Despite being dismissed for bringing nothing new to the party -- the band does not come with the Pitchfork stamp of approval -- The Head and the Heart has managed to separate itself from the folk-rock revivalist pack.
Mixed into Pandora playlists alongside the Avetts, Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, etc., and given showcase slots on festivals like Coachella, the Seattle band band has built a following big enough to pack Stage AE, which it did Friday night.
It was almost strange to see that many people in their teens and twenties rally around a band so closely aligned with their parents' music. The six-piece band walked out to a Neil Young song before going about the business of evoking the core of classic '70s rock with some of the atmospheric touches of Band of Horses, another Seattle product.
What doesn't jump off the band's two Sub Pop albums is just how much frontman Jonathan Russell sounds like Tom Petty, particularly on "Homecoming Heroes" and standout "Let's Be Still," which he sings more like E (of Eels) in the studio. The piano-driven "Ghosts" sounded like it could have come off the Beatles "White Album," while "Lost in My Mind" tapped into the tribal vibe of Rusted Root.
Russell shared harmonies and lead vocals with guitarist Josiah Johnson (who sang "Coeur d'Alene" down in the crowd) and violinist Charity Thielen, who provided soaring high notes and took a howling lead on "Summertime" that had shades of Karen O.
As Russell is more the hipster pretty boy than showman, it was left to Thielen (running around clapping her hands) to provide the energy. In this case, the beauty and dynamics of the music trumped the presentation.
If you're unfamiliar with opening act Lucius (and you probably are), look up them on YouTube. The Brooklyn band presents the rare visual of two blond singer/keyboardists -- Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessing -- who look like mirror images of each other on stage. And, wow, can they sing. Playing songs from the Mom + Pop debut "Wildewoman," Lucius, mixing indie-pop, chamber pop and New Wave, could have carried the night and hopefully will rise to headliner status in due time.
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