“This is so much fun!” Charity Rose Thielen announced three songs into The Head And The Heart’s sold-out show at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. The violinist and vocalist had to be believed. From the giddy grin on her face to the giggle she let loose when she made the announcement, sincerity wasn’t in question. Of course, the sincerity of the band’s music has been called into question in recent album reviews from Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound, but others, like, um, us, have praised the folky anthems of the recent self-titled debut, a debut that was rereleased by Sub Pop after the band’s workmanlike touring for their self-release saw high sales by any measuring rubrik.
But review scores, authenticity, lyrical analysis, and marketing — these are not “fun” topics. Sure, they have their place, but The Head And The Heart seem like the kind of band that is going to keep doing what they do, regardless of what the cynics say. From the chatter that could be heard after their foot-stompin’, hand-clappin’, sing-along set on Monday night, they are doing a lot of things right. Not only are they having fun, but their audience sure is, too.
After capable sets from Kayaks and The Devil Whale, the six-piece Seattle group (though, the band noted, two of the members were originally from L.A. and had lots of friends in the audience) took the stage and began their set in the same way they begin their album. In fact, the setlist stuck pretty closely to the album in running order, with the big change being “Down In The Valley” moved near to the end. The opening run, including an energetic “Coere D’Alene,” and a “Ghosts” that couldn’t help feeling extra relevant with some band members being back home, captured the band hitting an early peak. Thielen and Josiah Johnson took every opportunity to shake a variety of percussion instruments, seeming hardly content to stand in their own corner of the stage and, rather, playing the free-rover position that could show up at any member’s station for an impromptu shared-moment.
In fact, it was the subtleties that made The Head And The Heart so fun to watch. The most frequent lead, Jonathan Russell, using his hand to crash on drummer Tyler Williams’ cymbal. Johnson noticing that Thielen looked a little distracted and picking up a shaker for her add to a song. The constant shared glances from band-member to band-member that screamed “holy shit, we are doing really well!”
The band also showed off some new material, as their headlining set demanded a little more than their current range of recorded material. The first, simply introduced as “New Jam,” came off slightly trite with the barroom-tale lyrics but still managed to impress with another catchy melody and harmonizing that is among the group’s finest yet. In the encore, which was the most relaxed period of the night, “Josh McBride” was more reaching in scope, starting as a ballad and building into a towering anthem, showing that the group has not fully revealed their potential.
But the best moments of the night were saved for their best-known tunes, seeing “Lost In My Mind” and “Down In The Valley” turned into unsolicited sing-alongs, which the band appreciated with approving glances and elevated intensity to match the crowd’s. Sure, it might not be the coolest music, but the appeal of the band was best summed up by Russell, after he gave a post-song high-five to pianist Kenny Hensely, saying “it might not be cool to high-five each other on stage, but that shit feels good.” And hell, I’d rather feel good than be cool any day of the week.
Cats & Dogs
Honey Come Home
Lost In My Mind
Sound’s Like Hallelujah
Down In The Valley
Rivers and Roads
Heaven Go Easy On Me