Cult Records' featured artists Har Mar Superstar and The Virgins swung by Oakland's New Parish on Friday March 22. Admittedly, I had only stumbled into both bands and their music earlier in the day. Har Mar Superstar's excellent "Lady, You Shot Me" (below) lured me in. While the Virgins headlined and their 184,000 Facebook fans led me to believe they were the act to catch at New Parish, Har Mar Superstar really stole the show. I think it's relevant to share the words of Sean Tillman (Har Mar Superstar) on the origins of HMS. Apparently the conception of the band was "a reaction to boring indie rock and how people were taking themselves way too seriously, and any aspect of playing and touring was no fun after a while, and I realized if I go to a dance party and sing an R. Kelly song on a couch, the girls are going to go fucking crazy."
Now, watching HMS for even two songs, you could tell Sean's words were true. He & the backing band were quick to engage and interact with the crowd, and went full thrust into the live adaptations of their lively, fun, playful take on R&B. Not halfway through the set, the crowd was buying HMS Jager shots several times over. Sean himself quickly lost all above-the-waist clothing and was soon on top of the bar. It seems this may be a regular occurrence, and he doesn't mind strippin down. But don't let the antics overshadow their music, which is definitely worth checking out. I believe Sean's further words summarize their set: "shows became this weird exercise in sexual tension, and I really learned how to play with that fire and make it work for me".
Following the raucous and entertaining HMS show, it seemed the Virgins might've fit better earlier in the evening. "Flashbacks, Memories and Dreams" gives you a flavor of their essence. Laid back listening and solid jams, certainly. But juxtaposed against the live tenacity of Har Mar Superstar, it seemed the comments of an attendee next to me rang true as they mentioned that it seemed like the Virgins, while tight, capable and well rehearsed, were just checking another tour date off the list at New Parish. Bring back Shirtless Sean!