12/9: The Head and The Heart, PHOX @ DAR Constitution Hall

Phox by Pip for Partisan Records
Photo Courtesy of PHOX

When PHOX walked on the stage, DAR Constitution Hall was half-full. I say half full, because when the music began, it couldn’t have mattered less how many people were missing, as the joy of the people present made up wholly for it. The warm cascades of indie-folk seemed to make the audience gently sway, as if a musical breeze blew across them. The six-piece band founded in Baraboo, Wisconsin, came together as an organic whole for a beautiful opening set, from the subtle banjo dancing in the background, to the twinkling of the keyboard intermixed with energetic guitar riffs that seemed to play perfectly off each other. Let us not forget the wonderfully capturing and mysterious vocals of Monica Martin, whose voice seemed to melt each melody into a congruous whole that left you tranquil and serene. The band recently released their first full album, PHOX, and when I got a chance to interview the band, they told me that they felt that rather thinking of the album, as a novel “a linear front back thing, you think of it as a collection of short stories.” And on that Tuesday night here in DC, the short stories indeed were told, beautifully. PHOX will be back in DC in February at the 9:30 club, and I highly recommend seeing them.

Following a wonderful opening set, the cavernous concert hall seating up to 3,500 was packed with people and anticipation.

Photo Courtesy of The Head and The Heart

If I had to sum up The Head and The Heart’s playing style, it would simply be having a good time. From the moment the group stepped on the stage to the moment they stepped off, it was nothing but a good time. The six-member group hailing from Seattle could do nothing but play the music and have a kickass time. Not only did the audience get lost in the music, but the band did too, and towards the end of the set, vocalist and guitarist Josiah Johnson remarked, “so I just realized we have one more song.” DAR Constitution Hall is all seated, but that didn’t hold the audience back from having a good time. Only one song into the set, a wave of people standing up began, until the entire floor of the venue was on its feet, dancing and moving to the sound of the music. From that point on, the performance was less a performance and more a conversation between old friends. At one point, Johnson came into the crowd simply to dance with the front section. The result was an atmosphere of happiness and joy, the large concert hall suddenly feeling cozy and homey. The group was not musically perfect, and yes, there were mistakes, but none of that seemed to matter, because the band didn’t need perfection to have a perfect show, it just needed to have a good time, and an audience to share that good time with. At the end of a beautiful first set, an acoustic song done by Johnson and his partner, and an encore, it is safe to say The Head and The Heart indeed had a perfect show.

It may have been a cold night outside, but inside DAR Constitution Hall was the warmest atmosphere anyone could have asked for, from the warm melodies of PHOX to the heartwarming music of The Head and The Heart. This was a night well worth the ticket.

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