By Raoul Biron
Huge horn sounds and fat bass lines mix well with craft beers and dancing hipsters. Harsh Armadillo was made for venues like the Stone Church in Newmarket.
On Saturday, the Portsmouth-based band, which comprises multiple UNH graduates and Durham natives, did something that still leaves many Boston, Los Angeles and New York groups scratching their heads. Harsh Armadillo found a way to make college-aged kids dance.
“With funk, it’s infectious. It’s the sound that rips you out of your seat, leaves your pants behind in a smoldering pile,” said saxophone player Max Harris.
While most pairs of pants in the converted Universalist meetinghouse from 1832 seemed to remain intact, the crowd abandoned its chairs in favor of the dance floor as soon as the opener, Elephant, from Plymouth, hit the stage.
“You’ve got to have the energy onstage that you hope the crowd has,” said Harsh Armadillo’s drummer Dan Tauriello.
As stated on their website, the “emphatic group of extremophiles (is) jonesing to help you find your ass and make it dance all night.”
Whether playing at a sweaty house party at the Cottages, the basement at Libby’s or in front of hundreds at an outdoor venue, creating a vibrant and high-energy environment has been the band’s priority since forming in 2012.
Despite being “born in a pool of gasoline somewhere in Durham, New Hampshire,” the band no longer considers UNH’s small-town home as its center of operations.
“The majority of us grew up in Durham,” said Tauriello who attended Oyster River High School.
“We don’t consider ourselves a Durham band. Not anymore. That’s where we came from,” said Mike MacArthur, the band’s trombone player.
Regardless of where the eclectic troupe of “funk-hop” musicians call home, they’ve started leaving a lasting impact on the greater Seacoast’s music scene. The band plays regular gigs at the Stone Church, and recently signed with GreenVibe Entertainment. Even with thousands of Internet followers and listeners, the band forged in a Durham basement hasn’t changed its approach toward expanding its audience.
“You have to accept that people are going to spread the word for you,” said Harris. “The whole goal is to have an original thought. We were just jamming in the basement and we realized we should play for other people.”
As Harsh Armadillo’s notoriety continues to spread throughout campus and New England both in venues and virtually, the band still maintains that its purpose is to provide a good time and have a good time.
“When it stops being fun, that’s when we know it’s over,” said Tauriello.
Harsh Armadillo will be back in New Hampshire on the Oct. 30 at the Press Room in Portsmouth.