July 24, 2009
The Harm | The Guitar Merchant | July 17, 2009
Six songs into The Harm’s set, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Scott Goldbaum announces that the band will take audience requests for the remainder of their 10-song performance. When two audience members (including yours truly) fervently suggest a recently neglected tune, “Madman,” lead guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Matt Tuggle protests with a half-worried grin, “I don’t know it!” As the band launches into an unsurprisingly flawless execution, bassist Nick Chamian, drummer Mike Musselman and Tuggle silently congratulate each other with small signs of rejoicing, a strangely upbeat backdrop to Goldbaum’s impassioned lyrics about unrequited romantic insanity.
But for all the incongruity, this pure joy in music (and in its perfection) is what defines The Harm – their music and their concert. When the band debates which audience request to take, Goldbaum jokes warmly, “Welcome to our rehearsal, guys, thanks for paying to see us.” Goldbaum is, in part, alluding to the fact that The Harm haven’t practiced for about a week, but the few rough edges that infrequently surface (a missed cue here, an early entry there) simply add flavor, gusto and sincerity to a performance which effortlessly glides from foot-stomping rockers to breathtaking ballads and back again.
“Interpreting Us,” for example, opens up into an idyllically peaceful bridge, complete with Chamian’s delicately flawless falsetto crooning, only to fall into a coda of furious drums and a pounding beat which would put many ostensibly “harder” bands to shame. When Goldbaum’s guitar malfunctions after the song, Chamian and Musselman fill the space instantly by becoming Flea and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers with an impromptu funk jam, a jam that’s so tight one of the audience members shouts, “What’s the name of that song?!” And when the technical malfunctions are resolved, The Harm seamlessly switch gears out of funk and into “Lonely,” a gorgeous slow ballad which features the ever-impressive Tuggle on guitar, keyboard, tambourine and xylophone. Almost as a flipside to the earlier moment of triumph during “Madman,” Tuggle smiles innocently over the melancholy melody of “Lonely,” with tambourine in hand.
Always eager to please their fans, The Harm close their set with three more requests: “Crosby Doesn’t Stills,” “Lenses” and “Sunlight Fuel,” all of which underscore each member’s immense talent – Goldbaum and Tuggle harmonize perfectly in “Crosby”; Goldbaum steps out for an a capella interlude and, later, a skillful guitar solo in “Lenses”; Musselman drops adrenaline-pumping bombshells from his drum set at the perfectly frenzied moments in “Sunlight Fuel”; and Chamian boldly but tastefully peppers all three tunes with bass chords and virtuoso playing.
Across all the styles they cover and the moods they span, The Harm stand for one thing tonight: joy in music, all music. And their satisfied audience was happy to indulge in the same.
-Words and photo by Dean Schaffer