Concert Reviews

I was introduced to The Head and The Heart last year right before they signed to Sub Pop Records. At the last minute, we crammed them into our Top 50 albums of 2010 (at 47), but they should have been much higher. If we had seem them live prior to compiling our list, they would have cracked the Top 10. Their set at Antone’s at SxSW 2011 was one of the highlights of the fest for the HearYa contingent. Their songs come to life in a live setting and they left that crowd in euphoria after their set.

First up at The Metro on Tuesday was The Devil Whale, a 5 piece out of Salt Lake City. I downloaded their recent album, Teeth, after seeing that they were opening up this night’s festivities. The album has a Dr. Dog feel and although we arrived late to the show, I caught enough of their set to call myself a fan.

Next up was Thao with The Get Down Stay Down. Can’t say I am a huge fan of Thao, but she does put on a solid show. The songs are upbeat and catchy and Thao is, well, sexy. They played Antone’s with The Head and The Heart at SxSW and I had the same feeling I did that night. I would never go out of my way to see them, but I always have a good time once I’m there.

Finally, Seattle’s latest and greatest hit the stage to a very full and very excited Metro. And they certainly didn’t disappoint – the crowd sang along to every word. To think that one year ago, they were a mostly unknown band from Washington. Now they are signed to an iconic label, regularly played on the radio and playing to a crammed Metro. It’s been a meteoric rise and one I hope they’ve had the time to enjoy.

The band cranked through all the tunes on their excellent debut. During “Lost In My Mind,” The Devil Whale and Thao came out for a massive conglomeration of beards and percussion. It seemed like there were more people on stage than at the end of The Last Waltz. It was killer. The band closed their set with “Rivers and Roads” which sent the crowd into a tizzie. When Charity steps to the mic, the place exploded. As my one friend said on the way home. “I don’t know her name but she needs to sing a lot more.” I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. Her unique voice brings a new element to the band and really cements them as something special. They emerged for a 2 song encore that included a new song that Jonathan Russell sang solo and then the closer, “Lost In The Valley.”

The crowd left satisfied and I was ecstatic to hear three new tunes. I’m always concerned when a band has such a quick rise. Are they going to stay true to their sound or veer more towards the commercial side of music? Based on the three new tunes, I have a lot of confidence in The Head and The Heart moving forward.

The video below is from their set at Mellow Johnny’s bike shop this year. That happened to be my first set of SxSW and set off a wonderful week in Austin. And while that was a nice setting, seeing them in a packed venue is a must. They will knock your socks off.

The Head and The Heart – Lost In My Mind

The Head and The Heart – Rivers and Roads (Live at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop w/ KEXP)

Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – When We Swam

The Devil Whale – Magic Numbers

The Devil Whale – Magic Numbers from Tonality Magazine on Vimeo.


I’ve been reading The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald for graduate school this week. Sebald’s writing is descriptive and purposeful, his words gently reconstructing a world that exists only in memory. Like all great artists, Sebald trusts his audience, understanding that the reader has the power to interpret, the ability to perceive what lies behind the words on the page. Sebald, who died in a tragic car crash at the height of his prowess in 2001, also has the unique capacity to convey intimacy, as is illustrated in the following quote, “Doubtless we should have driven on without accomplishing a thing, if we had not summoned up the nerve, exchanging one of those swift glances, to at least take a look at the garden.” One of those swift glances. We’ve all experienced that type of intimacy. The kind where words are unnecessary, and a fleeting glance is all that is needed.

The Fleet Foxes, like Sebald, have that wonderful ability to convey intimacy through their art. This was abundantly clear this past Wednesday night as the boys from Seattle lit up the sold-out 3,000 seat United Palace Theater with one and a half hours of beautiful music. Touring hot on the heels of the release of their brilliant sophomore album, Helplessness Blues, Robin Pecknold and gang gave it to us raw, and the respectfully silent audience (apart from the heckling about lowering the bass, which they seemingly took seriously as the sound noticeably improved) ate up every moment.

For me, the evening was about two things; memory and intimacy. Robin Pecknold’s songs speak to both. The following lyrics in Drops in the River reveal both themes,

You hesitate so my memory fades. I’ll hold to the first one,
I wouldn’t turn to another you say, on the long night we’ve made,
Let it go.

The opening lines of Montezuma also grapple with memory and intimacy,

So now I am older,
Than my mother and father,
When they had their daughter,
Now what does that say about me.
Oh how could I dream of,
Such a selfless and true love,
Could I wash my hands of,
Just lookin out for me?

I caught the Fleet Foxes’ July, 2008 show at the Bowery Ballroom, one month before I married my best friend and the love of my life. I can only speculate through listening to his word what Robin Pecknold was going through then and now, but by providing us with a glimpse he draws us closer and reminds us of the centrality of memory and intimacy to the human experience. They are, indeed, all that we have and share.

One final note about the Fleet Foxes’ performance. During the second half of the set, I believe it was right after Ragged Wood (correct me if I’m wrong), the audience erupted in a spontaneous standing ovation that lasted for over a minute. It was a special moment that will stay in my memory for years to come.


The Cascades
Grown Ocean
Drops In The River
Battery Kinzie
Bedouin Dress
Sim Sala Bim
Your Protector
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
White Winter Hymnal
Ragged Wood
He Doesn’t Know Why
The Shrine / An Argument
Blue Spotted Tail
Blue Ridge Mountains

Oliver James
Helplessness Blues

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Cave Singers. Without going into much detail, they rock my world and I loved every moment of their opening set.

Video: Fleet Foxes – Montezuma/ He Doesn’t Know


When Rolling Stone was founded in 1967, it sought to capture the music and ethos of the San Francisco scene at the time. Many of the creators of that unrivaled period have long since passed, and time has shifted away from the psychedelic sounds that once dominated. Given the lineage of the magazine and the subsequent change in popular music tastes, it is all the more fitting that The Sheepdogs are one of several unsigned bands that are currently competing to be on the cover of Rolling Stone.

The Sheepdogs, who have been featured in these pages before, capture the sound and style of the late 60s and early 70s with surprising ease. This is not to say that the band is dated or that it missed its generation. In fact, to the contrary, The Sheepdogs create a timeless sound that is all too rare these days.

The intricate instrumentation, glorious harmonies, and stunning lead vocals that would have made them a perfect addition to a Fillmore bill featuring Big Brother and the Holding Company or Creedence Clearwater Revival were on full display at New York Citys Pianos last month. The band delivered a wonderful set that focused on tracks from their brilliant LP, Learn and Burn, and included two new tracks: “Who” and “How Late, How Long”, which can be downloaded here.

Rate The Sheepdogs at Rolling Stone by April 14th and help them advance to the coveted cover of Rolling Stone and an accompanying record contract with Atlantic Records. Both prizes would undoubtedly elevate the band closer to a much deserved level of recognition that was enjoyed by some of their musical forefathers.

The Sheepdogs – I Don’t Know


Back at the end of October, Lincoln Hall was packed as Northern Irish band Two Door Cinema Club played a sold out show. Having discovered them mid-2009, I had long anticipated seeing them live. Their last attempt at a Chicago debut was foiled when, in February, the giant ash cloud prevented the members from leaving Ireland. Better late than never, right?

The show opened up with the L.A. based, post-punk band Funeral Party. Their fairly brief set was energetic and smooth. Lead singer Chad Elliott sang with an intensity that painted a picture if you listened hard enough. His vocals could get a bit whiny at parts, but nonetheless, he projected a very full and supported sound. While significantly different vocally, the similarities to Two Door Cinema Club in the music itself made Funeral Party a great show starter.

It continued with a set from the Cincinnati band, Bad Veins. Notorious for dressing in vintage army apparel at their shows, Benjamin Davis and Sebastien Schultz gave a performance that I would refer to as “progressive.” While it was evident that these boys are passionate about what they’re doing, my initial impression of them was that they were just alright. The audience, myself included, seemed to feign an enthusiasm that was polite at most. However, as different components–Davis’s earnest vocals and the old fashioned telephone through which they filtered, in particular–fell hand-in-hand, their performance and their artistry grew on me.

Two Door Cinema Club began their performance with their hit single “Undercover Martyn,” much to the enthusiasm of the packed in crowd. Initially, their sound seemed to be missing something, a guitar or more distortion, perhaps. But as the band warmed up and fell into their groove, their electric indie rock prevailed. The show continued with some new, untitled music, as well as some older material (Kids) and a b-side track (Costume Party). Lead singer Alex Trimble did a hell of a job switching between his guitar and his synthesizer for various songs.

The great thing about TDCC is that every song is a culmination of addictive guitar riffs and drum beats which bring out the dancer in you. I found it fascinating to watch the people around me who, earlier in the night, were reserved and solemn, but turned into happy, energetic individuals as the band played through their twelve song set.

The show concluded with an encore performance of TDCC’s song, “I Can Talk.” The band was extremely gracious towards the Chicago crowd and were thrilled that they could finally play the great Windy City. It’ll be great to see their progression and success further on in the future. Meanwhile, pick up their album “Tourist History,” and experience the electronic indie rock infusion Europe has introduced to us.

Two Door Cinema Club – I Can Talk

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The Moondoggies at Mercury Lounge, NYC [Concert Review]

November 10, 2010

The Moondoggies have been a busy group in 2010. Over the summer, they released an EP, which was followed by the release of their sophomore LP, Tidelands, in September. Meanwhile, the Seattle-based quartet was on the road supporting Blitzen Trapper, and is getting ready to head out on a month long tour of the Midwest […]

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The Levon Helm Band with My Morning Jacket at Levon Helm Studios, Part II [Concert Review]

November 8, 2010

These once informal gatherings have taken on mythic, perhaps even religious, importance as fans and musicians continue to make the pilgrimage to Levons Midnight Rambles. In fact, theres little that can be done to add to the joy of seeing Levon in what can only be described as the ultimate setting for live music. However, […]

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Jason Isbell w/ Langhorne Slim @ The Earl, Atlanta [Concert Review]

November 1, 2010

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit need to be witnessed in the South. I had seen Isbell with and without the 400 Unit in San Francisco before relocating, but the crowd wasn’t quite right and Isbell’s performance felt less genuine.  That was not the case last Friday night at The Earl in Atlanta. The ex-Drive-By […]

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Local Natives & Love Language at the Metro [Concert Review]

October 17, 2010

Youd be hard-pressed to find a better touring duo this fall than the Local Natives and the Love Language. It was such a hotly anticipated show that we almost talked Oz into making a last minute flight from Atlanta. It didnt work out, so Shirk, SafariMan, and I made our way up to the Metro […]

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Pepper Rabbit Live at The Knitting Factory, NYC [Concert Review]

October 8, 2010

Pepper Rabbit opened up for Cotton Jones at the Knitting Factory this past Wednesday evening and provided the flanneled-hipster crowd with a rollicking set of folky psych-rock. Reminiscent of Damien Albarn, Daniel Rossen and Stuart McLamb, Xander Singh successfully manages to meld instruments (clarinet, ukelele, keys, guitar) with electronic loops and catchy vocals. His partner in crime, […]

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The Tallest Man On Earth at Webster Hall, NYC [Concert Review]

October 4, 2010

Last Monday night, The Tallest Man on Earth played Webster Hall for what he proclaimed to be his largest indoor show ever. The sizable, but remarkably reverent crowd was treated to a breathtaking set, as The Tallest Man wasted no time in demonstrating his ever-increasing command of the stage. With the release of his sophomore […]

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