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Harvard gives Charlotte indie a good name

Harvard's Myspace page/Patrick Emmons

It can be difficult to understand the fates of bands. Some make it overnight, while others work hard for years with little to show for it. The lucky ones sometimes lose touch with the scenes that birth them and let their heads get as big as their tour buses. The others get stuck in their local scenes and wind up in the “I’ve already seen them a thousand times, so why pay another 8 bucks to see them again?” zone.

Sometimes, though, a band builds its good name and fan base over time and becomes not only a staple of its local scene, but a promising act with the potential for enduring and far reaching success.

Charlotte quintet Harvard has been plugging away in the ever-fickle local music scene for nearly five years, evolving in their sound and weathering several member changes. But they have stayed the course and found their sound and stalwart lineup. And the years of hard work, touring, and honing of skills have culminated in the release of their masterful debut LP, The Inevitable and I.

The record, produced by Brian McTernan (Thrice, Circa Survive), is great by any standard. The vocals, guitars, bass, drums, and auxiliary instruments all form a distinct atmosphere, a world unique to the album. Harvard has accomplished the elusive feat of writing songs that beg to be danced and sung along to while maintaining a mature, intelligent sound.

Now, one might expect a band who releases an impeccable album with lofty production pedigree to develop Big Head Syndrome. But judging from Harvard’s live shows, they have no such problem.

To close their crowded CD release show at Tremont Music Hall on December 4, 2009, Harvard launched into the finale of their song, “The Creative,” joined by members of opening acts Junior Astronomers and My Epic. After all but shattering the stage with sheer energy, the members of the band simply exited and waved off the voracious chants of “one more song!” that had already begun.

This unassuming attitude illustrates perfectly Harvard’s desire to remain just five guys doing what they love, not falling into the ridiculous practice of planned encores for bands whose members still have day jobs. They simply played the songs they felt best, put all their energy into performing a strong set, and said goodnight. Guitarist Lee Herrera has said at previous shows that the band hates doing encores and thinks they are stupid, and it’s refreshing to see that sentiment remain intact even after Harvard has released a record that is receiving glowing critical praise across the board.

Harvard has deservedly become a pillar of the Charlotte music scene, and if there’s any justice in the world, their success will soon reach far beyond the Queen City.