“Playing those songs with those guys again felt amazing. It's certainly something I've missed the last couple of years,” says Tin Horn Prayer vocalist/guitarist Andy Thomas (also a Westword contributor), following the band’s first show since 2012. Tin Horn went out on the high of the release of their then highly-anticipated second album Grapple the Rails amidst rumors of addiction and personal conflicts. To hear that the guys were rekindling their musical bond was practically too good to be true, and I relished the opportunity to belt out those songs again from the audience with one of my favorite Denver bands at their reunion show, even if it turned out to only be for one night.
February 13th was both a somber and celebratory evening and, for a band whose songs often deal with living life too fast and the specter of death, it’s equally fitting and macabre that Tin Horn Prayer put aside their differences to commemorate the life of original drummer Camden Trendler, who played on their seminal album Get Busy Dying and recently committed suicide. Proceeds from the five dollar show went directly to his family in order to purchase him a proper headstone while donations were also accepted for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Thomas says that, following the night of revelry and remembrance, he feels “a lot closer to everyone involved with this show. The circumstances surrounding the show were obviously bitter sweet, but I still drew a lot of positives from it. It was also good to share the stage again with Cory Trendler [Nixon’s the One], who was also an original member of Tin Horn Prayer along with his brother Camden.”
The overall lineup of the show was less about creating a cohesive mood and more about bringing Camden’s family, friends and former bandmates on stage. Between the mellow, harmony-laden country of opening duo The Gromet and the gruff, up-tempo punk rock from Nixon’s the One, the two bands sat almost at the opposite ends of what comprises Tin Horn Prayer’s dark, outlaw alt-country sound.
There’s something to be said about the timelessness of a song when a band steps on stage for the first time since calling a break. Some of it has to do with the indelibility of music where a song “lives forever” through its recording, but it becomes even more special in the context of live performance in that connection between artist and audience. For fans of Tin Horn Prayer, it was as if they’d never left at all. The dance floor never stopped shaking from all the stomping feet and lyrics were belted back at the band throughout their hour long set that balanced equally between their two albums. I asked Thomas why he thinks people are still so eager to interact with Tin Horn Prayer:
“I was never quite sure why people responded to Tin Horn so enthusiastically. The songs are certainly easy to sing and dance along with and, lyrically, we always strove to write from the most honest place as possible. I think people respond to that. Because of our instrumentation, I think some people dismissed us as doing a ‘thing,’ but I never saw it that way. That band played some of the more honest and emotionally candid material I've ever done and that tends to make people feel a certain way about you. Having said all of that, musically, we were also a very fun and rowdy band, so even if you're weren't paying attention to the lyrics, we were still a band that you could get drunk and jump around with.”
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Will Tin Horn Prayer reunite or was this simply a one-off performance? It seems, at least, that guitarist Scooter James is certainly in the mood to re-live the good ol’ days since he reunited with his other revered band Pinhead Circus just a couple weeks prior to playing again with Tin Horn Prayer. Thomas says that another reprise is definitely not out of the question: “A year ago, I was saying there was a zero percent chance of us playing together ever again, as I'm sure Scooter used to say of Pinhead Circus. As time passed, that percentage became higher and higher before I realized I was writing the hi-dive and booking a show. I don't know what my percentage is at these days, but I am certainly more open to it now and am glad that this name exists in the universe again. I absolutely did this show to honor Camden's memory. He was an amazing kid that left us too early. I always want closure with everything I do in life and maybe this was a way to do that for both him and for the band.”
Given the amiable conversation I observed between Thomas and bandmate Mike Herrera at the Hi-Dive bar while they waited for pre-set drinks, the elated reaction from those present that night and the fun Tin Horn Prayer seemed to have collectively as they resurrected both their music and the spirit of lost friends, I’m not counting them out just yet.