Columbia City Theater
Friday, August 6
Opening with "Cats and Dogs" and>"/>
Opening with "Cats and Dogs" and "Coeur D'Alene" was one of the smarter moves The Head and the Heart made during their set at Columbia City Theater last night. The much-buzzed-about Seattle band clearly already had the crowd's attention: The small venue was wall-to-wall fans, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, with more still lined up through the theater's lobby and front door waiting to buy tickets as the show started. (The show eventually sold out during the band's set.)
But those opening songs demonstrated that all that buzz and those devoted show-goers are rightfully earned: Played back to back, "Cats and Dogs" and "Coeur D'Alene"--also the first two songs on the band's debut album--sound more like three movements of an alt-country symphony than two individual compositions. It's both artful and catchy songwriting, charming yet clever, which is why the band has earned so much praise in such a short musical lifespan.
The rest of the band's set had the same feeling: it was, in the simplest terms, a solid show, with great-sounding music and an excited crowd. The Head and the Heart sound identical live and recorded. The vocalists hit every harmony; the instrumentals are always on key. Sure, the band's live show isn't perfect: There's no real frontperson in The Head and the Heart, since John Russell, Josiah Johnson, and Charity Thielen trade off on vocals, and those three musicians took half the set to build enough energy to move and dance around on stage. (A friend of mine aptly pointed out that the band's rhythm section--the piano player, drummer, and bassist--were far more energetic and entertaining than the vocalists.) But that didn't seem matter to the crowd at all: they just loved the music. By the time the band broke into "Down in the Valley," the crowd was moving and bobbing their heads; you could hear a chorus of voices bellowing "I am on my way/I am on my way back to where I started," the song's refrain.
It was during that moment--when the audience joined Russell on "Down in the Valley"-- that I became acutely aware of The Head and the Heart's meteoric rise in the local scene. That set was like watching hype happen in real time: this band has been around for a year, self-released one album about two months ago, and they've sold out a show they didn't even headline. I mean this with no slight to Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground. The jam-friendly band demonstrated, as always, their ability to pull of technical-yet-beautiful guitar solos, even when they're missing a few members: Eric Howk from the Lashes filled in for guitarist Thomas Hunter last night without flaw. But there's no doubt that The Head and the Heart drew more people to Columbia City. There was a markedly smaller audience in the venue when Kay Kay started their set (you could actually move), and the crowd became thinner the longer the band played.
Personal Bias:I've definitely gone back and forth on The Head and the Heart, from hype-denier to bandwagon-joiner. I'd say I'm the latter, for the moment.
The Crowd: Bearded, head-bopping, but not willing to dance.
Random Notebook Dump: Said by Abbey Simmons, the show's organizer, right before The Head and the Heart took the stage: "You're not in Seattle anymore, you're in Columbia City." I'm not sure what that means.
Overheard in the Crowd:
Overheard in the Crowd:"Hey, pick me up!" said by a short dude to his much taller, much more muscled friend during The Head and the Heart's set. To my surprise, the taller dude actually obliged, holding his friend in the air for a full song.
All photos by Laura Musselman.