A funny thing happened to me after seeing Seattle’s The Head And The Heart perform a remarkable set at Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom: I couldn’t stop listening to the band’s self-titled debut. The show was October 2, and I’ve yet to break the cycle of repeating song after song on my car stereo. I think I figured out why, though — the show was so much damn fun. I’ve been trying to re-capture that euphoria ever since.
The band’s co-frontman Josiah Johnson began the show by telling the packed-house crowd at the venue: “It’s great to be here. Give us what you’ve got, and we’ll give back what we get.” What the sextet got was lots of love and energy, and what they gave was a fantastic performance. Johnson, fellow co-frontman Jon Russell and violinist Charity Rose occupied the spots at the stage’s front, but each moved from mic to mic to sing with one another, and the whole band bounced around at one time or another.
The bounding keyboard line of “Ghosts” had the crowd dancing and singing along. Rose belting out her part near the end of “Rivers and Roads” might’ve been the loudest sing-along of the night. The audience was mostly hushed as Johnson performed what he said was a brand new song, a low-key acoustic number stamped with the same reflective, folkloric lyrics as the 10 tracks on H&H’s debut record (Check out the new one at Fuel/Friends here, and thanks to songsfortheday for the heads-up). There were so many wonderful moments, and the band seemed to genuinely appreciate the level of affection they received, returning it with a magical 75 minutes.
H&H have been touring with another band I adore: Thao With The Get Down Stay Down. Thao Nguyen can play the shit out of the guitar, and is so adorable on stage that it’s hard not to smile and fall victim to her cuteness. “It’s nice to be in a place this size, so I can see all of your eyes. It’s nice to be able to flirt with all of you,” Nguyen said with a laugh, adding “Just kidding.”
Her performance supplied much of the same energy that’s present in all her recorded works, which was refreshing to see. I love the band’s song “When We Swam,” with its playful lyric Bring your hips, oh, bring your hips, to me, so when the set began with that song, I was hooked. Nguyen’s atypical vocal style, coupled with the danceable nature of the songs she sings, made the whole thing a treat. Songs like “Body” and “Bag of Hammers” were so much fun to hear live, and the crowd bopped along appreciatively.
Salt Lake City’s The Devil Whale kicked things off as the night’s first act, and provided a rockin’ warm-up. Members of all three bands appeared onstage during the other two bands’ sets at different times, which was an awful lot of fun. And that was the operative word for this Sunday night show at Beachland Ballroom: fun.