By Marianne Spellman of Popthomology.com
THATH-mania? HeadHeart-Fest? Localpalooza? How to explain the nearly-palpable, quivering love vibrations going on at Seattle’s Moore Theater, where indie-folk band The Head and the Heart reigned as benevolent kings and queen over an ecstatic citizenry? How, in less than two years of existence, has this band gone from tiny open-mic gigs to selling out not just one, but two of Seattle’s more-prestigious music venues on consecutive nights (the Showbox Market and the venerable Moore)? What makes The Head and the Heart the band with the buzziest buzz in a city with plenty of buzz-worthy music?
The answer lies perhaps most clearly in their live performances. The Head and the Heart is made up of a 6-member multi-instrumentalist team – Josiah Johnson (vocals, guitar), Jon Russell (vocals, guitar), Charity Rose Thielen (vocals, violin), Kenny Hensley (keyboards), Tyler Williams (drums), and Chris Zasche (bass) — and I use the word “team” very deliberately. The band seems quite often more like close family members who just happen to play music together. There are on-stage hugs, encouraging glances, smiles, and nods, all of which might seem a bit corny if not so obviously sincere. Each musician is given space to shine. Enthusiasm and passion pours out of The Head and the Heart, as if each show were the last they could ever perform, and by god, they are going to give it their all.
Is…it…possible? Is the Next Big Thing the Band Least Cynical? Maybe so, you might think, in looking at the faces of the blissed-out fans at the Moore, maybe so.
The band’s bright multi-layered harmonies, delivered full-strength, are of particular note – clean, pure sound delivered with great confidence. The Head and the Heart seem somewhat of a different time and place, and by no means do I mean to say they are a “retro” band. It’s more the feeling that you could so easily set them down in an imaginary musical family of the past, as if Maybelle Carter was great-grandmother, Jimmie Rodgers her husband, there’s Uncle George Gershwin and Aunt Billie Holiday, 2nd cousins Peter, Paul, and Mary, Jackson Browne, neighbors Wilco and the Band…let just say, with a large bunch of folks at THATH holiday sing-a-long.
Making their way through their album (self-released last year and now picked up by legendary indie record company Subpop), the Moore echoed with voices singing along: the chatty, excited group of Catholic high school girls behind me, smartly-dressed middle-aged couples, lots of local music press, quiet bookish singles, and scores of scruffy happy hipsters. The band often looked up past the lights to the top of the Moore to the very steep 3rd balcony (which I’ve never seen opened before, much less filled), awestruck. From the quiet confessional of “Winter Song” to the rollicking piano pop of “Ghosts,” to the modern folk stomp of “Lost In My Mind,” the band had no trouble holding the audience close for their hour-long set. The Head and the Heart are grand in emotion, yet modest at heart, with a fierce determination to honor the roots of American music while clearing their own path. It is this combination that people respond to so strongly.
Fellow Seattle-area indie-folk bands Ivan & Alyosha and Grand Hallway opened the show. I & A stood out with strong harmonies and catchy pop construction, and delivered a smiling, enthusiastic performance that was very well received. Grand Hallway’s orchestral quietude mellowed the crowd with Tomo Nakayama’s soaring voice and Shenandoah Davis’ elegant piano.
Check out photos by Marianne of all three bands below and head over to her Flickr for more photos.
The Head And The Heart