Situated in the upper most balcony of Hill Auditorium, the view was much better than I had expected it to be (the eternal feeling of falling forward, out of the balcony and towards the stage, though, was entirely expected of Hill). The space lacked the closeness I normally look forward to in concerts, where it feels like a conversation with the performers, rather than an arena-style, bird’s-eye-view. Both the members of the opening act, Whitney, and the Head and the Heart worked to create what intimacy they could, chatting back and forth with an expansive and faceless audience. The crowd, much to my surprise, was made up of largely older couples. It could be that I’ve created the illusion of the late-teens/early twenties indie audience based off of one too many music festivals; likely, Ann Arbor is more conducive to a wide-range, indie folk audience than elsewhere.
The stage was set like the cover of the Head and the Heart’s new album, Signs of Light. Potted palm-fronds were scattered throughout, with a neon sign that evoked only the best new-agey seventies vibes. It transformed Hill from a concert hall into almost a basement lounge atmosphere (filled with all 3,500 of your friends), aided by the performers continual toasting of red Solo cups. While the setting of Hill relaxed its “acoustical perfection” for a more casual atmosphere, elements of its austere presence remained.
For this concert, especially with how chummy and charismatic the performers worked to be, I just wanted to be able to dance. One of my favorite benefits of live music is being able to stand uncomfortably close to the stage, being able to feel the music of the speakers shake the floor, the air, and the crowd, and watching everyone dance however they feel moved. In Hill, I could look down from the balcony to see maybe two or three carefree listeners dancing in the aisles, but the rows upon rows of chairs, as well as the added threat of height, kept most in their seats.
The opening band complemented The Head and the Heart’s music, adding a bit more of an indie-pop feel to the feature’s folk vibe. I loved the incorporation of a trumpet into the band, adding a bit of an unexpected (though not unseen in contemporary music) twist to their music. The Head and the Heart performed many of their most popular works – namely “All We Ever Knew”, “Lost in My Mind”, and ending with “Rivers and Roads” – in quick succession, moving from one piece to another.
All in all, I loved being able to watch the Head and the Heart perform so close to home, a chance that seems to be getting smaller and smaller as their popularity grows. It made me crave the intimacy and closeness that smaller spaces like The Ark provide (that also allow for the glorious choice of sitting, standing, or dancing), but I can’t denounce a venue that’s directly on campus and offers an unobstructed view and acoustical perfection of a front-running indie band. Their folksy, sweet Americana feel makes for a nice addition to any upcoming summertime soundtrack.