The Head and the Heart rises above at ACL Fest

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Josiah Johnson of the Seattle band The Head and The Heart sings to Haley Velez of Corvalis, Oregon, at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Saturday Oct. 4, 2014. Photo by Jay Janner
Josiah Johnson of the Seattle band The Head and The Heart sings to Haley Velez of Corvalis, Oregon, at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Saturday Oct. 4, 2014. Photo by Jay Janner

Josiah Johnson of the Seattle band The Head and The Heart sings to Haley Velez of Corvalis, Oregon, at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Saturday Oct. 4, 2014. Photo by Jay Janner

Something about the moment was perfect. Maybe it was reaching the exact midpoint of ACL Fest’s first weekend, or maybe it was the late-afternoon light casting longer shadows across the east end of Zilker Park, where The Head and the Heart took the stage for a 4:30 p.m. set on the Samsung Galaxy stage.

Whatever it was, the Seattle band’s music was right in tune, providing a pause between all the buzz bands and offering a reminder about the power of simply beautiful material delivered by richly harmonious voices backed with exquisitely fitting instrumentation. All six band members play passionately, yet they always remain in service to the song.

The opening “Coeur D’Alene” struck a perfect balance of strings, keys, drums and voices in the mix. “Sounds Like Hallelujah” stood out for its resplendent mid-song shift of rhythm and key. The mid-set hit single “Shake” followed an ambitious multi-tiered song structure that built to a glorious conclusion when violinist Charity Rose Thielen’s voice soared atop those of her singing partners Jonathan Russell and Josiah Johnson.

Behind the singers, the second line was similarly vital to the band’s identity. Kenny Henley’s keyboards and Chris Zasche’s bass drove the textures and rhythms into ever richer and deeper veins. Drummer Tyler Williams’ theatrical yet incredibly precise playing greatly enhanced both the band’s sound and its stage presence.

Only the set-closing “Rivers and Roads,” a song too stoic and plain for such a lively and musically gifted group, struck an off-note. It mattered little. As much-hyped Iggy Azalea blasted out from across the way when the set ended, and as memories of Outkast lingered from Friday while the prospect of the Replacements reunion loomed ahead on Sunday, The Head and the Heart rose head and shoulders above it all.


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