is over and the doors let the people back out into the world, every single one of them knows that they just experienced something that no one else would be able to understand.

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