Commonwealth Connections: The Heavy Heavy, Live at The Kennedy Center

Heavy Heavy

No matter how meticulous your concert planning can be, or how much time you spend organizing your social calendar, sometimes fate offers you a winning hand that could have never been predicted. Case in point, my attention was very recently directed to emerging British retro-folk rockers The Heavy Heavy, and after sampling a pair of singles (coincidentally receiving sudden airplay on SiriusXM radio), quickly added them to my always-expanding list of artists to catch live in concert one day.

Just a few weeks later, I discovered that the band were currently touring the US, and announced a visit to Washington DC – performing a late afternoon set as part of the Millennium Stage showcase at the prestigious Kennedy Center – which just so happened to coincide with a night we already planned to be at the venue for an evening program with the National Symphony Orchestra. Well, talk about the stars aligning and all of that fun stuff – having attended one of these hour-long shows recently when BC artist Dan Mangan was in town, we knew exactly what to expect, and knew it would be incredibly foolish to let this opportunity pass us by.

Heavy Heavy

We’ve featured many bands here on our pages who have found success embracing the sounds of yesteryear – whether indie pop from the 90s, synth-rock and new romanticism from the 80s, or bluesy rock sounds from the 70s – many careers have been carved by tapping into the nostalgic element many of us associate with our musical memories of the past.  Indeed, several of these artists quickly earn their ‘retro’ tag, but only a handful leave you genuinely needing to pinch yourself, wondering if the music is not a new interpretation, but a long-lost time capsule discovery from the past.

Hailing from the southern English coastal town of Brighton, The Heavy Heavy are the epitome of a time capsule discovery. Writing, recording, and performing music so steeped in the folk-psyche-rock sounds of the late 60s, this sound and buzz generated by this quintet really does transport the listener back to the flower-power days of free love, peace protests, and Woodstock.  Founded by Georgie Fuller (vocals/keys/tambourine) and William Turner (vocals/guitars/harmonica), and joined on this tour by Frank Fogden (vocals/keys/guitars), Thomas Holder (vocals/bass) and James Porter (drums), based on this performance in DC, there is zero need to slap the ‘retro’ tag on this band – their music is as authentic as it gets, and we’re hooked!

Performing tunes from their 2022 “Life And Life Only” debut EP (an expanded version featuring additional tracks has since been released), The Heavy Heavy opened the show with “All My Dreams,” and very quickly silenced any doubts of not living up to the hype. Filling the Millennium Stage area with plenty of reverb-soaked guitar twang, vintage organ blasts, and stunning four-piece harmonies, the band earned the full appreciation of the room immediately with their mixture of original tunes, instrumentals, and some stunning era-appropriate covers.

Heavy Heavy

“Hi, it’s good to be with you. This place is beautiful,” offered Georgie, following a stunning performance of “Why Don’t You Call” – one that oozed a strong Mamas and Papas vibe, mated to an almost doo-wop undertone. “We are used to playing in dark little sweaty basement clubs, but this is a real treat for us.”  Sharing vocal duties with William across their catalogue, Georgie brought with her a strong presence and persona to the stage, straddling the line between melodic folk-pop balladry one moment, and bringing some all-out Janis Joplin worthy grit the next – raising the bar to an unprecedented level midway through the breezy “Sleeping On Grassy Ground,” and rivaling the wordless vocals of Merry Clayton (“Gimme Shelter”) and Clare Torry (“The Great Gig in the Sky”) in the process.

Another surprise, and welcomed cover, was that of “Lonesome L.A. Cowboy,” as penned by Peter Rowan, popularized by 60s psychedelic rockers New Riders of the Purple Sage, and delivered on this evening in stunning fashion from Georgie. “I’m just a lonesome L.A. cowboy / Hangin’ out, hangin’ on / To your window ledge, callin’ your name / From midnight until dawn / I’ve been smokin’ dope, snortin’ coke / Tryin’ to write a song / Forgetting’ everything I know / ‘Til the next line comes along / Forgettin’ everything I know / ‘Til the next line comes along.”  And, no word of a lie, the moment I also drew similarities in style and sound to Stevie Nicks, The Heavy Heavy would promptly transition into a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” – you can’t make this stuff up (and what a great cover it was too)!

Heavy Heavy

Closing with their popular radio hit “Miles and Miles,” and the euphoric “Way Out West,” The Heavy Heavy earned a standing ovation following their solid 1-hour performance, and based on the long line of new-found fans waiting to meet Georgie and William immediately afterwards, left their DC visit with an open invitation to return and share their dreamy, shimmery sounds once more.  The band’s tour across North America continues for a couple more weeks, before they return home for a few gigs, then find themselves back on our shores once more this summer – we strongly encourage you to check them out if they happen to be driving through a town near you.

Set List:

  1. All My Dreams
  2. Man Of The Hills
  3. Go Down River
  4. Why Don’t You Call
  5. Lonesome L.A. Cowboy (New Riders of the Purple Sage cover)
  6. All I Need
  7. Parakeets
  8. *Unknown Title*
  9. Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac cover)
  10. *Unknown Title – Instrumental*
  11. Sleeping On Grassy Ground
  12. Miles And Miles
  13. Way Out West

This event was professionally recorded and live-streamed by The Kennedy Center. The recording can be found here.

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

Tags from the story
0 replies on “Commonwealth Connections: The Heavy Heavy, Live at The Kennedy Center”