The Head and the Heart w/ Dawes @ Red Butte Garden 08.08
Less than two weeks ago I found myself at Red Butte Garden watching the band Caamp perform on July 27—I had the pleasure of returning again to the venue to watch The Head and the Heart perform alongside opener Dawes on August 8. Head and the Heart are another folk-rock group, drawing a similar crowd of folks in their early 20s and an older audience that I suspect is a combination of those with a membership to the garden and those who just enjoy chatting together with friends over a bottle of wine. Overall, it’s a great crowd to be around for a few reasons: Every time I come to Red Butte, I never feel like I have to fight to be first in line because everyone is fairly casual about arriving and just ends up sitting on the lawn anyway. If it’s a band you really care about and you arrived late, you’d still easily find yourself at the small portion of the barricade with a good view.
Dawes introduced the show with vocal and instrumental verses comparable to The Black Keys, also falling into the folk-rock genre. Frontman Taylor Goldsmith was lively and enthusiastic, greeting and energizing the crowd between each song. They played a total of eight tracks, a few with lasting guitar solos and a few from their newest album, Misadventures of Doomscroller. “Comes in Waves” was my favorite from the setlist, though Goldsmith did take an endearing moment to dedicate a song to his wife—who I later found out is singer/actress Mandy Moore interestingly enough—which gave space for his vocals to soften while he played acoustic. They then concluded the set with a tribute to The Head and the Heart and the Salt Lake crowd, substituting words in their track for “Salt Lake City” to make it a bit more relatable.
The sun had settled behind the trees by the time The Head and the Heart took the stage. Bright blue stage lights, a nod to their newest album Every Shade of Blue, backlit the group and created deep shadows that consumed each member as the night progressed. They began the show with their title track from the new album, which was lulling and reflective of the past few years but became hopeful and upbeat toward the chorus. Jonathan Russell, the lead singer and a guitarist of the group, has a very distinct voice—perfect for the folk format but able to hit the intensity that some of their more rock-leaning tracks require. It also felt nostalgic to hear him sing the tracks I had known and loved for years.
They continued with another song from the new album and then hit the crowd with fan-favorite “All We Ever Knew,” leading most crowd members to sing along. Next was “Another Story,” which included singer/guitarist/violinist Charity Rose Thielen accompanying Russell’s warm vocals with her violin. The lights behind them now flared red, and Thielen’s instrumentals encouraged anyone who wasn’t yet standing to rise from their lawn chairs and throw an arm around the person next to them.
The middle of the set brought more songs from their newest album and a few of my favorites, including the folksy, sing-along track “Lost in My Mind” and a brief slow and acoustic intermission that allowed the venue to pause and breathe together. The band dedicated a few songs to a friend of theirs, and after these softer, more romantic tracks, the tempo increased with heavier drum beats and longer instrumental solos as they closed out their set.
The audience cheered and bellowed, knowing at least two more tracks were necessary before they could leave us. With shouts of an encore, the band rejoined the stage to perform another new, yet reminiscent of their earlier sound, track titled “Virginia (Wind in the Night).” As the ballad of the album, this track sings of nature, home and found kinship, all of which The Head and the Heart is very familiar with. It was the perfect song to then slowly ease the crowd into the weight of “Rivers and Roads,” concluding their set. As expected, the crowd hummed and whispered, then sang and howled with their chests as Russell and Thielen harmonized to the sorrowful tune that seems to have a community of its own.
The Head and the Heart are no strangers to Salt Lake City, yet I somehow managed to never catch their show sooner than this. As an intense consumer of late 2000s / early 2010s indie pop and rock, I felt resolute hearing the tracks I had adored for so long at a live show. I hope to be able to hear them the next time they’re in town. –Jamie Christensen
Check out these other SLUG articles about The Head and the Heart:
Traveling the Rivers and Roads: The Head and the Heart’s Tyler Williams
Review: The Head and the Heart – Let’s Be Still