This weekend was drenched full of soul-refreshing music, to the point of overflowing.
So wow, in the span of 24 hours, I got to see The Head and The Heart combust their second sold-out show at Moe’s in Denver before a happy, sweaty crowd (including them dedicating their encore song “Gone” to a very blushing and shocked me), record my very first two acoustic Fuel/Friends Sessions in an empty stone church (stay tuned!), and then host a joyous house show for a packed crowd of about a hundred enthusiastic music fans. It literally was too much for me to absorb, leaving me totally zoned out and kind of wordless on Sunday after the bands left.
This is the condensed, live-wire way that music is supposed to be heard and felt.
At both the Friday night show and the Saturday night house show, one thing that amazed me about the audience was that this time around, it felt like everyone was singing along to all the words for The Head and The Heart’s songs, just in the span of four months since the last time they were here. It was amazing to stand in the sea of that. I also was introduced this weekend to the music of both Ravenna Woods and The Moondoggies through stripped bare-bones performances. Ravenna Woods opened the house show with frontman Chris Cunningham pacing and roiling across the floor with a contained fervor and a song to sing. With just one drum and a xylophone backing him up, their music soared – and they ended with a cover of Radiohead’s “Karma Police” that was driving but haunting. They really made it their own.
The Moondoggies were even more elemental, relying mostly on their four voices to carry the audience along with them. They were also the first of the bands to breach the imaginary stage line on the carpet, pushing into the audience which immediately enveloped them and stood with appreciative smiles on their faces. Their humble, affecting four-part harmonies (reminded me a lot of Neil Young) with the round notes plunking out from the banjo are definitely something I have to check out more – I just downloaded two free mp3s from their label Hardly Art.
Kelli Schaefer was so good that I almost had to excuse myself for a moment — the pounding, intensely gorgeous waves of her music were threatening to drown me, if that makes any sense. Ask anyone who was there or who has seen her live: there is something astoundingly special about this girl. Not only can her voice command a room with seemingly no effort on her part (the best definition of a gift?), but her lyrics read like the truest gospel I’ve heard in a long time. The crowd pushed up close around her at her request, so we were face to face in the strongest of communions.
Trying to see all our faces, she climbed atop a chair to sing the riveting “Better Idea” from her new album. Her searing words grapple with the divine meeting the profane; in this song she sings, “Well I can’t treat my body like a temple when it is failing / are you kidding / was that your plan to keep my grounded? It’s not working / and this seed that you have planted is needing things that I can’t give it.” Instead of watching Kelli as she sang, I too watched everyone in that room, and saw a host of intense darknesses and joys flicker across their faces.
The Head and The Heart started their set in the waning minutes before midnight to a room that had sweltered and convected to sauna temperatures, a stark contrast to the refreshing night outside. I appreciate the freedom inherent in a house show that seems to make artists more willing to try out different arrangements and versions of their songs. Last time, THATH did “Cats and Dogs” totally a cappella, and this time it was a stripped-down and resonant version of “Lost in My Mind” that delighted us. And when they lit into “Sounds Like Hallelujah,” I was a bit worried about the stability of the floors in supporting all that dancing.
The house show got some pretty rad coverage, with folks in attendance from KEXP, The Denver Post (for Sunday’s paper?!), and the Seattle music blog Sound On The Sound. I am grateful that they were also there with their lenses and their journalism because as we’ve established, I was completely overwhelmed in all that happiness.
A few pictures and words from KEXP’s James Bailey (full article here, gorgeous shots) who made the trek from Seattle:
(Ravenna Woods, opening the evening)
(bartending Charity invented the signature drink of the evening, The Whiskey River)
(we were actually singing David Bowie’s parts from Labyrinth. wow.)
Also! The silvery screenprinted posters for the house show turned out even more stunning than I had thought. We have some left, and even if you weren’t there, you might like this lovely piece of art of your walls. They are for sale now over at Jupiter Visual for $15.
Our show caught all four of these bands on their peregrine journey down to SXSW, so if you are also (like me, in the morning, once I, uh, pack) please check all of them out. So very worth being on your shortlist. And remember I have David Bazan coming through next week as well (from Pedro The Lion), with tickets still available.
I am ready to do this again. Just give me a few months to recover.
[all my pictures are here; top photo & Kelli Schaefer bluelight shot credited to Michelle who first told me about this great band playing a tiny venue by her house in Seattle...]