I have had “Watch You Suffer” by Heart & Lung stuck in my head for approximately eight days now. I sing it in the shower. I sing it while doing dishes. I sing it when I am stuck in traffic. I have been singing it since Heart & Lung opened up for Lagwagon with Red City Radio on December 7th, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.
So, if you want to read the whole review, I encourage you to do so. However, I told you what you need to know; I went to a Lagwagon and Red City Radio show at the Grog Shop and left with the opening song from the hometown band stuck in my head. They are pretty damn good—but please—let me tell you why.
As Heart & Lung took the stage, I was immediately struck with a sense of déjà vu. Had I seen this band before? Could this possibly be the same band I saw open for Masked Intruder at Mahall’s in March 2019? It couldn’t be. I mean, those guys were good, but not this good. I almost brought myself to ask about the Masked Intruder show at the merch booth after I bought their album, Twistin’ the Knife Away, and a lovely t-shirt. However, my anxiety got the better of me. I mean, c’mon, Cleveland is a big city.
That being said, you know I googled that shit after the show. Heart & Lung was the band we saw open for Masked Intruder two and a half years ago, but they have grown so much since then.
But how much have they grown? Well, despite having to play a significant gig opening up for Lagwagon with a fill-in guitarist that they only practiced with a total of three times prior, I still have their song stuck in my head. You read that correctly. Their guitarist/vocalist Shannon Sullivan was forced to quarantine due to Covid-19 related issues, which I can only imagine how devastating that was for him. Though Sullivan was there in spirit as he watched the crowd via Facetime.
The members of Heart and Lung have fantastic chemistry, which is necessary because the band’s sound relies heavily on techniques that require precision timing and strong verbal and nonverbal communication such as call-and-response, melodic switch-ups, and vocal tradeoffs. When he isn’t singing, bassist and vocalist John Payne can work the fretboard of his instrument with the same meticulous fidelity as a lead guitarist. This allows him to add depth to Sullivan’s and Cobb’s melodies through mimicry while drummer Nick Patrone temporarily carries the steadfast rhythmic heartbeat on his own.
The fact that they could replicate that sort of chemistry and recreate such intoxicatingly rich melodies backed by such rich, robust rhythms with a fill-in guitarist on such short notice is an impressive feat. Like Red City Radio, I think the pandemic may have made Heart & Lung an even stronger band. That kind of chemistry takes time to nurture and gets better with practice. Not that they didn’t have it in 2019, it just wasn’t as nuanced yet. Also, in their defense, when I last saw them, they opened for a gimmicky pop-punk and performed after a local ska band. This show at the Grog Shop featured a more congruent lineup as Heart & Lung, Red City Radio, and Lagwagon were complementary enough to create a seamless transition from opening act to headliner.
However, now that we are two years deep into a pandemic and economic crisis, Heart & Lung seems to have their finger on the pulse of something we are all feeling: that sweet melancholic and oxymoronic combination of hopelessness and optimism. Their melodic guitar licks and familiar lyrical patterns offer a punch of pop-punk while showcasing a little more depth and moodiness, especially in how they intertwine melodies and rhythms. After their performance at the Grog Shop, they have earned the honor of being our first #wherearetheyplayingnext band because I live in Columbus, but if I find out they are playing a weekend show, I would likely make the drive to Cleveland. So, if you are in 216, you have to support this band. And if you live in the 614, make sure to look them up if you are ever in the Cleveland metropolitan area.