HAIM @ Santos Party House, NYC 8/2/12
I didn’t see as much of Haim’s set at Santos Party House as I wanted to. When one of LA’s buzziest bands hits NYC for the first time in ages, the show is going to be packed. Last night’s event seemed to draw all the extremely tall good looking people out of their white leather lounge chairs (guessing!) to check out Haim on the heels of their fantastic debut EP Forever. Unfortunately, at 5’3” I saw nothing but asses and elbows before managing to wheedle my way to the front to watch what turned out to be a stellar set by our recent Band To Watch. Check out wagz2it‘s photos of the scene up top and head below to read the rest of the recap.
Buzz bands have a lot to live up to when they play New York and Haim did not disappoint. The three sisters – Este, Danielle, and Alana – brought their A game last night as they hit the stage dressed in their Silverlake finest of skinny jeans and sleeveless shirts and tiny cutoffs with their long hair hanging past their shoulders. Before the band came out to live up to its promised potential, the stage was lined with drums hinting at the percussion-heavy performance that was about to unfold. The women burst out of the gates with the haunting harmonies and driving drumming of “Better Off,” the opening track of their three-song EP. The opening bars showed that the women were not messing around and the crowd immediately reciprocated, swaying along to the song’s harmonies.
The band has a tendency to sound like Wilson-Phillips-in-a-good-way on their recorded tracks. The production values smooth their voices into guileless pop, a fate that is saved by the blitzkrieg percussion and complicated guitar work. Their live performance had little of that pop sensibility revealing a true heart of rock and roll under the production fluff. The live set revealed the roughness in their voices adding a much appreciated edginess to their songs. Watching the women sing while playing multiple instruments highlighted the band’s depth of musical prowess. Those girls know what they are doing. It was never more apparent than when Este played bass with one hand while banging out a beat on a floor tom as Alana flowed from guitar to keyboards and Danielle played a blistering guitar line while singing a syncopated verse. While on the record there was fluidity, live there was nothing but brilliant three-part harmonizing and raw power. There were echoes of Wild Flag’s Carrie Brownstein in Danielle’s stage presence complete with near growls and wild riffs. Este’s bass playing was wisely prominent in the mix, which let her bass lines resonate through the crowd. Few bands know how to use their voices as an instrument as well as these three women. Their three-part harmonies add a level of complexity to their already intricate songs that make you want to listen forever.
With only three published tracks to their name the set was necessarily filled with new material. The new songs fit seamlessly into their slowly evolving sound. All the elements were there: Complicated, percussion-heavy song structures with driving bass lines, paired with effervescent lyrics. One of the most sophisticated aspects of Haim — a skill that belies their youth — is that the moment a song gets repetitive or droney they know to throw in an irresistible hook to draw you back in. Even on their self-proclaimed jam session marked by a proto-rap by Alana, they threw in enough catchy rhythms, clever lyrics, and brilliant beats to make it more fun than navel gazey, wanky jam sessions usually are. The new tracks did nothing but make me more excited for an album I was already excited to hear.
The only complaint I had about the show (other than the extremely tall fan base) is that the band rushed through their incredibly catchy single “Forever,” playing a sped-up version that barely gave their fans time to start dancing. In fact the sisters seemed surprised that the audience knew all the words. Luckily they are expert performers (as they should be after growing up on stage in their family’s street-fair circuit classic rock band “Rockinhaim”) and quickly responded by kindly slowing the beat down enough to let the audience sing along to the chorus.
The final song of the too-short set was once again set to a thumping beat, but instead of ending on a high note, they chose to wrap up the set with all three sisters pounding out a synchronized rhythm on their floor toms. It was mesmerizing and left an indelible impression of power, promise, and incredible musical talent. It’s a night all those tall people won’t soon forget. Nor will this shortie.