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Review: The Head and The Heart with Guests Bryan John Appleby and Curtains For You

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On Saturday night, The Head and The Heart wooed a sold out crowd in their hometown of Seattle. For a band with only a singular album out, and a single that our local radio stations have almost played out, the crowd’s anticipation for The Head and The Heart confirmed that this band has more power than most that play around our city. All around me from start to finish, moms, dads, tweens, and twentysomethings swayed, danced, sang, and at times cried in perfect harmony with the harmonies on the stage between Jonathan Russel, Josiah Johnson, and Charity Rose Thielen. It was a show that had me saying “wow” throughout its entirety, and left me wishing I could relive the whole thing over again after I walked out the Paramount’s front doors.

The band started things fast and hard, playing three of the most upbeat songs from their self titled debut. ‘Cats and Dogs’ was a perfect opening number, and the order of the set was a wonderful surprise. Each and every song they played proved an example of how much this band has grown together to become stronger than they were even a year ago. Drummer Tyler Wilson is an animal on the drums- and not only because of his wild-man hair. In ‘Ghosts,’ Kenny Hensley shone on the piano- that song wouldn’t be what it is without him, and he does it well.

Rather than leading or closing with their biggest hit, ‘Lost in my Mind,’ The Head and The Heart sandwiched it towards the middle of the set and brought a troop of their local musician friends on stage to host an impromptu dance party (Lemolo, I saw you!). It was one of those fun, unexpected moments that just wonderfully fit into the night. As their performance on Conan earlier in the week revealed, ‘Rivers and Roads’ is one of the band’s most important songs at the moment, and when Jonathan Russell sang “I miss your face like hell,” it felt as though tH&tH were speaking directly to the city of Seattle. This song live just feels bigger live than on record, and features some of their best songwriting.

Speaking of ‘Rivers and Roads,’ this is the perfect moment to mention Charity Rose Thielen. All I can say is HOLY WOW has she grow a pair behind the microphone. Charity’s got one of the most unique voices in music, and she stole the show in every song that she had a solo in. The crowd absolutely adores her, and she proves to be the most interesting person on their stage- constantly darting around the stage interacting with her bandmates, urging the crowd to clap along, and continuously tousling her hair. Thielen’s a fan favorite, and for good reason- she’s as charismatic as she is talented.

Between the two frontmen, it’s hard to tell which one will be featured more heavily on their upcoming album. Both Russell and Johnson have incredible, soul stirring voices. Russell at times seemed to be more in control of the show, but Josiah Johnson just has something about him that connects with an audience. The two led several new songs- songs that left me anxiously awaiting a release date for a new album. The new material seems more intense than their current release, and I’m dying to dig into their new lyrics. If you’re unaware, this band’s songwriting it second to none.

For the encore, Russell played a song solo from behind Hensley’s piano. His vocals were rich and clear, and if you’ve been to any of his solo shows, you’ve heard the tune before. Never have I waited so anxiously for a song than I did for ‘Down in the Valley,’ so when The Head and The Heart closed with it, I thought I might combust. When Russell sang into the rafters of the Paramount ‘I am on my way back to where I started,’ every member of the local crowd sang along, welcoming the band back to Seattle with open heads and loving hearts.

The Head and The Heart is the sort of band that looks to promote local bands, and for their Seattle show they chose opening acts that hail from our fair city. Curtains For You is a band the group met while at Doe Bay Fest and fell in love with. For an opening act, this group just made sense. They play the sort of music that amps up a crowd and does so easily. They are of the same genre as The Head and The Heart, but with a little more zoot-zoot offered by way of an occasional horn section. They’re a funky little indie troop, and a band that plays with an contagious energy. They’re a local secret that needs to be less of a secret, and while this show was the biggest show they’ve ever played, songs like ‘Daisy’ and the roar of the crowd after they played their last song convinced me that this will be the first of many times I hear this band.

Following the insane energy of Curtains for you was the subtle and mesmerizing Bryan John Appleby. I find it hard to put words around this artist, except to say he and his band took my breathe away during every beautiful song. Haunting vocals, creeping strings, and lifeblood lyrics is the makeup of his music. Appleby’s a songwriter along the lines of Ben Gibbard or Damian Jurado, evident in songs like ‘Honey Jars.’ That song more than most others I’ve heard in my lifetime left a pressure in my chest- he’s capable of being heartbreaking while simultaneously his talent and presence makes life feel more vivid. Appleby’s live show is one that I can’t wait to experience again, including a broken bottle percussion section. If you’re looking for an artist to warm you as fall sets in, Bryan John Appleby is better than any cardigan.