Texas-based brother-sister duo The Oh Hellos launched their 2018 tour at the 9:30 Club last Tuesday, promoting their latest album “Eurus” to a crowded and enthusiastic audience.
Combining rock, folk and indie sounds, The Oh Hellos delivered an energetic and authentic performance, complemented by an engaged audience who spent the night dancing along to the beats of the group’s banjos and violins.
The group got its start in 2011 when siblings Tyler and Maggie Heath released their first EP, “The Oh Hellos,” and it has since expanded to include a wide array of musicians.
The popular concert venue 9:30 Club was packed as fans pressed against each other on the ground floor and in the balconies above, eagerly awaiting the duo’s arrival. On the stage hung a huge banner with the words “Oh Hellos” plastered on it and a bright orange rising sun to the bottom left. From the moment the doors opened, an air of excitement permeated the dark-walled space.
The opening act, Lowland Hum, a Charlottesville, N.C.-based husband-wife duo consisting of Lauren and Daniel Goans, took the stage at 8:15 p.m. The duo was warmly received by the audience as they performed heavily acoustic ballads accompanied by steady background percussion. Rather than dancing to the music, audience members showed their appreciation through head nods and sways to the song’s lilting notes. The Goans warmly engaged the audience by sharing the “15-second story” of their love and the history of their band. They began by singing “Folded Flowers” from their 2017 album, “Thin.” Beautiful harmonies, strong acoustics and foot stomping characterize The Oh Hellos’ music.
After a 45-minute break following Lowland Hum’s performance, the banner and stage lit up, and slow guitar music played as The Oh Hellos stepped out on stage to abundant applause and audience screams. The duo immediately launched into “Eurus” from their 2018 album of the same name. The spotlights began to change from blue to green and to yellow as the Heaths excitedly danced around to the sounds of their passionate ensemble.
The lights above projected swirls on the stage, and the ground shook with the power of the instruments: a banjo, a violin, electric and acoustic guitars, and drums. After the first song, The Oh Hellos engaged the audience by encouraging audience members to high-five their neighbor and dance. These games warmed the audience up, and the crowd’s laughter signaled excitement for the night to come. Tyler Heath was also radically candid and shared that because Washington, D.C., was the first tour stop, he was “a little nervous.” This honesty and vulnerability characterized the evening by creating an open and inviting space.
One highlight of the night was when Tyler Heath yelled excitedly, “Go buckwild!” and the crowd rejoiced. Full instrumentation provided steady percussion throughout the night, and Maggie Heath kept everyone on their toes with her endearing and unique dancing around the stage. Colored spotlights scanned the audience and occasionally bathed them in blue light. Additionally, Tyler Heath took time to check in with the audience throughout the night, at one point asking, “How is everyone feeling … emotionally?”
The Oh Hellos mainly performed songs from the most recent album “Eurus” or from 2017’s release, “Notos.” Although the group’s music is often relaxed and grounded in acoustics, The Oh Hellos brought a refreshing loudness and intensity to the 9:30 Club performance.
Most of the set list consisted of newly released music, but that did not stop the audience from passionately dancing along throughout the night. However, when older, well-known songs such as “Like the Dawn” from 2012’s “Through the Deep, Dark Valley” were performed, the audience was visibly overjoyed and sang along to every lyric.
Despite the excitement from the audience, it seemed like The Oh Hellos made a distinct effort to not play some of its most popular tracks. The popularized “Hello My Old Heart” from the group’s 2011 EP was noticeably absent, as was 2015’s “Dear Wormwood” from the album of the same name. Ultimately, it seemed that the band wanted to focus on the music that was most special to its members, regardless of the popularity the music had garnered.
To the crowd’s delight, The Oh Hellos appropriately ended the night with the song “Trees” from the 2011 EP, topping off a show characterized by strong vocals, powerful instrumentals and a palpable passion and excitement for expression. The duo was playful with the audience, and the audience was receptive and enlivened, making for an evening of unbridled energy and vigor.