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With a glossy black mop of curls and a crushed red velvet jacket, Harts is backlit by streams of purple light. He puts his hand up to his ear and the crowd belts back the entire chorus of Peculiar. Despite the fact that the main room at Oxford Arts Factory is not sold out, leaving some space around the edges, Harts performs as though he is in an arena. His pedal-heavy guitar sails atop of syncopated funk bass lines and driving drums, and the texture thickens with each twist of a knob from his synth-covered table.
He is jumping all over the stage. There’s an excited childlike quality to him, and it’s infectious. Maybe it’s because his highly anticipated second record is so hot off the press you can practically still hear it sizzle. Or maybe its because the burning hype surrounding this bedroom-based wonder-kid is undeniable. Or, maybe, it’s because he is just that, young and excited, only recently reaching the middle of his 20’s.
And why shouldn’t this Indian-born Melbourne based multi-instrumentalist be excited? There was that phone call from Prince back in 2014 that led to him visiting the Purple One himself at Paisley Park. There’s also the lashings of industry praise and airplay he has received since his first album. Harts recent progression as a musician is momentous, and he rides that wave when he steps onto the stage.
The crowd claps the beat for Red & Blue and when he sings over it, his voice is silky, alternating between heavier funk-rock and softer, more soulful singing. He fuses masculine and feminine qualities similar to the way Prince did, and shows off his spectacular vocal range with ease.
“Mind if I play guitar for a bit?”
He launches into a Hendrix-esque psychedelic-rock solo. It’s long, theatrical shredding that is fun to watch, if you don’t mind the self-indulgence of the genre. His guitar sound is so warm, rich and crunchy you can practically feel it in your mouth. He shreds like a boss; his fingers are a blur.
Needless to say, Harts’ potential has barely been realised. For such a young person to create music like this all on his own (and still in his bedroom studio, mind you) is impressive. To then be able to take it to the stage and deliver it with such seamlessness and flair can only leave you wondering where his artistry will lead him next.
Image: Harts @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney 17/09/16 / Photo By Maria Boyadgis