Review: Band of Heathens at The Hamilton

The Band of Heathens made their way to Washington, DC last week at The Hamilton to showcase their most recent album, DuendeDefined loosely in English as "the power to attract through personal magnetism and charm; a spirit", duende is the only way to describe the flow of energy the five man band from Austin, TX radiated. The band swarmed the stage but in a measured way; there was a large collection of instruments to be aware of including more than four guitars, a drum set, a keyboard, and a baby grand piano. They opened with "LA County Blues," a sway-worthy country rock jam, then let the bass line lead them straight into "Sugar Queen," a grittier groove that the band vamped for a full minute, clearly enjoying the layers of instrumentals they arranged. At this point, the hardcore fans ditched their dinner table seats and made themselves comfortable dancing at the foot of the stage in a mainly seated performance venue and no one minded. "Jackson Station" from their self-titled album began and everyone caught the slower, gritty vibes of the song arranged with an extended piano solo at the beginning, a harmonica solo at the bridge, and emotional vocal riffs highlighting different stories of loss that converge at the Jackson train station.

Through the second half of the set it was clear that bringing people together is at the core of the collective's spirit. Vocalists Ed Juri and Gordy Quist invited the crowd to join them in singing the ad lib to "Look at Miss Ohio,"do right...right now".  The crowd also clapped together (on beat!) during "All I'm Asking." The ballad-forward, one man opener Reed Foehl joined the Heathens back onstage to perform a cover of "When I Paint My Masterpiece." The band did Bob Dylan's song no disservice as evidenced by the crowd's excitement. After they finished "Green Grass of California" (a song not subtly detailing the effects of marijuana and a good group of friends), they lauded DC for being one of the few cities where weed is decriminalized, and in the same breath poked fun at the city for being the center of current political affairs. All the while emphasizing the importance of coming together in times of trouble.

The band concluded with "Hurricane," engulfing the crowd with effortless lyricism accompanied by their soulful, Americana sound. The set ended, and reality returned as if a hurricane had truly passed. We'd been caught up in the energy and the spirit of the band, and the ride was over.

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