Last week at 9:30 Club, I got to see Future Islands assuage any doubts that their diehard fans might have had about their recent internet celebrity.
But what about HAIM, a band comprised of sisters that have obviously known each other their whole lives but whose ascent to a silly level of fame happened almost from their onset?
They’ve had to adapt, and they’ve done it beautifully.
Though Este is already 28, Danielle is a pretty young-looking 25 and Alana was born in 1991, and no matter how talented they might be (very) or how tight their performance (it was like watching 40-year old professional musicians play), there is still a novelty in seeing three unassuming young-looking girls rock the hell out. It might not be fair, but it’s a thing.
However, instead of trying to fight it (which wouldn’t even be worth it), they embrace the novelty.
In fact, the whole experience of seeing HAIM live is kind of like watching a well-done variety show from back in the day.
Their crowd banter is the perfect mix of scripted and genuinely improvised, they spontaneously jam out on a whim if the right riff gets played, they understand the inevitable rises and falls of their set, and what I found most interesting, they have no problem veering into the skid and embracing the narrative we want for them.
If you didn’t like HAIM it might be easy to label them sell-outs for it, but by the time they had finished their second song of the night — the lovely “If I Could Change Your Mind” — it’s more likely they are taking advantage of all the resources at their disposal and embracing their position as a band who are currently one of the few ‘it’ rock bands out there right now.
Yes, both nights at 9:30 Club have been ‘couldn’t-even-find-a-ticket-on-Craig’s-List’ sold out for a while, and yes there was a spot in the back of the club with three lawn chairs set up — an homage to their album cover — where you could take a picture with a sign that nauseatingly read ‘#HaimWithTheBand,’ but that kind of fame also gives the girls of Haim the confidence to put it all on the line with their performance.
They clap along like cheeseballs because they know we will clap along like cheeseballs. They can yell “Let’s rage to this next one!” and then play “Don’t Save Me,” a song no one has ever “raged to” in their life, and still get a whole crowd — whose generic diversity made it seem like it was assembled by a B-level casting director — actually moving.
That’s a big part of it with this band though.
Haim’s music is nuanced and inspiring, but they can also just as easily be enjoyed more superficially.
You don’t have to swim in the deep waters of music elitism to have enjoyed last night — I can guarantee there were more than a few intellectually shallow people in the crowd — but that’s at the root of the band’s appeal. NPR nerds stood shoulder-to-shoulder with people like the middle-aged couple that probably lives in Gaithersburg whom I overheard saying they discovered this band “on Jimmy Kimmel.” 20-year-old English majors who believe deep down that HAIM is writing specifically for them belted out songs in unison with Vodka Cran-fueled betches.
It was honestly the band that seemed most self-aware.
Whether it was Bass Face living up to her meme-ifiication or Alana actually referring to herself as “Baby Haim,” it’s impossible to forget that this band knows that we know (and obsess) over our celebrities at an unprecedentedly disparaging level.
But they own it and embrace it.
They use it as leverage for when they want to drop in a gratuitous “fuck” every now and then or go into an improvised throwback hip-hop freestyle duet.
A few decades ago, Haim would have been sold as this fascinating group of sisters who were shrouded in mystique and whose talents shone above everything else, but audiences crave more than these days. They want to be a part of the experience.
Haim just made the smart choice and gave them that opportunity (and lawn chairs!).
As the show was winding down — the girls were mid ‘this is where we all get to play drums’ finale — I ducked out of the club so I could beat the mass exodus out of there, but as I waited for my friends to exit I saw an out-of-place looking 20-something blonde kid rummaging through a big box frantically. Before I could ask him what he was doing though, the exodus began and I saw him spring to life, boisterously announcing “FREE HAIM SWAG!” that could be all yours in exchange for him/his PR company getting a picture of you, the potential consumer, with it.
Physical proof that you were a part of it all.
Originally posted on Brightest Young Things on May 8, 2014