Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Head and The Heart & Thao and The Get Down Stay Down - Variety Playhouse, Atlanta

Another evening of tough decisions - Athens, Georgia's Reptar, Cults, and Foster the People over at the Masquerade, or Thao and The Get Down Stay Down with The Head and The Heart at Variety Playhouse?  While Cults have produced some of my favorite music of 2011, I'm not that wild about the Masquerade, so I decided to go see The Head and the Heart and Thao at the Variety Playhouse instead, and like last night, I'm once again convinced that I made the right choice.

The opening act was a promising indie rock quintet from Salt Lake City called The Devil Whale.  It was their second time playing Atlanta, and the first time playing a large venue here (last time, they apparently played at artists' collective WonderRoot).

The dedicated their final song to (the now late) Troy Davis.  Sadly, most people in the audience around me didn't know who he was.

But I was excited to get an opportunity to hear Thao Nguyen and her band, The Get Down Stay Down.  I haven't seen them yet, or so I thought, but I had a strange deja vu feeling as the band set up, a sensation that I had in fact seen them somewhere once before.  Could it have been possible that I had seen them and then forgotten?  If not, where did I know these musicians from?

Come to think of it, isn't that the same bass player that I saw at the Doug Fir playing for Ages and Ages during MFNW?

And isn't that the keyboard player for Ages and Ages that I saw at Doug Fir, and even back at Bumbershoot?  In fact, isn't she even wearing the same exact dress as she was at Bumbershoot?

In fact, they are indeed the same two who were in Ages and Ages, the band that I had enjoyed so much at both festivals.  As it turns out, bass player Adam Thompson has been playing with Ms. Nguyen for years - they're both originally from Virginia and now reside in San Francisco.  So The Get Down Stay Down appears to be Mr. Thompson's primary gig, and Ages and Ages a side project.  

No matter.  Both musicians played great with both bands, but the real show was put on by Ms. Nguyen.  Thao sings and plays guitar with enthusiasm and energy, putting a kick into her marvelous songs.  She covered my favorite song of hers, When We Swam, early in her set (I think it was the second song), and didn't make us wait until the end of the set.

However, Seattle's The Head and the Heart proved that they deserved their headliner status.  I may have used terms like "joyous" to describe bands here before, but The Head and the Heart truly defined the term, putting on a truly joyous set of folk rock so uplifting it bordered on a revival.

Vocals duties are spread among the band, and everyone contributes to the enthusiasm of the songs.  When they finally launched into Sounds Like Hallelujah, the mood was almost transcendental.

Like The Devil Whale, this was The Head and The Heart's second time playing in Atlanta.  I don't know where they played here before (but can guarantee it wasn't WonderRoot).

Like Elbow the night before, they played several quieter ballads between some of the more up-tempo numbers, and like Elbow the night before, they managed to get the capacity crowd to be absolutely quiet as they kept us in rapt attention.

Sooner or later, I'll get around to posting the rest of tonight's pics over at the Live Site - one of these days, I'll not actually be at a show but have a free evening to post the pictures from these shows.

Listening and watching The Head and The Heart put me in such a wonderful mood that I know I once again made the right decision.  As much as I love The Earl, I have to admit that it was nice the past couple of nights to be in the smoke-free atmosphere of Center Stage and Variety Playhouse, and it's always preferable if one can manage to not be at the Masquerade.

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