metro

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.

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I had originally dubbed October “Rocktober” as I was fixing to see a host of shows this month. Due to some personal issues, I missed my first show, Heartless Bastards & Langhorne Slim, and then Jim James was injured and the My Morning Jacket Show at the Chicago Theatre was canceled. Rocktober was falling apart in front of my eyes. But then I went on a run of shows that I haven’t seen since before the kids started arriving fast and furious.

First up were the Silver Jews. Lead singer, David Berman, emerged in a snappy suit and fat belt buckle enscribed with “JOOS.” This show was a replacement for MMJ and in a way I was happier to see Berman and company for the first time.

Berman carries an awkwardness on stage that makes his stage presence genuine and real. He’s constantly checking his set list, which is written on a paper plate and dedicates songs to anyone and everyone. He also battles the mic and the accompanying stand as if it were his first time on stage.‚  Berman announced that it was in fact their 100th time on stage this night. Bob Nastanovich (formerly of Pavement) showed up to play drums on “New Orleans.” He told stories of the origins of the band, when they would call Thurston Moore’s answering machine and leave demos.

The show was an absolute blast and, in many ways, a very communal experience. People sang along and when he played “Random Rules” everyone in the crowd had a shit-eating grin on their face.

Next up the docket were Fleet Foxes. This was the third time seeing them this year and their eponymous LP is easily my favorite debut of the year, if not my favorite album. This was my first time seeing them headline in a proper club and they didn’t disappoint.

At the Pitchfork Festival, the crowd was eerily quiet when Fleet Foxes played and once the boys from Washington hit the stage at The Metro, the “shhhhhs” came out in full force. When one jackass started mocking the situation with his girlfriend, another guy politely said, “Please, we really want to hear them.” The guy relented as he realized that people came to listen the music and not bullshit about nonsense.

The Foxes tore through a set that covered almost every tune from their EP and full length. “Drops In The River” which led into “English House” was an amazing 10 minutes of music. There was plenty of easy going banter the band and the crowd. It’s good to see they are easing into their new found celebrity.

The highlight of the night was “Mykonos.” The four-piece harmonies were absolutely breathless. That was the last song before the encore, and really they could have walked away at that point and I would have been thrilled. I’m glad I caught them at The Metro this time because I don’t think I’ll ever have that opportunity again.

Last on my concert stops was Okkervil River. This was my 6th time seeing them this year and I’m one random run-in at the grocery store from getting a restraining order slapped on my desk. Sheff and co. launched into “Plus Ones” and were off. What else is there possibly left for me to say about them? Let’s see… New guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo seems to be settling in nicely. In August, she seemed unsure of herself, as if she didn’t want to flub a note. Now she smiles more and seems to really be enjoying herself. Bass Guitarist, Patrick Pestorious, should sing more often. He sounds great on “Lost Coastlines.” And on a sad note, Sheff announced that they don’t play “Kansas City” any more. That made me sad. That’s a fucking doozy of a tune.

Anyway it was a great show that we’ve all come to expect. Sheff busted out a solo “Red” and the band fired a version of “A Stone” that was transcendent. They are hands down my favorite band right now.

Silver Jews – Strange Victory, Strange Defeat

Fleet Foxes – He Doesn’t Know Why

Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal

Okkervil River – Lost Coastlines

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If you’re in Chicago tonight, do yourself a favor and get to the Metro. Three HearYa live session alums are going to share the stage for an incredible night of music. Ha Ha Tonka, Joe Pug and Backyard Tire Fire (in the studio today) will all be in attendance.

Here’s what the night will sound like:

Exclusive: Joe Pug – Hymn 101 (from the Joe Pug live session)

Exclusive: Ha Ha Tonka – Caney Mountain (from the Ha Ha Tonka live session)

Backyard Tire Fire – The Places We Lived (from their just released album The Places We Lived)

And while I’m at it, let me say a few words about Backyard Tire Fire’s new release, The Places We Lived. I’ve read BYTF’s praises on other blogs for the past year or two and I’m admitedly late to the party. Their prior album, Vagabonds and Hooligans found the guys square in the alt-country genre. The Places We Lived, however, has a grown up pop sound with more varied country, blues and jazz influences.

The band mates still aren’t taking themselves too seriously, but they’ve undergone a spit-polish, kind of like when Wilco migrated from A.M. and Being There on up to Summer Teeth. I’m really excited to hear the output after today’s session and I’ll be wallowing in some self-pity since I no longer live in Chi to enjoy the show.

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