On Saturday August 16, 2014, I was standing in a crowded dirty bar watching a band in which the intoxicated lead singer was licking the nipple of a fat man on stage. The memory of the drunk vocalist flicking his tongue with exaggerated sensuality across the sweaty areola of an obese man is one I will remember forever, not because of the absurdity of the situation, but due to the respect I had for the band.

My first impression of Horse the Band was one that has plagued the group since its inception; weird joke band. The name of the band itself is ridiculous and the famous rubber horse mask often graced the band’s promotional material. In addition to the strange name, the core sound of their music stems from chuggy metal riffs combined with synth chiptunes played by keyboardist Erik Engstrom, which has been described as Nintendocore (many of the bands earliest hits contained Nintendo references in the lyrics and song titles). To go along with their gimmicky appearance the band had an early reputation of being reckless and overwhelmingly peculiar. I read tales of their lead vocalist Nathan Winneke, pissing in the mouths of fans while on stage and the band being kicked off a tour for showing up late to shows and general irresponsible behavior. Once I dove into the bands discography, I quickly discovered they were more than just a wild metalcore band with chiptunes and Nintendo references. Their album releases of The Mechanical Hand (2005), A Natural Death (2007), and Desperate Living (2009) make up one of the best 3 album streaks of any band I am familiar with, and reveal their evolution from fun moshy singles to legitimate talented art. Beneath the Nintendocore moniker, the rubber masks, eccentric attitudes, and wild ‘not giving a fuck’ rebellious instincts, there is genuine and creative music.

After just a few songs into their set, the core members of the band (Nathan Winneke, Erik Engstom, and lead guitarist David Isen) were clearly drunk. The songs were separated by lengthy gaps where Nathan and Erik would half-jokingly berate the bartenders for drinks, specifically asking for something other than “that southern comfort bullshit.” The crowd cheered every time a band member swallowed a shot and they volleyed floating balloons around to pass the down time. Three balloons met their end when they landed in the hands of a fat guy in a Superman shirt who squeezed them until they popped. “Woah! Superman, Man of Steel!” Nathan slurred sarcastically as he pointed at the balloon killer. “Come up on stage so we can get a better look at you.” The smiling guy, willing to go along with the joke, labored on stage (the small stage is barely a couple of feet above the general bar floor).

Mac’s Bar Stage

“Take your shirt off so we can marvel at your superhuman figure!” Nathan ordered as the Superman shirt guy was still basking in the cheers from the crowd. The fat guy obliged and took off his light blue shirt exposing his low hanging moobs. “Do you mind if I suck on your beautiful teat there Superman?” Nathan asked. The crowd exploded in cheers. The shirtless man nodded his head granting permission.

In the spring of 2008 Horse the Band went on a self-booked and self-funded world tour which lasted 3 months and spanned 4 continents and 45 countries. This tour was documented by a camera man and photographer who had enough footage to make a 10.5 hour long documentary which was released online for free in 2011.

This Earth Tour documentary is the most impactful movie I have ever seen. It is ambitious, unique, raw, emotional, hilarious, gross, and off putting just like the band it chronicled. Throughout the documentary, the phrase “nothing matters” is often stated, which on its surface appears to describe the nihilistic mindset of the band members. One memorable scene featuring touring drummer Jon Krazel, involves one of the many philosophical hipster conversations the band often had. During this conversation Jon referenced the line the band spoke frequently and interpreted it as a glib outlook on life that is actually extremely freeing and optimistic. He explained if ultimately nothing matters, then as a person you should do what makes you happy and live life as you want. After hearing this, Erik was satisfied that Jon finally had a grasp of what the bands motto truly stood for.

After thoroughly licking the fat man’s nipple, Nathan asked “now your pants Superman, will you take them off?” The crowd cheered as the Superman shirt guy seriously considered taking off his pants. Knowing what Nathan would likely ask to suck and to maintain a sliver of pride, the fat man ended the bit and walked off stage with shirt in hand.

I vividly remember watching the Horse the Band Earth Tour documentary in my college apartment. It was the summer of 2012, a summer in which I worked a lot of hours as a security guard and spent my little free time drinking, over eating, and coming to grips with depressing adulthood. The dark empty abyss of life was exposed to me for the first time and I couldn’t look away. I watched the 10 hour documentary on my netbook laying horizontal on the couch in my living room over a 3 day period completely enamored with the band. I was a little young to be so jaded, but my father had recently passed away, my girlfriend ghosted me for a guy in her dorm room, and I was unsure what career I should pursue as I entered my final year of school. A lot of change and uncertainty combined with the realization that adulthood was nothing more than being used by the corrupt American capitalistic society put me in a dark state of mind. A state which has only become darker and colder as I continue to reside in it almost 8 years later.

By 2014, Horse the Band rarely toured and when they did they weren’t known for traveling through the Midwest. My friends and I genuinely felt grateful for the opportunity to see them live in person when they announced their North American tour in 2014. Even at their peak Horse was not selling out amphitheaters and by 2014 the band was all but dead, so their short North American tour did not move through large venues or even small clubs. The venue in which we saw them in Lansing, MI probably only had a 150-200 person capacity.

I couldn’t have dreamed a better scenario. A chance to see one of my most beloved bands in a small intimate venue. Up close the band was energetic, obnoxious and frankly a little sad all of which they were not afraid to reveal.

Before the final two songs, the drummer asked the crowd if anyone had weed. A fan was on stage putting a blunt in his mouth within seconds. The bartender stood on top of the bar and shouted “put that out! You can’t smoke in here, we will call the cops!” The drummer didn’t flinch after hearing the bartender and took a couple of drags off the joint.

I understand that I am not unique. I am not the first unhappy white guy in his late 20’s going through an existential crisis. Everyone has their own way of distracting themselves from the fact that life is meaningless and that eventually the universe will collapse on itself annihilating everything. Some pretend in fairy tales like God and the afterlife while others find solace in vices such as drugs, food, sex, or consumerism. Others like Horse the Band embrace the meaninglessness of life and use it as a source of liberation. I have already indulged in binge eating, materialism, and even tried to slow my accelerating pessimism through regimented writing. Now I am going to try to channel my creative impulses through writing about things, ideas, and events that I find interesting, for no reason other than it will hopefully dull the blunt pain of life. Just like the tongue of Nathan Winneke stimulating the clammy nipple of a fat guy, my writing means nothing and does not matter.

I will continue to stare into the dark abyss but I wont let it prevent me from enjoying things that inspire me. This blog post will be lost amongst countless others polluting the internet, but hopefully it is the beginning of something that will bring balance and a creative outlet in this empty existence.