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Concert Reviews

The Head and the Heart Send Souls Soaring

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Going into The Head and the Heart’s show Friday night felt like I had walked right into a college band party; all the kids playing knew each other and the audience, and the audience knew them, too. Crammed into what would have been the best looking theoretical college apartment around, people stood really close to the stage, chilled out at tables, or on swanky chaise lounges. Everything was lax and loose, and the folks here were gonna have a good time.

The Royale, unassuming from outside with its teal awning, ascends into a marbled lobby, looking like an extension of the Courtyard Mariott across the street. Going through the double doors at the top, I was suddenly transported into the Snakehole Lounge from ‘Parks and Recreation’. Dark, with tremendous floor space, modern tables and posh seating flanked the room. The large semi-circle bar opposite the stage glowed with warm yellow icicle-like lights, and the room smoldered in soft pinks and oranges.

The Devil Whale opened the show, their first ever in Boston. The band, from Salt Lake City, had a cool SoCal alt rock vibe with folk elements. With appealing and brisk tracks, The Devil Whale absolutely killed it for their 30 minutes onstage. Brinton Jones’ vocals wavered over the Pacific-coast-type lilts supplemented by bassist Jake Fish, drummer Cameron Runyan, guitarist Jamie Timm, and keyboardist Wren Kennedy.

The Get Down Stay Down followed, bristling with a boatload of energy and thumping indie-pop. Though playing their own stuff for the most part, the diminutive Thao Ngyuen was met with excited shrieks when she announced they’d play an arrangement of “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me.” Strumming a guitar and singing, Thao and her bandmates spanned ska, rock, and country elements in their set.

The cool air conditioning that had permeated the room before ceased, and the temperature warmed up as more bodies packed the floor. The excitement built as people edged in closer during the set break. Up in the balcony, couches filled, and in the spots without seats, clusters of spectators squished together in an attempt to get a good view.

The room blew up when The Head and the Heart hit the stage. They blasted right into their set, and it was like time had stopped as each song segued into the next. They finished “Honey Come Home” to catch their breath, and Jonathan Russell thanked everyone for coming. This also was The Head and the Heart’s first time in Boston, and they seemed thrilled with the response. I soon became enamored of the band’s beautiful, haunting harmonies. Pitch perfect in every sense, the vocals rolled along with the percussion, violin, guitars, keyboard, and healthy doses of tambourine. After they finished with “Josh McBride,” vocalist/violinist Charity Rose Thielen giggled “This is crazy!”

Russell, Thielen, Josiah Johnson, Chris Zasche, Kenny Hensley, and Tyler Williams proved a coy sextet, knowing exactly when and how to throw the audience into a frenzy. When The Head and the Heart started the billowing “Lost in My Mind,” throngs of people screamed, and got right into singing along.

The group ended their set with “Rivers and Roads,” bounding off the stage with a simple, “Thank you!” But everyone knew they’d be back. The shifts of blue and orange lights went to black, and within moments Russell ran back to the stage, and picked up his guitar for a solo acoustic performance of “Gone.” He had the audience sing along the “Oooh” refrain, and it turned out beautifully; never faltering or awkward. The rest of the band rejoined him for one last song. The woman behind me, Wendy, beamed and said, “It has to be ‘Down in the Valley,’ there’s no way they wouldn’t sing it.”

And so they did. The audience joyfully sang along with the well-known “Down in the Valley,” and then the lot from Seattle waved and headed up the stairs, and off the stage once more. The Head and the Heart, with their sweet folk melodies and hearty instruments, provided a seamless performance from start to finish. They’re a fine model of musical cohesion that never breaks stride, and thrills and pleases their fans without fail.

Concert Reviews

Jonah Parzen-Johnson at Lilypad

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Jonah Parzen-Johnson has an innate ability to make the baritone sax sound like bagpipes, and maybe that’s why I cried.

Mostly I cried because Jonah tells radiant stories with his saxophone and analog synth, working the brass and pedals to recreate the framework which surrounds his album Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow: Parzen-Johnson wanted to make “something of myself that’s for everybody else.”

Jonah opened his set with “Stay There, I’ll Come to You,” showcasing the harmony between synth and sax right off the bat. With haunting lilts, the two combined into a ribbon of melody, pulsating inside the ear as well as the heart. Much like the song’s title, Jonah was the one approaching the audience as an experimental troubadour of tête-à-tête.

The back stories and thoughts behind each song tied in so well with the raw, almost throaty sax, developing such strong, emotional resonance with the musical layers. The skeleton shook.

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Concert Reviews

Speedy Ortiz “riiiiise above and gliiiiiide away” at The Sinclair

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The Sinclair was a packed house Wednesday night for the Speedy Ortiz CD release party; as a hometown gig for the Northampton, MA-based band, kinetic warmth buzzed through friends and fans alike as Sadie Dupuis and crew played their freshly-release Foil Deer track-by-track.

What’s a party without some guests, though? That’s where Krill and Mitski come in.

Krill kicked off the night with some tracks from A Distant Fist Unclenching, other goods from Lucky Leaves. Lead singer/bassist Jonah Furman brought to mind early (read: good) Billy Corgan, which I’m not sure he will appreciate. But I think he’ll appreciate this: I couldn’t stop laughing because then I kept thinking about Marilyn Manson telling Billy Corgan that he looked like Charlie Brown.

Opening with “Theme from Krill,” the Boston trio has a knack for rhythm and melody that burrows into your brain. The dreamy bleakness of “Purity of Heart.”  The discordant garage rock and hiccupping guitar and warbly Scooter-ness of “Foot.” Krill’s sound is a good, comfy noise that keeps you wiggling and all that good stuff. Be sure to catch the band at Boston Calling.

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Concert Reviews

Years & Years at Royale Boston

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During winter storm Juno, UK electro pop group Years & Years were forced to cancel the first show of their two-night stint in New York City back in January. After the snow finally melted, they made the rounds again this past March, playing several shows in California, South by Southwest before finally landing in Boston.

Due to popular demand, the show was moved from The Sinclair to the Royale in downtown’s Theater District.

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