I spent a lot of time this year hanging out at The Mint. I had friends who worked there so…this often translated to free music and food. And it was good music and food (garlic fries, mac n cheese, taquitos, yum!). Some memorable nights at The Mint included any High Voltage night (Marti Gras, Dead Sara, Queen Caveat), Andrew Belle and Schuyler Fisk, Liam Gerner, Empire (a fantastic new band), etc. Harper Blynn is one of those bands I discovered at The Mint. They absolutely blew me away. I was transfixed by their energy and their songs. I love their album, Loneliest Generation, but it’s this cover of Beyonce’s “Halo” that I felt needed a spot on this mix as it became my wake up and get out of bed tune of the year. These Brooklyn boys spend a couple of months in LA doing a residency at The Hotel Cafe and brought out other fantastic artists like The Damnwells, Cary Brothers, Todd Carey, and Laura Jansen. They also did a couple amazing shows at Bardot. It was a great year for me and Harper Blynn.
The best band discoveries are always the ones that come unexpectedly. You’re sitting in the back at the bar talking to some friends when this band you’ve never even heard of takes the stage. They may not look like much (or they may look bat shit crazy) and you kind of cock your head in mild amusement, surveying the musicians on stage and their particular set up for anything of note. You’re just about to dismiss them as another one in a loooong line of mediocre bands when they start to play. By the end of the first song, your attention is rapt. A couple songs in and you note the goosebumps on your arms. Then, before you know it, you’ve gravitated to the front of the room and you’re dancing, swaying, fist pumping, hand clapping, throwing gang signs, or whatever the style of music necessitates. You have this question swimming around your head; “Where has this music been all my life?!?” The excitement is palpable. You might even find yourself at the merch booth before the set is over to make sure that you get a copy of what is soon to be your new favorite CD.
At least…that’s how it happens for me…
Friday night I met up with friends at The Mint. We wanted to see The Damnwells/Alex Denzen, a band from New York City that we had enjoyed for several years. We got there in time to catch one of their openers, another NYC –based band called Harper Blynn. I think it was about two songs into Harper Blynn’s set and we were already discussing the possibility of driving down to San Diego the next day to see them play again. I’m not sure what exactly hooked me. Perhaps it was some combination of rock intensity mixed with catchy melodies interlaced with intricate harmonies and fun guitar solos (although if I had to categorize the group I might go with folk pop). The energy jumping from the stage was easily picked up by the audience who packed the venue (tables had to be moved!). I had goosebumps and an overwhelming urge to make a beeline to the merch booth. I had fallen in love.
Since Friday, Harper Blynn’s 2010 release, Loneliest Generation, has gotten a lot of play in my car and in the office. I found myself wishing that I had had this CD a few years ago when I was going through my quarter-life crisis. Lyrically, the tunes speak to my mid-twenties self, floating on that line between youthful idealism and realizations about harsher realities. Right now, my favorite songs are the more upbeat “This Is It” and the perfectly titled “25 Years” but the slow melodic beauty of songs like “The Doubt” and the building anthemic quality of “All Pretenders” showcase the band’s ability strike a deeper emotional chord and highlight the reasons why I love their music. Harper Blynn also have a self titled EP released this year.
Monday night, I headed out once again to see The Damnwells as well as the always enchanting Cary Brothers at Bardot in Hollywood. I enjoyed the sets from The Damnwells and Cary Brothers (both backed the members of Harper Blynn), but I was especially ecstatic when Cary announced that he was ending his set a couple songs early in order to let “the hardest working band in show-biz” (or at least that evening) take the stage and perform a couple of their songs. The place exploded when Harper Blynn did one of their tunes and then followed it up by their fun cover of Beyonce’s “Halo” (could that song be more catchy?!?). The DJ who played after the band did not have a difficult transition to make as the entire place was dancing.
If you want to learn more about Harper Blynn, here are some useful links. This fall they are out on the road again with The Damnwells, hitting up cities in the midwest and east coast. Check their website for the specifics (sadly no west coast dates…).