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A Tale of Two Shows: The Head and The Heart at The Newport Folk Festival by Dave Smith

by Daniel on August 8, 2012

THATH at The Newport Folk Festival 2012

It’s the beginning of August and another edition of the Newport Folk Festival is in the history books. Last year my daughter Kayla and I caught a remarkable set by The Head and The Heart at the Harbor Stage at NFF and since it’s been a year I feel a bit of reflection is due on this year that was.

The Head and the Heart was the buzz band last summer, an exuberantly raw and emotionally stark band collective that had exploded out of the Northwest on a mission of non-stop touring while straddling traditional roots rock with a savvy pop sensibility.

I was excited when I heard the band was on the NFF 2011 schedule and knowing they would probably be on one of the smaller stages, I was convinced that their set would be the one to catch. We spent the second afternoon of the festival at the Harbor Stage slowly moving up through the seats until we were in the 4th row just as THATH were ready to play the penultimate set of the stage that day. I was so pleased to see John Paul and Joy of Civil Wars on the side of the stage watching the beginning of their set.

The band opened with the ubiquitous “Cats & Dogs/Couer D’Alene”, and almost instantly hooked the capacity crowd; this was a set that was fueled by pure energy and emotion while the band poured so much out to the audience and ended up receiving so much more in return. The band flew through their self-titled album, throwing new songs ‘When I Fall Asleep”, “Seat Beside Me (Josh McBride)” and “Ever Since” into the hour long set. This was easily the set of the day, and the audience and the band were locked in the whole set. The impassioned vocals performance and spot on musician ship left the band and audiences totally drained and completely satisfied.

This time last year the band had a trajectory, they were burning a path through the strength of their live performances, and the success of their debut album. This summer a more controlled and more confidant band strode across the Main Stage at the Newport Folk Festival. The main stage area at Fort Adams holds 6,500+ so if this wasn’t the biggest crowd THATH played to this summer, then they were certainly one of the most passionate. The band again opened with “Cats & Dogs/Couer D’Alene”, but from the beginning, you could see and feel the change in the band. Earlier this year in March, Kayla and I caught the band playing at Portland Me.at the 1,600 capacity State Theatre. We were dead center on the rail and witnessed the genesis of this transformation.

THATH perform at the Newport Folk Festival 2011

Josiah, Russell and Charity are the vocal forces of nature of this band, but some added depth from Kenny’s keyboards, and a more determined pacing from the rhythm section have allowed for a more controlled yet just as affecting live show. Again the majority of the show was drawn from the first album, with live staple “Gone” and new song “Oh Virginia” dropped into the set. Charity had joined Sara Watkins earlier in the day during her performance in a duet, so it was fitting that THATH brought up Cellist Ben Solle to join the band on “Winter Song”. Sollee was the sit-in du-jour seeming to pop up every other set all weekend. To sum things up, this is a maturing and growing band, well aware of the tools they have at hand and the confidence and ability to use them. Backing up this swagger is a selflessness that each band member has which allows them to dominate or to demure as the music determines. The Head and The Heart are of the rare bands where the whole is much more than the sum of the parts. Looking back on the show all I can say is Lost in my mind indeed…

Setlists:

2011

• Cats and Dogs
• Coeur D’Alene
• When I Fall Asleep
• Honey Come Home
• Ghosts
• Seat Beside Me (Josh McBride)
• Heaven Go Easy on Me
• Lost in My Mind
• Winter Song
• Sounds like Hallelujah
• Down in the Valley
• Rivers and Roads
• Ever Since

 

2012

• Cats and Dogs
• Coeur d’Alene
• Ghosts
• Honey Come Home
• Josh McBride
• Lost in My Mind
• Gone
• Winter Song (with Ben Sollee)
• Sounds like Hallelujah
• Oh Virginia
• Down in the Valley
• Rivers and Roads

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