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Tribute/Discussion/Eulogy
09-09-2010, 01:33 PM
Post: #1
Tribute/Discussion/Eulogy
HD Members and Aficionados:
I've been sending a song-of-the-week email with a song and a short writeup to a circle of friends for a few years, and this week's was the first (and last) Harvey Danger track. Thought people here might appreciate this one.

Quote:This song is brand new, and it's the final release by what might be my favorite-ever band. You already know Harvey Danger, if not by name, then by the sound of their one hit single, 90s pop-punk anthem "Flagpole Sitta". But to stop there is to miss everything else, right up to this track.

----

I was several years late to the party when "Flagpole Sitta" hit my radar. Living in Seattle, in 2003 or so I stumbled on a copy of their debut album for $1 in a music store bargain bin. I bought it on the basis of that single and the cool silkscreened cardboard slipcase, but it surprised me with gloriously hooky songs and cerebral lyrics that ran throughout the whole disc. It quickly found pride of place in my car's CD collection, where it remains today.

Serendipity struck one evening while ordering a cappuccino; next to the cash register was a photocopied flyer for an upcoming Harvey Danger "10th Anniversary Reunion" show at the renowned Crocodile Cafe. Turned out these guys had been a Seattle act, put out another album after the debut, and then fallen off the map four years previously. Now they were giving it a spin for kicks at a tiny club-- the kind of club where you can't help chatting with the musicians between acts, because they're fighting you for drinks at the bar.

They didn't look like rock stars, certainly not ones who had been on MTV. The frontman was tall, pale, and bookish, with a white man's afro. The lead guitarist was a preppy Asian guy. The drummer from the opening act was filling in on percussion, since the original drummer had moved to Chicago in the intervening years. But the show was incredible. The air was electric; this night was clearly the second coming for a band that everyone in the club really loved. (People don't love one-hit wonders like that.) It went on for ages, they went through the songs I'd come to love, and many that I didn't know. The frontman, who I'd learn was local Seattle renaissance man Sean Nelson, was self-deprecating and witty at the microphone between songs.

I came at just the right time-- the show at the Croc kicked off what became a two- or three-year indie-scale rebirth, during which Harvey Danger played many small shows locally and several outside the northwest. They released a third album (this time without a record label) and their style continued to evolve towards more mature and diverse arrangements. I saw several of the shows, dug up the other albums and various rarities and B-sides, and my esteem increased with every new find.

The Beatles, the Stones, and Nirvana belong to everybody. But Harvey Danger was my favorite band, in the way that all favorites are more valuable when they're personal. These guys were not artistes or culturemakers, and national fame never suited them. They were students of pop-- underappreciated craftsmen who found a unique voice, and for that I admire them. Their music is consistently tuneful, but their songs stay for the conversation-- referencing literature, and film, with honest stories and emotional ambiguity, laced with wit and wordplay. This is the music I would write if I could write songs.

And they were just regular guys! Living in my neighborhood! Lead singer/songwriter Sean worked at the Seattle weekly paper "The Stranger". I accidentally met him once over a plastic cup of wine at my neighbor's apartment party. We talked for a few minutes; I could only pretend I was vaguely aware of his band, because I didn't know how to tell him he was a hero without feeling like an idiot. Jeff, the aforementioned preppy guitarist, was a colleague-of-an-acquiaintance, who referred to him affectionately as "rock star Jeff". I saw Harvey Danger's bassist Aaron shooting pool at a bar once and bought him a beer, just on principle.

Time went on, though. The regular-guy lives-- and the other local musical projects-- of the members probably overshadowed the spare-time Harvey Danger part, and after a couple years of almost no band activity, they announced in 2009 that they'd be playing final shows in a couple cities, ending with a last-ever show in Seattle. I'd moved to San Francisco in the meanwhile, so I missed the big event but I'd seen them enough times.

They wrote one last song to play at the final shows, so that they'd have something new to accent the nostalgia of a farewell tour. It's existed on live recordings since then, but wasn't otherwise released in any way, until today.

"The Show Must Not Go On" is Harvey Danger's uptempo swan song. It's about love, but you can also read it as a goodbye. It showcases signature stylistic elements: wistful, catchy, bass-driven, with fun bah-dah-dah nonsense in the chorus. More prosaic than their most ambitious work, it's still an archetypal Harvey Danger track, bringing it back together once before they quietly ride off in separate directions. A classy finish from a great band.

TLDR: It's been real, guys! Thanks!
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09-09-2010, 02:23 PM
Post: #2
 
You touch on a lot of things that I agree very strongly with. It absolutely feels like the Harvey Danger I've heard evolve over the years, as though it takes a little bit of all the best things they did over the course of their careers together: the cool calculation of LBL smashed up with the pop of KJV and the passion of WHATMMG.

I always wished that the band had been more successful in the mainstream, but I agree that being "in" on it almost enhanced how I feel about the group and their music. I hate people that prefer that nobody know about the best music, but HD always felt more personal because of it.

Nicely done, and awesome of you to make sure to share it. As soon as it was live I told everyone I knew and linked them to it. I'm hoping everyone else here does the same, it's an amazing final track from an amazing band.
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09-14-2010, 11:55 AM
Post: #3
 
Glad I hit at least one kindred-thinking spirit here.

Been a heck of a week or so, and well, as my dad would say, it's all over but the shoutin'-- and some of that has been done, too. Time to mosey along to other frontiers in music and on the internet.

Or as Sean said conversationally to close the December 2004 shows (memorialized on mp3):

"Harvey Danger. Merry Christmas. See you out there."

Stay well, team.

That's a lot of Sherman tanks!
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09-14-2010, 12:31 PM
Post: #4
 
Krispy Kwanzaa!

We can talk about it later
But there's no later
Is there?
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