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Goin’ “Down in the Valley” for the Head and the Hearts’ music festival

Ella Furuichi
The Head and the Heart opened with an acoustic set, consisting of only three band members.

Nestled in the middle of downtown Napa Valley, the first Down in the Valley music festival took place at the Oxbow RiverStage, Saturday, Sept. 2, and Sunday, Sept. 3, featuring a lineup of nine talented artists and bands.

The festival headliner, The Head and the Heart, organized the event. For the band’s first time hosting a festival, the venue filled with music lovers by nightfall, despite its small size.

The Head and the Heart opened the festival with a short acoustic set starting around 3 p.m. This was surprising as headliners usually don’t open festivals. At most shows, the band is large, complete with drums and multiple guitars. This time, they kept their ensemble small, lead vocalists and guitarists Jonathan Russell and Matt Gervais took to the stage with vocalist and violinist Charity Rose Theilen.

Beginning with the festival’s namesake, they played their song “Down in the Valley.” Continuing through their 30-minute set, the trio sang eight songs, some unreleased, and ended with a cover of Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville” to pay tribute to the recently deceased artist.

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Miya Folick, accompanied by Jacob Ungerleider, played a heartfelt 40-minute set. (Ella Furuichi)

Next up was indie-rock singer Miya Folick who began her set at 3:50 p.m. Folick held her own, along with keyboardist and guitarist Jacob Ungerleider, performing with a powerful vocal range that filled the stage with her presence. Folick played most of her discography, including two unreleased songs, “Elton John” and “Confetti.” Her humorous nature and passion for music deeply resonated with the crowd.

Rayland Baxter, joined by a trio of accompanying members, followed Folick with a fun-filled and passionate set. (Ella Furuichi)

After Folick, musician Rayland Baxter took to the stage, with a cigarette in hand. His humor and excitement immediately got the crowd dancing. Baxter played many of his popular songs, including “Hey Larocco” and “Yellow Eyes”.

Drummer Kyle Davis passionately plays with Rayland Baxter and the band, on his blue Ludwig drum set. (Ella Furuichi)

Accompanied by a trio of guitar, bass, and drums that vaguely resembled a middle-aged version of the Jonas Brothers, the high-energy performers successfully held the audience’s attention. Baxter ended his set by welcoming two other female vocalists on stage to sing Mac Miller’s song “Small Worlds.”

Indie singer Faye Webster brought the first and only prop to the stage, a big blow-up head, along with powerful vocals. (Ella Furuichi)

At 5:50 p.m., singer Faye Webster stunned the audience with her intense energy. At this point, the crowd was nearly full, with many fans holding Faye Webster records and wearing her t-shirts. Accompanied by her band of drums, a keyboard, a slide guitar, and her brother on bass, Webster played only a few songs. The set included “Kingston,” and “In a Good Way,” with passionate guitar solos between songs.

Waxahatchee (Katie Crutchfield), also in the two-set band Plains, played a diverse set consisting of music from both bands. (Ella Furuichi)

As the sun set, Waxahatchee, otherwise known as Katie Cruchfield, began the second-to-last set. The folk singer, who is also in the band Plains, had a short set. Waxahatchee sang and played the guitar, while another female musician accompanied her on guitar and bass. The stage lights took shape in her set, flooding the venue with purples and blues. Fans swayed to her music, including her songs “Fire” and “Lilacs.”

The Head and the Heart returned to the stage for the finale act, complete with a full band and stage lighting. (Ella Furuichi)

The enthusiastic musicians took up all the space on the stage, connecting with the audience, which was near capacity at this point. During the more heartfelt songs, such as “Let’s Be Still,” the crowd turned on their phone lights like flames, swaying back and forth. In a moment of celebration, the previous bands, such as Rayland Baxter and Miya Folick, made a final appearance on stage to sing “Lost in my Mind,” triggering an emotional response from the crowd.

The Head and the Heart’s violinist Charity Rose Thielen sings along with the large band, while also play her instrument. (Ella Furuichi)

The finale left concert-goers fulfilled and exhausted with its dramatic lighting and passion. The Head and the Hearts’ first festival proved to be a success and an event to look forward to in years ahead.

This story was originally published on The Pitch on September 20, 2023.