Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Music from the heart

Indie band The Head and the Heart to play next week at River Run

Express Staff Writer

The Seattle-based band The Head and the Heart will play Friday, Aug. 29, at River Run in Ketchum.
Courtesy photo

    Vocal harmonizing is much like a dancing partnership: step too soon or put the wrong foot forward, and the chemistry is off. It takes intuition and fluidity to make the motions look effortless.
    Seattle-based band The Head and the Heart engage a trifecta of harmonies in their indie-rock musical offerings. Of the six band members, three of them meld their voices together to produce a sound worthy of their 2011 “Seattle’s Best New Band” designation, courtesy of Seattle’s City Arts magazine. Guitarists/percussionists Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell, along with violinist Charity Rose Thielen, take turn singing lead. The other three band members are bassist Chris Zasche, pianist Kenny Hensley and drummer Tyler Williams.
    The Sun Valley Center for the Arts has organized a concert featuring The Head and the Heart at the River Run base of Bald Mountain on Friday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m. Opening for the band is Brooklyn-based band San Fermin.
    For West Coast millennials, The Head and the Heart is the ultimate reflective road-trip band. Like English folk group Mumford and Sons, The Head and the Heart’s lyrics speak to the difficulties of being young and indecisive. Their breakthrough song “Lost in My Mind” released in 2011 both acknowledges the challenges of youth and the disconnect between generations: “Oh my brother/Your wisdom is older than me/Oh my brother/Don’t you worry about me.”
    Even the band’s name posits the battle between rationality and passion—for many young Americans, this is played out in the struggle between fulfilling education and career expectations versus exploring creative pursuits.

Though your head is telling you to be stable and find a good job, you know in your heart that this is what you’re supposed to do even if it’s crazy.”
Josiah Johnson

    “I started realizing that being in bands was going to not be just a hobby, but what I was going to do with my life,” said Johnson in a 2013 interview with Mother Jones magazine. “And though your head is telling you to be stable and find a good job, you know in your heart that this is what you’re supposed to do even if it’s crazy.”
    Despite their cheerful start in 2011, by their second album, “Let’s Be Still” in 2013, reviewers and the artists themselves were noting an added complexity. Singer and guitarist Russell was quoted in a 2013 Rolling Stones album review joking about their more “interesting” musical compilations.  
    “You’re like, ‘Oh, right! I’m sick of just strumming my acoustic guitar,”’ he said.
    Indeed, Mother Jones described their dogged spirit as optimistic, “recession be damned.” The Head and the Heart dances the line between folk and pop, a duality that sometimes receives criticism for being contrived and repetitive.
    The distinction between the real and the fake, for bands that sell out and those that never make it off Soundcloud, is a well-worn ethical predicament when it comes to the American 20-something’s musical choices. Post-modern critics are also quick to point out foibles in political correctness, in hypocrisy between the message of the song and the experiences of the artists. A Pitchfork reviewer questioned the authenticity of 2010’s “Down by the River,” saying lyrics like “I wish I was a slave to some age-old trade/Like riding ‘round on railcars and working long days” indicate both a lapse in judgment and a misunderstanding of slavery.
    Yet one could also argue that music loses its magic and nuance when it’s dissected. The Head and the Heart also speak about challenges that are very real; in “Rivers and Roads,” they belt out, “Been talkin’ about the way things change/And my family lives in a different state/If you don’t know what to make of this/Then we will not relate.”  
    For a band that favors outdoor sessions set against rocky shores and improvisational jams while driving in a van, they’ve stayed true to their fan base and to themselves as a couple of lost kids happy to take the scenic route on their way to adulthood.   
    Tickets are $35 for members of The Center and $45 for non-members. Early tickets, allowing concertgoers in 15 minutes early, are on sale at a member price of $75 and a non-member price of $85, and $20 for kids 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased at or call (208)726-9491.
    The Center no longer allows outside alcoholic beverages at its concerts, but alcohol is available for purchase on-site for those with a photo ID. Picnics are still allowed at River Run.
Amy Busek:

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