Photos and Words by Clarissa Villondo
The Charlotte, North Carolina band used to be Harvard, but now they’re H RV RD.
I fell in love with H RV RD when they were previously known as Harvard in 2011 at DC9. According to the band in early 2012, the name change was due to poor search parameters and a lawsuit. Everyone can guess who filed against the band. Shortly after the change, I went to go see them as H RV RD in the summer of 2012 and again a day before my birthday in 2013, both times at DC9. After hearing H RV RD’s distortions and vocalist Jesse Clasen’s haunting singing in April 2013 at DC9, I knew H RV RD was my favorite band. Last November, I traveled to Baltimore to see them at Ottobar, where they were cut off midway through their set by the sound tech after they mildly complained about the poor speakers. This year, they returned to Washington, DC to open for Lydia with Golden Sun, playing to a sold-out Rock & Roll Hotel.
Most of the crowd came for Lydia, but I came for H RV RD.
All three bands had a painfully low-lighting set. As a concert goer, the little lighting can make the mood ominous, intimate and overall exciting. As a photographer, I only get angry, shooting looks at other photographers asking “How do we shoot this?” I never had the chance to photograph H RV RD, so the minimal red and blue lighting, which forced my camera to shoot at its limits, made me frustrated. Clasen’s stage performance, especially his facial expressions, made for more interesting photo opportunities than I generally get from post-hardcore, experimental shows.
For some reason, H RV RD left Clasen’s keyboard and pedals stand against the wall on the dance floor. Watching them part the crowd and bring the stand up onto the stage seemed a smoother process than I thought it would be. As the Charlotte band set up, I wasn’t entirely sure how much more equipment they could put on Rock & Roll Hotel’s stage, considering they left Lydia and Golden Sun’s drum set and brought their own up.
As drummer Garrett Henritz beats in “Black Creme,” my frustration from trying to photograph Golden Sun before the Charlotte band instantly washed over me. I was one of the few to sing along with Clasen during that song, “This is bigger than you / this is better.”
H RV RD’s set was filled with songs from the new album From the Bird’s Cage, including “Timid Scripts,” “Flaming Creatures” and “We Never Shut Up About You,” the track in which the album gains its name. I was heartbroken to not hear more songs from the first album The Inevitable and I, especially “The Creative” and “Hand to Hesitate,” but relieved to hear the last song be “French Girls,” the song that made me fall in love with the band in the first place. More of the crowd seemed to know “French Girls” than the other songs in the beginning of the set, singing along during the bridge, “Water’s not for your lungs / water’s not for anyone.”
The forty-minute set wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy me. I wanted more; I needed more of Clasen’s trumpet, more of guitarist Lee Herrera’s backing vocals and more of guitarist Jason Shaw’s strumming. My goal has slowly become to be their tour photog one day, so I can repeatedly watch them perform day after day.