The Shins, The Head and The Heart, Blind Pilot @ Red Butte 05.28

Posted June 1, 2012 in

The Shins. Photo:
What’s better than getting to see The Shins? Getting to see two bands you’ve been solidly obsessed with for ages beforehand, making for a holy trifecta of folk pop. This Red Butte show sold out like crazy despite $50 tickets, so clearly I wasn’t alone in recognizing the glory of this lineup.

Red Butte is premium because people sit down, enjoy the fresh air, actually listen to the music and quietly drink their wine without any belligerent, drunken bro pits. The venue’s atmosphere makes it totally worth the steep price.

I couldn’t find a spot to spread out my blanket that wasn’t in the vicinity of an awkward high school acquaintance, but when Blind Pilot started playing I got over myself and settled in for one fucking beautiful set. One of the band members noted that it was nice how the majority of the audience was sitting down, “It looks like the biggest family reunion I’ve ever been to.” Opening with the song “The Story I Heard” (which appropriately features lyrics that mention Utah), they proceeded to inspire much side-to-side swaying and singing along in the audience. Weaving together songs that feature stand-up bass, banjo, intimate melodies and even a glockenspiel--the band nestled over a crowd like a favorite sweater. My favorite song was “One Read Thread,” as everyone on stage seemed to be playing their heart and soul out. Their most famous tune, “3 Rounds and a Sound,” was equally as great, especially the trumpet solo at the end--it might be one of the better romantic songs I’ve ever heard. They received a well deserved standing ovation at the end of their set. Get Blind Pilot in your music collection, dudes.

The Head and the Heart were a perfect followup to an outstanding first opener, delving right into their own niche of folk, which is endearing in a Beatles way and resonating in a Ryan Adams way. Local band The Devil Whale got a shout out on stage, having made friends with The Head and the Heart on tour last year. This set was effortless and powerful, with illustrious harmonies and echoing drums. I rather enjoyed the groovy keyboardist, especially when the whole band jammed around him and played. During the song “Lost In My Mind,” I observed a handful of enthusiastic middle-aged women busting out dance moves, which was awesome. Perhaps the most alluring element of The Head and the Heart is their hot chick violinist, who also knows how to belt out some mean vocals. She soulfully filled up the entire amphitheater as they closed up their set with “Rivers and Roads,” leaving a lovely taste in the audience’s mouth as we awaited The Shins.

I recall being 15 and seeing Zach Braff’s movie Garden State for the first time, which features a scene in which Natalie Portman says that The Shins will change your life. She was right, and being able to see them live was some kind of indie wet dream come true. As they approached the stage, blue lights were turned on and you could feel the general stoked-ness of the crowd. They opened with “Kissing the Lipless” from their first album, and ended up playing more old than new as the night went on. I don’t see how any fan could have been disappointed, every song was spot on and then some. As the sun was setting, they busted out the classic “New Slang,” which almost made me cry. As the set progressed, many people stood up and moved close to the stage to dance along, partially to combat the cold weather, but mostly because the music was too good to sit still. “Australia” was definitely a highlight, as well as “Know Your Onion.” They closed the show up with “Sleeping Lessons “ which was spectacularly badass. I have never seen an audience so persistent about an encore. Nearly everyone stayed in place and cheered “Ten more songs!” until they plugged back in and exceeded expectations by playing a seemingly never-ending encore that began with two songs from their new album, Port of Morrow. Initially when I listened to said album, I wasn’t very fond as it seemed to be leaning too heavily on the style of singer James Mercer’s side project, Broken Bells. However, I became more convinced as I stood about ten feet from the band. The last song of their encore turned into an extensive jam, with the final, magical sounding notes coming from guitarist Jessica Dobson’s vocal chords.

Legendary is the most cliche way to describe this show, but also the most fitting. If you didn’t catch it, you should probably grieve for a while.
The Shins. Photo: