Text and Photos by Brad Roberts
I happened to go over to Harvard & Stone last Wednesday, Feb. 13, to catch a set by the new project of our friend Harley Prechtel-Cortez called Halfbluud. Over the past year or so I've seen Harley a few times as a solo act and had him play a couple of my Feed Your Head shows at Lot 1, but this was the first time I've seen him with a band in a long time and the effect was exhilarating.
From The Weather Underground to Red Cortez to Just An Animal, I've enjoyed all the iterations of the bands Harley has fronted as well as his solo work, and in all forms he is a charismatic and entertaining singer/musician/performer. His expressive voice is as powerful an instrument as his guitar (and sometimes piano) and he uses it without fear. He can coo and whisper or just as easily blow out the back wall with what appears to be a minimum of effort or strain.
He has lately been globe-trotting a bit, recently returned from Tokyo, and perhaps that is informing the work of this new band, Halfbluud as the first EP is called Shibuya, which is the famous arts and entertainment district in the Japanese capital and a magnet for it's youth culture, where Harley spent some of his time overseas.
"Starting Over" is an anthem/stomp and was anchored by the deep, low reverberations of the coupling of throbbing drums and bass as the vocals hovered mysteriously above the oceanic pulse. "Say It Twice" is an audience-pleasing rock song with an infectious refrain that reminded me of The Weather Underground era and showed off Harley's voice to great advantage.
Nearing the end of the set, they played perhaps the most emotional song in "I Know" with it's poignant melody and haunted vocals which highlighted all the band members, including Curt Barlage on key (and sometimes drums), Diego Guerrero on drums and terrific trumpet accents provided by James Rodriguez. They finished up with a spectacular cover of the Ride song "Vapor Trail", which won the audience over completely. Taking us along for a fun journey through their various musical styles, they demonstrated the fine musicianship, sharp writing and bits of philosophy that are obviously going to be a hallmark of the music of Halfbluud.