It’s always a pleasure to be at Ding Dong Lounge on a Saturday night, even when it is so packed by serious Harts fans that I can’t get to the bar. The crowd here for the Melbourne instalment of the epic Breakthrough EP tour is distinctly male dominated (an unfortunate trend as discussed by art felicis‘ own Cat). I guess it’s no surprise due to the guitar solo onslaught that is about to begin. Accuse me all you like of generalisation, but the lads love guitar solos, just look at the crowd at a Mars Volta concert…
The lovely lady, WILSN is a perfect support with a laid back soul which, although different, is a perfect stylistic interlude to Harts set. She has a beautiful and interesting voice that reminds me of Kimbra, cop a listen here.
When Darren Hart comes on stage surrounded by musical instruments looking tiny in a double breasted jacket with Julian Casablanca hair, it is hard to see how someone who looks so small can create such a huge sound. But, oh boy, does he make a sound! The set is like a rollercoaster of funk and blues with Hart controlling all instruments except the drums. His voice is so smooth it hurts as his hards churn out Hendrix style riffs and cord progressions. Harts has an incredible level of energy and knows how to amp a crowd despite, as he humbly admits, this being the first show he has ever sold out in 6 years of performance.
‘When A Man’s a Fool‘ with its’ Black Keys style intro, is the first song of the set from the Breakthrough EP. This track is funky but also has a full on chorus and guitar shreds in which we are introduced to Harts’ guitar face. Every good guitarist has one and Harts’ is just as awkward as that of the greats (see king of guitar face, John Mayer). Older track, ‘Lovers in Bloom‘ follows and has a distinctly different feel showing a tendency in his early career to a disco/dance oriented pop. His vocals dynamics are particularly apparent in this track and it almost reminds me of a better Jamiroquai.
Mid-set he breaks into a cute blues interlude that leads into ‘Breakthrough‘ which really gets the loyal fans at the front going. The slamming guitar riff is absolutely brilliant and this track is so good that even all the bartenders have stopped to watch. Harts has such a wide appeal because his songs are brilliantly crafted and catchy but have an amazing level of musical depth. Throughout the set I feel some of the delicate blues guitar is lost on some members of the crowd such as during ‘Streets‘.
Despite my earlier cynicism, Harts comes across as an incredibly hard working and humble guy who, after thanking the crowd for selling out this show and his drummer, decides to give advice to any musicians in the audience to “believe in what you do.” Kind words of encouragement in what can be a hard and competitive industry. According to his website, Harts is no stranger to being discouraged having played shows to empty rooms in the past. Look at what people have been missing! Get out and see local music people, I don’t care how cold it is!
‘Red and Blue‘ shows that he shouldn’t have to do that again, the crowd goes mental. He slows the end of the set down with a ballad complete with cheesy riffs and some Frank Ocean vocals. The inevitable encore does not disappoint with my favourite track ‘Ain’t Too Far Gone’ which is blues at its most progressive and nuanced.
God knows how old mate made it this far mostly unnoticed in the mainstream, not only are his songs so goddamn good but his musical ability goes far beyond his years which deserves the attention of the most unbelieving critic. Frankly if you are still reading this when you could be on the Harts Soundcloud/YouTube/iTunes, then you are beyond my help.
Hometown: Melbourne, Australia
Latest release: Breakthrough EP, released June 2015.
Sounds like: Black Keys, Prince, John Mayer.
Say what? Despite making music videos when he was represented by Universal, Harts tells AMNplify, that he only made his lyric video to “Breakthrough” simply to get on Youtube as he doesn’t see himself as a music video type of guy. Fair enough I guess but shame to hide such a good looking face!
Stay classy, Rosa.