The Head and The Heart in Portland ::: photo by Abbey Simmons
Every once in a while, a person needs a road trip with friends. And for me, there is no more perfect excuse than a local line-up chock full of favorites. Such was the case last Friday when I piled into a car with friends and headed south to Portland to see The Head and the Heart, Fences and Drew Grow & the Pastors’ Wives play a sold-out Mississippi Studios.
When it comes to local favorites with strong support in Seattle, I am always curious how the band would play in another town or in a city where friends can’t help fill the room. It would seem, at least as far as The Head and The Heart are concerned, they don’t need the hometown advantage. The room was at its fullest for the evening’s openers and people passionately sang along to the bands set. While The Head and The Heart proved last week that they can also command a venue the size of The Paramount, they are at their best in a more intimate setting, where they can interact with the audience and each other … stomping joyfully and shouting their songs to the 20-foot, rather than the 100-foot rafters. As proud as I was to see the band open for Vampire Weekend, it paled in comparison to the swell of emotion I felt watching a sold-out room in Portland sing along to their songs. The Head and The Heart write earnestly infectious songs and it is clearly spreading.
Fences, hot off what was described by everyone I’d talked to as a triumphant album release show at The Crocodile, suffered from technical issues from the first note of his set and the crowd thinned considerably as the energy and pace of the show dwindled. However, those who stepped outside to enjoy a balmy Portland evening missed out. Despite being frazzled by sound and gear issues, Fences delivered on the recorded promise of his songs and treated the audience who remained with sweet sincerity. Closing out his set with “Girls With Accents,” the crowd responded in kind, singing along to the chorus of “I’m fucking up everything” with abandon … like mischievous pre-teens who knew the words were naughty and delighted in every moment of breaking the rules. Every show can’t be perfect, but Fences honored his album and his audience by giving it his all and soldiering through.
Hometown headliners Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives were playing to their first sold-out Portland audience. After their soul-shaking, foot-stomping, goose-bump inducing punk-gospel set, it certainly won’t be their last. Looking like a young Johnny Cash, clad in all-black, wild-eyed, whiskey drinking and full of danger and bombast, Drew Grow commanded the crowd, converting them from chatty drunks to reverent testifiers. When the band finished their set, joined on stage by Grand Hallway’s Shenandoah Davis, Portland Cello Project’s Douglas Jenkins and label-mate Kelli Schaefer, the audience demanded more. The wood floors shook with the reverb of clapping, stomping and the cheering of an audience that had not seen or heard enough. And I couldn’t blame them, there are few more compelling live bands today than Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives and they are more committed to their performance every time I see them.
When the band finally gave in to the loud audience demands, the crowd pressed tightly together, hands reaching towards the stage, clamoring to get closer. When the encore ended, the crowd again erupted, begging for more … over my shoulder someone screamed, “Play forever!” A sentiment I surely shared. This was one of those nights, one of those electric shows you wish you could extend the final note for hours, one you wish you could relive over and over again. A show most certainly worth the three hour drive south. In truth, I would have driven for days.
Mississippi Studios ::: photo by Abbey Simmons
The Head and The Heart ::: photo by Abbey Simmons
Fences ::: photo by Abbey Simmons
Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives ::: photo by Abbey Simmons