Also, like it or not, the Thursday night show featuring the aforementioned group glaringly points out how lucky Salt Lake City is to have The Bar and Grill, which manages, month after month, to bring in unusual (if not always entertaining or charming) acts that most places would consider too risky.
So far, the West Coast quartet's biggest claim to fame has been that former violinist Morgan Fichter defected to join fellow ethno-rock band Camper Van Beethoven for that band's latest album and tour.Along with New Jersey quartet Yo La Tengo (which managed to blow away headlining act the Sundays, at least for this critic, earlier this month), Harm Farm has been unfairly neglected by mainstream rock publications (as well as certain local "alternative rock" radio stations).
While other Bay Area bands try to avoid or purposely sound similar to Camper Van Beethoven, HF has dared to carve its own niche out from CVB's same musical territory - mainly blending ethnic folk sounds with bluegrass, rock and other elements that would normally seem out of place.
Touring in support of its first LP, "Spawn," Harm Farm managed to cover early material, as well as somewhat more popular recent songs in its diverse set.
Opening with "Diggy-Die, Diggy-Doe," a country-esque number replete with hoe-down fiddling from band co-founder Noah Chasin, the band seemed out to prove that it wasn't your usual bar band, not even for The Bar and Grill.
For example, "Jersey Devil," named for the famed seventh son who supposedly haunts the Jersey backwoods, featured eerily discordant harmonies from Chasin and guitarist Tom Hallenbeck to accompany a spooky '70s rock sound (which was even more peculiar with Chasin's wild fiddling).
Additionally, while bass guitarist Brad Pedinoff's nasal vocals (probably, to call them the ethno-folk equivalent of Dead Milkmen's Joe Jack Talcum would be fair) may not have seemed well-suited to such material, he did manage to pull off some surprising harmonies with Hallenbeck and drummer Melanie Clarin.
Probably the night's biggest reactions were for the folky stomp "Life and Liberty" and the lilting "Lucy Ann," for which Hallenbeck provided aptly wan a cappella vocals for a prelude.
Frankly, though the Thursday night crowd was on the small side, Salt Lake City should feel privileged that the band opened its U.S. tour here, especially since such bands don't come around here that often.
Something else the area can probably look on with pride is opening act Dinosaur Bones, a local trio that's probably one of the state's most promising bands.
Though DB's brand of power-pop/rock uses elements from more established British bands playing that style of music (such as the spare arrangements employed by the early XTC, or the white-funk blend from the Wonder Stuff), it's unfair to compare a band this original, if not refreshing, to other acts.
Also, it's gratifying to see a band mesh as well as this threesome (made up of bass guitarist/vocalist J.R. Ruppel, guitarist Rick Ruppel and drummer Brett Roberts).
Plus, Roberts is surely one of the state's best drummers, as witnessed by his performance on "Last Chance" - which, between its brutal pacing, requires a variety of percussive skills from a drummer.
Other standouts in Dinosaur Bones's set included "American White Trash," "I've Got It All" and "Big-Time Doctor," into which the trio spliced a brief cover of the Knack's "My Sharona."