This week Cincinnati's retro garage rockers The Harlequins took us around town to visit the various hot spots responsible for the genre-free DIY renaissance that is happening there. We made a stop at Able Projects, a screen printing / graphic design / indoor skate spot / punk rock clubhouse that has so many amenities and eye-catching enhancements it seemed like it must have been plucked out of somebody’s life long plans for the greatest funhouse ever Later that night we journeyed to the the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood where the trio got the crowd dancing at MOTR Pub with their blend of raucous rock with pop hooks.
Hailing from Cincinnati, one of the birthplaces of rock ‘n’ roll, means you have a pretty big legacy to live up to. Rock is in the bloodstream of this entire region. Once the home to King Records and its sister label Federal Records, responsible for discovering some guy named James Brown who pretty much taught the entire earth to dance in the twentieth century, Cincinnati and Ohio in general have done a great job of turning out high energy bands best experienced at loud volumes when you are among a large, writhing group of fellow revelers. Luckily, the Harlequins are another fine addition to this tradition. The band members all met each other at parties. Not at school, not at work, not from an ad. Parties. It makes sense that they make music appropriate for such situations.
With garage rock godfathers Rocket From the Tombs combing from a couple hours away and newer Cincinnati acts like the Greenhornes and the Heartless Bastards feeding the flames over the last few years, the Harlequins put a fresh spin on a classic regional sound that has universal appeal. Atop the ragged, whirlwind electricity of early rock, singer Michael Oliva drops in the occasional vocal flourish that recalls the Smiths and the Kinks. Like Austin’s the Strange Boys and San Francisco’s Ty Segall, the Harlequins remember that fun and fuzz belong close together, not just in the dictionary but just about anywhere you can mange to combine them.
You should definitely watch part 2 right now.