HARD-FI at the Horseshoe, January 20. Attendance: sold out. Tickets: $11.70. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
I really hate hype. How many times do we have to hear some insanely overzealous bullshit about how the Xs are obviously gonna be the next Rolling Stones, or how sensitive song man Y is on his way to being our generation's Bob Dylan. Whatever.
But you know what's actually pretty rad? A band that lives up to the hype.
First time I heard Hard-Fi compared to old Brit punks like the Clash and the Specials, it seemed like a lazy thing to say. I mean, could anyone ever cross over reggae and punk as effortlessly? But shit, after seeing them lord it over a packed Horseshoe , I think it might not be too far off the mark to say that someday soon these guys might just be successors to a long line of highly influential bands and countrymen like Joy Division and Strummer and Co.
That is, as long as they can stay as consistent as they were last Friday, playing their first real show here after a failed attempt to play in 05. To guitarist Ross Phillips 's question, proposed in a thick accent, "Ow yooou fahking dooin', Tahraunto?!?" a crowd full of rowdy Mod Club pretty boys and girls had no trouble giving their new great white hope a little too excited a welcome. (Let's blame that one on hype again.)
But, hey, even though the crowd was just a little too into things before the band started playing, by the time they got to songs Unnecessary Trouble and their irresistibly catchy anthem, Cash Machine, a song about being down and out, something clicked between singer Richard Archer and the audience. As a preamble, he asked if anyone had been down on his luck, without a penny or a bite to eat, and then accidentally gotten his girlfriend pregnant.
Yeesh. These guys are actually coming from a real place, and they were able to convey that through the intensity in their eyes and the way they played and sang in front of what was easily one of the best light shows the 'Shoe's seen in some time.
The band leaned heavily on the reggae (more than on their CDs), while Archer, in between fervent displays of showmanship when he looked eerily like Strummer, expertly played the melodica like he was conjuring up King Tubby. Add in a truly unique dub-meets-punk take on the White Stripes' Seven Nation Army that by no means sounded like a joke but was instead a desperate call to rebellion, and it's safe to say that Hard-Fi not only lived up to the hype - they surpassed it.