Mosman Alder came out first to start the night’s festivities. The six-piece played songs from their debut EP, Burn Bright, and their upcoming LP, set for release in September. Though they seemed quite young and a bit inexperienced, the sextet had great onstage chemistry. Their songs resembled a musical lovechild born of The Killers and The National, with all the theatrics of Husky.
They weilded charming track titles like, God is Pissing on You and Tokyo 1993. God is Pissing on You was, actually, a set highlight. Overall, the Killers-esque vocals and their ‘just-happy-to-be-here’ smiles made it a great performance. Sidenote: Is it a requirement for all violinists to have extraordinary cheekbones and shiny hair? They all do!
Next up was headliner The Head and the Heart. The OAF basement’s trademark red velvet curtains peeled back to reveal the quirky folk-revival group, who opened with Cats and Dogs and Coeur D’Alene from their first (and best) album. The opener set the mood for the rest of their set. The cheery tones, bright piano riffs and radiant harmonies were a precursor of what was to come.
Watch: The Head and the Heart – Down in the Valley
The band kept everyone on their toes, bouncing and swaying to favourites such as Ghosts, Rivers and Roads and Lost in My Mind. The latter, arguably the band’s biggest song, was a particular hit with the crowd. The three-part harmonies, scintillating guitar strains and the synchronised gyrating of hips from the men and woman onstage had fans clapping and wolf-whistling in time. Their songs epitomised ‘feel-good’ music.
The biggest surprise of the performance was violinist and vocalist Charity Rose Thielen. On record, you hear but a glimpse of what she is capable of. Though her voice is admittedly great, it’s nothing compared to her live performances. Thielen sent notable shivers down the spines of punters, leaving them wide-eyed and open-mouthed for the entirety of her solos.
The Head and the Heat are definitely one that you have to catch live to fully appreciate what they’re about. The chemistry between the band is palpable. Maybe it was the facial hair giving them special mind-reading powers, but everything they did was in sync. The head-bopping, the knee-bending, the crescendos and decrescendos – the performance was raw and light-hearted.
Watch: The Head and the Heart – Another Story
The band was grateful and modest, repeatedly thanking everyone for knowing the words to their songs and singing along. A handful of the Americans in the crowd showed their own appreciation by screaming out “AMERICA!” every chance they got, such as when the band’s photographer came on mid-song to give keys player Kenny Hensley a back massage and then fell asleep onstage during the encore.
They closed with Down in the Valley, which showcased the band’s talents and again, their synchronicity. It saw all guitarists engaged in a strange, tangled dance, the foreheads of the two leads pushed together, the drummer behind them yelling the lyrics with no microphone, and the keys player with his fingers pressed to his forehead, mimicking a shooting motion to the violinist, in respect to the sleeping photographer behind him.
The Head and the Heart’s Oxford Art Factory performance, with its hectic tambourine playing, pitch perfect harmonies and folky melodies can probably be best summed up with the words of one of their own fans on the night, which he elatedly blurted to absolutely no one in particular: “This is awesome guys.”
The Head and the Heart will conclude their run of Splendour In The Grass sideshows with a sold-out performance at Howler in Melbourne on Monday, 28th July – full details here.