The Head and the Heart: Mercury Lounge 17 May 2011

The Head and the Heart (I keep wanting to write The Hand and the Heart) are bouncy. Very bouncy. The three singers are bouncy. The keyboardist and drummer are bouncing in their seats. Singing lines like “someday we’ll all be ghosts” or “I want to die with the one I love” while bouncing all over the stage. And their bounciness is infectious and filled the Mercury Lounge.

Since I had just been to the Rock Shop and was comparing it in size to the Mercury Lounge I was surprised to realize that the Mercury Lounge really isn’t much bigger than the Rock Shop. It’s a good size – holds 200 people – but still smaller than I remembered.

Opening act Luke Rathborne looks really young (he’s 22) as does his bassist and drummer (Daryl Will and John Eathertly). He’s from Maine and now living in Brooklyn and they look like your typical indie boys but the music reached back to old school/garage/punk/grunge rock and roll with some really loud drums. Listening to his MySpace page doesn’t sound anything like the act I saw on Tuesday night. This music is moodier and sparser and more melodic and I’m not sure what happened between the record and the stage. I can’t say that either grabbed me but he’s young and has time to decide where he’s going to land.

The Head and the Heart are from Seattle and apparently are the next big thing. They played Conan in April and Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday. But Seattle doesn’t mean grunge anymore and this band goes to places similar to where The Low Anthem and Carolina Chocolate Drops go. The show was sold out within fifteen minutes and rtb got a ticket but I was shut out but Kenny got me in (Thanks! Kenny) and I found myself bouncing on a semi-upholstered bench.

Where The Low Anthem does new songs in a traditional American roots style and Carolina Chocolate Drops does old songs made new while not forgetting the roots, The Head and the Heart does new songs that feel traditional while also being turned on their head. I didn’t get the Holy Crap they’re great! feeling the first time I saw The Low Anthem or the chills that I got the first time I saw the Carolina Chocolate Drops but I definitely saw something special. The crowd knew most of the songs and sang along happily and the band looked happy and everyone was happy and bouncy.

Members are Charity Thielen (violin, vocals, percussion), Chris Zasche (bass), Josiah Johnson (vocals, guitar, percussion), Jon Russell (vocals, guitar percussion), Kenny Hensley (keyboard), and Tyler Williams (drums). Thielen, Zasche, and Johnson have some beautiful harmonies – when they worked. There were a few times that they went flat but I think nervousness had something to do with that. Thielen sometimes soared and when she let go it was glorious but it felt like she was afraid and holding back sometimes.

“Down in the Valley” and “Rivers and Roads” were only two of the stand-outs. This time the buzz is right. This is a band to watch and pay attention to.

“Lost in My Mind” on Conan O’Brien

By Carene Lydia Lopez