I can only count a hand full of bands that have really grabbed me over the years. Finding the kind of band that has just what it takes to pull you in and help you cross that line between enjoyment and fandom is rare. For me, The Head and The Heart is one of those special bands and on a Monday night in Lawrence I got that “I need to learn the lyrics” feeling.
Their debut self titled album has been in regular rotation on my late night play-lists and when I found out they would have a stop in Lawrence before their trek to SXSW, it didn’t take long for me to put together a plan to attend the show. While I should have been home running though lists of bands and pressing play on their MySpace pages, a hot night at the Jackpot in Lawrence sounded like the right kind of night for me. I wasn’t the only one with this thought as the bar was filled to that perfect level of sweat and “excuse me, can I get though?”; it was a great night for a show.
The crowd stood in anticipation as the first notes of The Head and The Heart’s folk inspired set rang though the crowded bar. This anticipation quickly turned into dancing and clapping while songs like “Down in the Valley” flowed from the mouth of the enlightened crowd. The band could feel the energy and was ready to respond with the shared momentum of the vocal trio Jon Russell, Charity Thielen, and Josiah Johnson. Watching the three play off each other as they shared the task of front man you couldn’t help but have a thought of family. The sense of togetherness that the band has only brought the crowd in closer, but it wasn’t their cheers of recognition or gazing eyes that the band was looking for. The band was here for the music and the chance to get to share it with a group of people again.
It’s a rare thing to see now a days, but it was a statement that the band had made from the very beginning and I had just missed it. The message of “the music first” was planted on an unmanned merch booth until after the show. While it’s not rare to see a band run their own merch, it has become a rarity for the music to come first. For The Head and The Heart it’s about the music, it’s about the show, and they have the music to back up the statement. Songs like “Lost in My Mind” can give a person that good old swaying feeling to the point where you can’t do anything else but let it flow through your hands as you reach for the sky.
It was nice to see the band in the intimate setting that was the Jackpot in Lawrence, a setting I can’t imagine they will have for long. This is the kind of band that is just waiting for the right time and place to really take off, but for now you have that chance to say, “I saw them back when they were…” You just might have to jump on that chance now before it becomes “I wish I could have seen them when…” The only thing I can fault The Head and the Heart for is the nine tracks on their debut album, because as I sit hear and listen I just long to see them live again. That’s it, I’m a fan. Now where is that merch booth?
You can see The Head and The Heart at this year’s SXSW music festival on the 14th through the 17th. Until then, I hope this performance of “Sounds Like Hallelujah” from The Jackpot can tide you over.
by Ryan Davis