Show Pics: The Head And The Heart @ Red Rocks

When I go abroad, meaning when I leave the Austin city limits (cwutidid), I like to check show calendars for the strange new land I am off to to see what bands coming through the same town I am to give me a reason to bring my camera with me. For my trip to Denver last week, I hyper-focused on arguably the most iconic venue in the US, if not the world, Red Rocks. Luckily, friends of the program from way back, The Head And The Heart (a band I have shot in the past at one of our iconic venues Stubb’s) were rolling through Denver at the same time, so the emails went out and I crossed my fingers. The approval to shoot meant controlling excitement while I was in day-job meetings; I was going to shoot at a bucket list venue for most concert photographers.

Read on for the story and plenty of pics.

I own that am a flatlander; there is no air in Denver. There is also no humidity, even when they claim it is humid. Making your way to a venue that is another quarter mile above the mile-high city is fun. Hiking another few hundred feet to get to your seat, even more fun. Shout out to the tailgaters doing this work in stages. Upon gathering at the Trading Post (media base camp), I get to take a much appreciated ride up to the backstage area to meet the PR team. A minor communication error had me going to the ticketing office, usually not a big deal, but imagine the front doors to ACL Live are a mile away and up fifteen flights of stairs from the Will Call window. A team effort resolved the confusion, I was able to recover from my case of bends and met the promoter staff at the right place at the right time. Be proud of your venue Denver, this is an amazing place. It rained for ten minutes, big drops that evaporated immediately. Nice.

Hippo Campus opened and they were a solid selection with plenty of fans singing along. Fun pop songs, but still with multi-instrumental layering and depth. While not fully what I want to playlist today, I think this band has a chance to grow and evolve, so subscribed. For their set, the sun had set behind the rocks, but there was a ton of daylight still overhead. Stage-lighting drama was assisted “in theory” by fog machines on the upwind side of the stage, but too much fog led to low level stratus clouds and no visible details. A note to travelling lighting directors, let the venue shine if you can, which in this case would mean not obscuring the natural rock wall behind the artist.

By the time The Head And The Heart walked out, I had taken on a Coors original and pretzel as my dinner and the sun had fully set to let the venue’s lighting of the natural landscape come to life. While the band has gone on to be festival faves and ALT-rock front-runners, the musicality and core that made the indie people fall in love is still there. Vocal styling, instruments used, musicianship, all the components are front and center and to be honest were well-suited to the environment. The idea of matching the right thing to the right environment, like when a light beer tastes amazing when floating the river, this band and this venue paired very nicely. Classics like “Rivers and Roads” were just lovely. It has been eight years since I saw that song performed live in an opening set when they were touring with The Walkmen. Nostalgic recollection of that song has been reprogrammed to my little slice of space side-stage at Red Rocks.

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