It's hard to believe it's only been about a year since Ben Hardt first squeezed onto local stages with his chamber-pop ensemble, usually comprised of a four-piece rock band plus a quartet of rotating string players. In that time, he's gradually refined one of the more original stage shows on the local scene -- mixing good ol' anthemic rock with cabaret style -- and has been rewarded with good gigs, a following, and WYEP's Local Artist of the Year award in 2007, which also means, substantial airplay.
Earlier this year, the band performed at the Millenium Music Conference in Harrisburg, which combines evening showcases and daytime music-industry panel discussions and workshops. "I thought it was really good," Hardt says, "I would tell other people to go to it." For one, the conference's small size meant he was able to meet the industry people in attendance, and walked away with a nonexclusive marketing and promotion deal through an L.A. company called Annex Projekt Creative. Hardt describes it as "a la carte" representation, in which an artist contracts for specific projects instead of overall management; "This is the way I think bands are going to be doing it in the future."
In any case, this Sat., May 17, the group celebrates its first birthday with a double-header at Club Café on the South Side. The first show, which starts at 7 p.m., will feature Hardt's acoustic material, backed by a string quartet; the opener is Scotts Rogers. The second show, which starts at 10:30 p.m., shows off the full band and strings tackling the more upbeat repertoire (and hopefully a change-up of cover tunes). The opener for the late show is Thee Adora, featuring members of Soulharmonic.