The Harmonics concert “mood” last Friday at Toyon Hall reverberated with the messy range of emotions that define the grind of late winter quarter at Stanford. For its first full a cappella show of the calendar year, the alternative and indie rock group was decked out in its signature black leather and goth makeup. The Harmonics treated their audience to a medley of songs both angsty and introspective. After opening with the new head-whipping mashup, “For the Wicked,” combining Panic at the Disco! and Cage the Elephant, the stage was momentarily cleared of all members but one, holding a lone microphone.
The emcee for the show, Maia Rocklin (‘22), revealed that each of the numbers in the show related to some aspect of the Stanford student experience. For the second song, Maia noted that Alicia Merton’s “No Roots” captures that fleeting optimism and sense of individuality one feels at the beginning of the week before all the psets, midterms and papers come crashing down. The Harmonics did not disappoint. They swung imaginary pick-axes and strode jauntily about the stage in keeping with lyrics about not standing still. Maia then prefaced Civil Wars’ “Devil’s Backbone” as an expressing the push and pull Stanford students experience between being caught in the midst of academic crises and relationship drama. Alternately basking in a blood red light and enshrouded in shadow, the Harmonics created striking textured harmonies. They conveyed lyrics about love as pain soul-stirringly.
Maia skillfully cued the audience into the emotional rollercoaster encapsulated by the word “mood” halfway through the setlist. She introduced the fourth number, Fall-Out Boy and Shinedown’s “Into Oblivion,” as evoking a bitter sense of despair of being the throes of midterms and all-nighters. Cast in a harsh yellow light, Mitchell Zimmerman (‘22) and Josh Buchi (‘22) performed gritty rap solos to a screaming audience. The show took an even darker turn when Grayson Armour (‘22) joined Maia onstage to warn the audience that the next two songs dealt with relationship abuse. They noted that anybody who felt uncomfortable should feel free to step out. The Harmonics masterfully rendered Halsey’s “Haunting” through contrasting turquoise versus red lighting, sharp arm jabs and pairing up of Harmonics. Alto Jade Nguyen (‘22) sang of deeply-disturbing relationship dynamics. The second of the two forewarned songs, The Cranberry’s “Zombies” (arranged by Rio Padilla-Smith, ‘19), featured the Harmonics members gathering together into a heavy-limbed mass. It lumbered and swayed as if a zombie hoard was surrounding the soloist Rio.
Grayson Armour then treated the audience to a surprise solo number. He accompanied himself on the electric guitar as he sang Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” His rendition struck all audience members present down to their core. Though a tough act to follow, the surging of alums onstage from the front of the audience cued a heartwarming take on Rockapella’s “Change in My Life.” All Harmonics past and present swayed together arm in arm. Hannah Chua-Reyes (‘21) rallied the group in Bishop Briggs’ high energy number “White Flag,” and many Harmonics moved together in a choreographed, hair-flipping wave.
The group was scarcely off the stage when a dozen audience members loudly chanted “One more song” just enough times to summon the black-clad rockers back onstage. They performed Imagine Dragon’s “Believer,” grounded by Zimmerman’s gravely tenor. As the golden house lights went up, the crowd buzzed at the unexpected musical catharsis. They had experienced both a welcome break from and reminder of the winter quarter “mood” – which, according to the Harmonics, fluctuates between anger and sadness, fierce optimism and love.