The Collegian
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Music of Itchy Hearts

So here I was on the corner of Broad and Madison Street Friday night listening to four people in a folk(ish) band scream my name aloud in front of about 15 people with crowds nearby.

I thought to myself, "Now this is really something that would never happen on our campus: There are four college-aged people playing acoustic guitar, stand-up bass, violin and accordion and stomping on a hubcap for percussion."

I hadn't really planned on getting called out, but then again, I don't usually plan on these sorts of things (not that I really could), and quite frankly, it made my night.

My mom always said it was one of her biggest regrets of parenting -- that she didn't make us learn to play an instrument. But I'm just glad to watch other people lose themselves in the moment of a good song. While I watched them perform on the street corner, I put my name and other information in their guitar case to see if they would meet up and tell me their story. Side note: I have very little shame these days.

The name of the band happens to be "The Itchy Hearts," and the four members of the group come from Houston, Texas (whoop); Richmond, Va.; and Brooklyn, N.Y. Three of the band members met at the Pratt Institute in New York City, but they all dropped out and decided to go somewhere else. They've only been together for four months, but they've already recorded a CD and have shows scheduled in both Richmond and the New York City area in the coming months.

The first time they ever played a show they were just "Andy, Julia and Reed" because they didn't have a name and didn't know if they were really an "official" band. That was before they got the accordion and before Andy presented the name "The Itchy Hearts."

When they thought about making their first CD, Andy said: "We always played; we wrote and loved it so took it to the next level."

One weekend and twelve recorded songs later, they figured they might as well call themselves a band.

The first night I saw them on the street corner, they had already played a show at the Camel, but they told me they really let loose and play crazy music when they aren't in front of a large crowd. For instance, they just found a hubcap that night, and it seemed to fit the mood, so they stomped on it. You're always stomping when you play music, so they figured they might as well stomp on a hubcap and make some noise.

While people walked by (VCU hipsters and Richmond students alike) they stopped and listened to the band chime in on each other's songs, try new harmonies, change lyrics around and otherwise experiment with their music to make it more fun. Without expectations or time commitments, the band was having fun both singing and screaming the words to their favorite songs.

It's just too bad to think that here we are with 3,000 students and no four-person folk(ish) band playing on the street corner. Even more unfortunate: There isn't just a huge outdoors culture on our campus. There are tons of cool things going on here; we just need take our meetings outside when the weather is nice.

In this way we won't always be going to somewhere instead of stopping to stomp on a hubcap (that probably would have already been cleaned by facilities, but still) or otherwise entertaining other people with a little jam session.

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It took a lot of random events for me to find myself listening to the Itchy Hearts on the street corner that night. Had they never attended Pratt, John, Andy and Julia would have never met each other and realized they had so much fun making music. Had they never found Reed to play the stand-up bass they would have never found the distinctly folk(ish) sound they now enjoy. Had they never realized how cool the city of Richmond can be, the band might not have thought to play at First Fridays.

Go find this culture and bring it back for the rest of the campus to enjoy. I'll never stop singing/screaming your praises.

Visit The Itchy Hearts' Web site at myspace.com/theitchyhearts for a full concert schedule. While you're there, listen to my favorite songs: "SS" and "I Think I'm Leavin."

Contact opinion editor Michael Rogers at michael.rogers@richmond.edu

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