April 8th, Santa Barbara was treated to 90 minutes of the 7-piece Seattle-turned-Los Angeles folk-rock band, The Head and the Heart.
The sold-out Arlington Theater show was 90 minutes of everyone in the crowd singing every word to every song. From teenagers to senior citizens, arms were in the air, cell phones were recording, and words were sung along with passion. This was the second stop on the band’s tour in support of their 2015 major label debut, “Signs of Light.” Not yet having played LA (they’re scheduled to play Coachella), front man Johnathan Russel noted that the crowd may have been mostly family and friends of the band. If that was the case, their family and friends are super fans who ate up every song.
Before the Arlington show, I had only seen The Head and the Heart once. It was June in Tennessee at The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Tennessee in the summertime is not comfortable. Watching the band amongst tens of thousands of people, the heat and the humidity making me feel like I was living in a hot bowl of oatmeal, I knew even in that uncomfortable moment that I was witnessing something special. I kept telling my friend, “I want to see this band in a theatre.” And I was right to want that. The Arlington Theater was a perfect venue for The Head and the Heart, and if you were in Santa Barbara Saturday night seeing them, you’re luckier than those who will see them at Coachella.
The stage was decorated with plants. So many plants. I overheard a woman behind me say, “it looks like they’re in a jungle.” I thought more a garden. Either way it was a soft and welcoming presence for a soft and welcoming performance. With their success, it’s easy to forget The Head and the Heart are relative new comers. Often compared to The Lumineers, The Head and the Heart are a folk- rock gem we’ve received from the meteoric rise of bands of their ilk thanks in part to The Mumford and Sons boom. They opened with their biggest hit to date, “All We Ever Knew,” and then banged out hit after hit for the rest of the night (accompanied of course by some less familiar tunes). The crowd was treated to their latest single, “Rhythm and Blues”, and other heavy hitters like ‘Shake”, “Another Story”,” Let’s Be Still” and “Lost in My Mind.” A particularly sweet moment of the night was when the band played the acoustic “Winter Song,” formerly known as “Kenny’s Song” for the band’s piano player Kenny Hensley. They went into the song following violinist Charity Rose Theilin’s story of Kenny’s nephew being born as the band was being formed, and how the 7-year-old was in the crowd at The Arlington Saturday night.
The Head and the Heart show did what any good show should do: leave you wanting more. During the encore one enthusiastic fan was shouting “Six more songs!” I think the whole crowd felt that way. And I can bet I’m not the only person in the sold -out crowd who listened to nothing but The Head and the Heart the whole drive home.