DU Music Fest 2013 | Magness Arena | May 25

The Head & The Heart, Mayer Hawthorne, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

DU's Annual Music Fest (Photo Credit: Maddie Casey)

Memorial Day weekend was a big one for local concerts, and we got a chance to stop by the University of Denver’s MusicFest, presented by Amplitude Entertainment. Featuring Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Mayer Hawthorne, and The Head & The Heart, the show was a great mix of the upbeat and funky, with the mellow and melodic.

Thao and The Get Down Stay Down

With a spattering of local acts like Vetta Star, Places, and Foxfield Four playing in between the larger acts, it was a show filled top to bottom with unique sounds. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down were the first of the national acts to take stage, capturing the audience with their unique sound. This group from San Francisco incorporate a modern day folk sound into their catchy, upbeat songs. Lead singer Thao Nguyen seamlessly switched between mandolin, banjo, and acoustic guitar throughout the set, giving the group a dynamic sound  that was certainly new to me. A few songs seemed almost the opposite of the few banjo-infused tunes, like the song “City” which has more of a driving beat with big electric guitar sounds instead. Filled top to bottom by catchy lyrics and enticing melodies, and even a cover of Ludacris‘ “What’s Your Fantasy” mid-song, Thao’s set seemed full of surprises. The entire audience was on board to sing along with the catchy tune “We The Common” by the end of the night. 

Mayer Hawthorne (Photo Credit: Maddie Casey)

Mayer Hawthorne took over the stage next, bringing an entirely new sound to the room. With his sweet, crooning voice, and soulful sounds, the only way I feel like I can ever properly describe Mayer Hawthorne’s sound is just “modern day baby-makin’ music”. With his entire band dressed in white pants, navy and white striped shirts, and he himself wearing a white pin-striped suit, Hawthorne’s set is certainly as much of a “show” as it is a musical performance. With his guitarists jiving and dancing in sync on either side of him, it was as if the audience all took one simultaneous swooning breath as he played hits like “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin’” and “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out”. Playing the first verse of “Poison” by Bel Biv DeVoe as an interlude during one of his songs, and even covering “You Make My Dreams” by the infamous Hall & Oates, Saturday night’s set was certainly a crowd pleaser. Ending his set with a new single off his new record out in July, everyone in the crowd was left smiling. Even I fell under Mayer’s spell, being caught in a “moment” with him pointing and smiling at me and my camera mid-set.

Mayer Hawthorne hitting on our own Maddie Casey (Photo Credit: Maddie Casey)

The Head and The Heart (Photo Credit: Maddie Casey)

Closing out the night was Seattle’s rising starts The Head & The Heart. Another big change in atmosphere going from Mayer Hawthorne’s upbeat melodies to their acoustics and melody driven chorus’, the crowd was certainly excited to see the band take stage. Frontman Josiah Johnson mentioned that the band has been on a hiatus for the past four months working in the studio on their next album, and they seemed ready to perform again. Playing all the hits off of their self-titled 2011 release, the crowd was eager to sing along all they could. Playing songs like “Lost In My Mind”, “Sounds Like Hallelujah”, and a beautiful rendition of “Rivers and Roads”, the bands harmonies were as perfect live as they sound on the record. Beginning their encore was the band’s violinist Charity Thielen singing a song she’d just written by herself in recent months, and was then joined on stage by the rest of the group to finish out the encore with their first single on “Down in the Valley”. The group’s dynamic on stage is enthralling, watching them all bounce around between one another, picking up and putting down instruments, it was beautiful to watch them all just be musicians in the most pure form. 

There are no upcoming Denver dates for any of these artists, but be sure to listen on Spotify for more from them.