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Vignettes: The Flatland Harmony Experiment

copy by Donovan Wheeler
featured image by Amanda Cannon Photography

The Flatland Harmony Experiment is one of the first bands I should have written about when I launched this site almost five years ago.  Why they never were will remain a “head-scratcher” for a long time.  At the local and regional level, the secret to making a band work is its authenticity:  Does their gig on stage look and feel as real as the jam session in the bassist’s living room?  Across the Hoosier landscape dozens of artists have figured it out, and they’ve mastered the art of being very, very real.

From the beginning—the first time I saw them perform on the Wasser Brewing Company stage—the boys of the FHE have exuded the very definition of real.  When founding member Kris Potts leans his towering frame into the group’s shared microphone, he casually cranes his neck to the mike’s grill.  Simultaneously he leans the neck of his mandolin the other direction, away from his bandmates, making room for Johnny Plott’s banjo.  Framing the scene is newcomer Sean Michael’s work on guitar as well as Sean Frist (replacing long time bassist Scott Nelson), the talented upright bassist who works his strings almost behind his back in order to offer his vocals to the music.

Sure, they could order a few more mikes from Amazon, spread themselves out on stage, and boogie to their newfound elbow room.  But something tells me the decision to crowd that single microphone has to do with a lot more than a frugal equipment budget.

Theirs is a physical symmetry.  An existential metaphor for the band itself.  And maybe that’s been the thing for me…the thing I missed about them that’s been right in front of me the whole time.  Isolated, each member of The Flatland Harmony experiment is a talented, engaging musician.  Together, the band is musical and visual tapestry—the woven completion of separate parts creating that very thing in the room that makes being in that room the best part of the day.  The music is great.  The vibe is better.   But it’s the spirit of the group that makes them worth the listen.

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