Show Review: The Head and the Heart

On March 23, 2012 The Head and the Heart played at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, GA with Drew Grow & The Pastor’s Wives and Black Girls

When I went to see The Head and the Heart last Friday I thought I knew what to expect after seeing them at Bonnaroo. I knew that they were good live but I did not realize how utterly fantastic they are on stage. Everything about this show was perfect and I could not have asked for any better. After contacting the press people at Sub Pop about covering this show and receiving no reply, I tweeted at guitarist and co-lead vocalist Josiah Johnson asking if I could cover the show not really expecting a reply. I promptly received a message saying that he could get me into the show. It amazed me how quickly he replied, and that he helped me out like this. I have met countless members of bands and it is rare to find musicians as humble and caring towards fans as this guy is. I ran into him before the show and my friend asked him if she could get a picture with him and he agreed without any hesitation or annoyance. We also talked to two members of Drew Grow & The Pastor’s Wives, Jeremiah and Seth, and they were just as nice. I know that there are a lot of nice musicians out there, obviously, but this was just a nice surprise as I have not experienced this for a while.

The 40 Watt Club is an amazing venue. One of the best I’ve ever seen. They know what they’re doing, the staff are friendly, and they are convenient and efficient. The sound is pretty spot on and the club is a perfect size for intimate shows, no matter the band. Unfortunately for the opening act Black Girls (a bunch of white guys), the sound was not very good. The instruments greatly overpowered the vocals to the point where I could not even hear the lead singer’s voice. This was unfortunate because at some points (when I could hear him) I could tell that he had an interesting voice. After listening to their actual album I’m bummed that I missed out on his singing because he has an awesome voice. But the band were very energetic and exciting, especially the bass player who was dancing away and working up the crowd. They seemed to please the packed crowd and create a fun atmosphere that would last for the rest of the show.

Even when Drew Grow & The Pastor’s Wives were setting up, it was obvious that they were going to put on quite a show. There was an upright bass and about 6 guitars set up on the stage along with drums and keyboard. The band consisted of 4 members: Seth & Jeremiah who I mentioned before, played the slide guitar/keyboard & drums, respectively; Drew Grow, the lead singer and guitarist; and a female bassist who switched between the upright bass and electric bass. Their show was almost like a punk show based on the energy that each member put into their playing, but it was also folky and oh so fun. They played for about 45 minutes with Drew Grow leading the procession and playing in a number of strange poses. He reminded me a whole lot of Jeff Mangum (who I saw at the same venue a few weeks back) and he even mentioned how he saw Vic Chestnut at the same venue which is exactly what Jeff Mangum said at his show. Strange. Maybe they were friends. The reason he reminded me of Mangum is that his lyrics were entrancing and his stage presence was strange but comforting. Supposedly at other shows people have tweeted awful things about this band, such as wanting their van to crash in a ditch, etc. but I really cannot see a reason why anyone could hate this band. They were energetic, talented, and everything that an opening act should be. In fact, they could have been headlining and I would have been happy.

Around 11pm the real headliner hit the stage, and what a headliner they were. The Head and the Heart released their debut album in June 2009 and it was only in the last year or so that the band have started to pick up traction and become the adored band that they are today. This means that they have only been headlining for just a little while now, but they knew exactly what they were doing. They played 16 songs, which is impressive since the first album had only 10 songs on it. They said that they played “every song that they knew”, including 4 new songs which will be on their sophomore album that they will be writing in their time off this year. They came to the stage and played connecting songs Cats & Dogs and Couer D’Alene and the crowd went wild. The sound was perfect, the voices were stunning, the instruments were pounding, it was a good beginning to the show. After playing Ghosts they hit us with a couple of new songs which sounded just as good, if not better than the stuff they’ve got out right now. Last time I saw co-lead vocalist and guitarist John Russell (spirit animal Wolf) he had a beard and a slightly stoic stage persona. This time he was shaven and acted just like a frontman should (even though he’s not really the frontman, there is not really a frontman in this band). He was powerful and energetic and won the crowd over with his wonderfully gruff voice.

When the band played Josh McBride I pretty much peed myself. That’s been one of my favorites of their songs for ages after I saw a wonderful video of them played it online and I never thought I’d hear it played live, but then it happened. It’s not a song on their album, I don’t even think a studio version of it has been released, but it’s beautiful. The live rendition of it was even better than any of the other versions I’ve heard before and I think I was the happiest boy in the world at that moment. Then came Lost In My Mind and wow, was it a treat. Everyone from all the bands came on stage and sat and clapped and play instruments and it was a huge party. Everyone in the venue was singing and happy and this is when I knew that these guys were for real. They’re going to be something big. Everyone should know them. During Winter Song, viola player Charity Rose Thielen showcased her beautiful, daring voice and the whole crowd screamed for her when she did. She seemed legitimately blown away by the support the crowd gave her, it was an incredible moment. At the end of the set the band played one of my favorite songs ever made, Rivers and Roads. I do not think I’ve ever sung louder. I almost cried. That’s all I need to see. They came back for a well-deserved encore and played three songs that included an acoustic version of Honey Come Home and ended with Down In The Valley which was fitting end to an already spectacular show. This article definitely does not do the band justice so if you can go see them anytime, please do. It may change your life. They’ll be playing at Coachella and Beale St. Music Festival this summer, along with countless other shows. For everyone’s sake, please go see them.

Thanks to Meredith LeVan for the lovely pictures taken in this article!

Cats & Dogs
Couer D’Alene
Love You Long Time
Heaven Go Easy On Me
New Jam
Josh McBride
Lost In My Mind
Winter Song
Sounds Like Hallelujah
What’s The Point
Rivers and Roads
Honey Come Home
Down In The Valley