At the Sasquatch! Music Festival in 2011, The Head and the Heart took to the main stage of the Gorge Amphitheater for an early afternoon set. The flow of the festival’s notoriously slow-to-arrive crowd had only recently started growing from a trickle to a steady stream when the Seattle six-piece started cranking out one hand-clapping, foot-stomping golden Americana-pop gem after another.
The audience swelled throughout the set, with violinist/back-up vocalist Charity Thielen eventually taking to the mic to thank their fans — new and freshly-minted alike.
“Last year we came to Sasquatch for fun and to hang out. Kenny got a backstage wristband,” she said in a soft voice, which in no way matched the powerful pipes she contributes to the band’s vocal tapestry. She pointed over to Kenny Hensely, the mostly shy keyboardist whose chops are key to The Head and the Heart sound. He held up his arm, showing off said wristband.
“He said he was never going to take it off until we played here,” Thielen continued. “Here we are. We get to play Sasquatch.”
At some point, you’d think someone would have told Hensely that everyone understood the sentiment and he could take off that raggedy bracelet. But he didn’t, and in step with the rapid rise of this band of Seattle transplants, The Head and the Heart made it to Sasquatch, playing the main stage with only one studio record and two years as a band under its collective belt.
Things didn’t slow down for the band over the next year. Touring incessantly behind its self-titled album — released on ever-trendy Seattle label Sub Pop — The Head and the Heart racked up appearances at damn near every major festival in the country, and some beyond; played on late-night TV six times, including a return appearance on Conan just this week to belt out “Rivers and Roads”; and even scored a coveted slot on PBS’s award-winning Austin City Limits. And again, this is all after releasing just one album.
The appeal of this band is clear. Jon Russell takes the lead on most of the songs, but Josiah Johnson and Thielen — the latter looking like she stepped out of an Anthropologie catalogue — are always in the vocal mix. The songs are mostly positive, upbeat and easily find their way into your brain. This all makes sense.
Then, just this May, the band returned to Sasquatch, taking another stab at the main stage a few hours before sunset. This time, though, the crowd was massive and had arrived ready to sing every one of The Head and the Heart’s trademark bucolic lyrics and clap in time to the fiery acoustic rock they put forth.
The band even rolled out a few new songs that will be released sometime in the near future on — finally — a new album.
The Head and The Heart, Blitzen Trapper, Curtains For You • Tue, Sept. 18 at 8 pm • The Knitting Factory • 919 W. Sprague Ave. • $22 • sp.knittingfactory.com • 244-3279