The Head and the Heart at Massey Hall

Seattle’s indie folk-rockers The Head and the Heart came to Toronto’s Massey Hall on Tuesday night and fans who arrived early got an extra special treat. Scheduled openers, The Shelters, were unexpectedly detained at the border on their way to Toronto so The Head and the Heart, being agile and able, made the logical decision to open for themselves. Three of the six band members (Josiah Johnson, Jonathan Russell and Charity Rose Thielen) came to the stage and offered up a gentle, soothing 30 minute set. They made light of their impromptu acoustic set stating “Luckily, we know a lot of songs!” They played a few of their own songs and also played a few covers. In parting Theilen told the audience they’d be back in half an hour and spectators would see a “very different band”.

The full band, rounded out by members Chris Zasche, Kenny Hensley and Tyler Williams, brought more than extra bodies to the stage, they brought energy! They kicked the festivities off with one of their most popular recent tunes, All We Ever Knew. One might be forgiven for thinking that their initial exuberance might wane. It did not. The beauty of The Head and the Heart’s music is that each song comes with its own arc; it ebbs and flows in a way that allows for quiet moments and joyful jams all within a 5 minute span. The band played many of their best loved tunes, including Lost in My Mind, Let’s Be Still and Down in the Valley. They did not talk a lot about the music, but their occasional quips (often commenting on how good the opening act was) were greeted with knowing chuckles.

This band has developed a family like relationship with its fans and the vibe in the room felt warm and relaxed. Even their stage set-up felt oddly homey, like peering into their living room, with globe lamps emitting a soft hue and houseplants dotting the stage. When the Head and the Heart chose to rock out, it took the room with it, but the quieter moments were filled with depth and intimacy. Signed to Sub-Pop, their sound brings to mind other indie, folk-rock bands, like Mumford and Sons or the Lumineers. With guitars, drums, pianos and fiddles, they are plugged into a sound that harkens to a more down-home world view. The music is complex and undeniably uplifting. There was even a nod to their Seattle/Sub-Pop roots, as one of the globes sported the iconic Nirvana dead happy face by the end of the night. The Head and the Heart do what they do well, and are a band well-worth checking out!

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