Concert Reviews

Here's why Haim will outlive the hype

The way you find a band is important. I discovered Haim in a park in small town Illinois with five story oak trees towering over strings of warm lights. I was camping nearby and drinking wine straight from the gallon-sized jug. The three sisters from LA drew me around the corner to the front of the stage with pure feral will. They whacked drums with abandon. They sang choruses seemingly designed with the use of pop music cheat codes.

At the time the only documents of the band were one obscure seven-inch and a Fleetwood Mac cover that didn't even make the CD version of the compilation it was recorded for. The Haim sisters' credentials were impressive even then, though. That's particularly true of middle child Danielle, who spent time as a guitarist and drummer for Jenny Lewis, Julian Casablancas and Cee-Lo Green.

It matters less to the understanding of the band that she also spent time dating the brilliant songwriter Blake Mills. But it matters a great deal to the way my relationship with Haim developed, because Mills is capable of a turn of phrase that simply ends me. Which is relevant because Mills has written more than one song about Danielle Haim.

So my evening in the Illinois park met the stories I'd heard about Danielle in Blake Mills songs, and in a matter of weeks, I was the kind of person who knew every word to every Haim song. In the interim they have released a debut album and gotten pretty preposterously famous and I still know every word. My experience is mostly irrelevant to your relationship with Haim. I only explain it because some people who hold big, powerful puppet strings bit as hard as I did. And in the space of one year, a family band from California was suddenly being crammed into the throats of America's music fans by NPR, Twitter and every other tailing indicator of cool shit. Haim appeared on SNL and people made slack-jawed observations about bassist Este's facial expressions, and a mighty band wound up in the same sentence as the likes of Lana Del Rey. That particular company is funny because there are many ways that Haim is the opposite of LDR. One artist changed her name and look to match an aesthetic she was pursuing; the other chose to give itself an actual family name. Lana is demure, deferential, doomed. Haim made a single out of a song about not giving a shit for the feelings of dudes who fell too hard. Ahem. I don't know if "The Wire" is a product of real-world experience or not. But I bet it is, because the three sisters have been effortlessly transparent about so many details of their lives. Their vision of LA, as featured directly on the fucking album cover, is busted plastic lawn chairs and patchy dull grass. They maintain their sibling dynamic on stage with unflinching conviction. Este spent several minutes in Denver encouraging the audience to join her in the Haim family living room, jamming, as a way to preface a general ripping that involved the only quoted Led Zeppelin riff I have ever appreciated. I guess it was good in these hands both because they went so hard for it, took control of it with sneers on their faces, and because they so clearly understand the construction of popular music. You can accuse them of sounding like, say, Fleetwood Mac if you like, but all you're saying is that they've managed to evoke one of the greatest technicians of the past century.

I spent last night's show standing next to a friend who declared the affair "Girl Boner Night." That sums it up. It allows for the sexual energy of Haim while acknowledging that nothing about it is normative. The Haim sisters would screw you, not the other way around. They have found themselves fashion icons despite the fact that they insist on wearing baggy t-shirts and standing with their feet far apart. They travel around with some dude drummer and some dude keyboard player and there is no question about where the pants are worn.

Haim sold out the Ogden. Maybe that's because the hype machine swept the band into its biggest cannon. Or maybe they deserve it. Este prefaced "Honey Pie" by saying, "It's no secret by now that I love ass shaking," and she was rewarded with a teal bra thrown at her feet. Someone standing near the front brought several bags of golden glitter, and he threw them in the air at the opening notes of "Forever."

As a final blow at the end of the encore, the three Haim sisters picked up drum sticks and wailed the hell out of a bunch of tom-toms. The hunched over and dripped sweat and threw their long hair in front of their eyes. I walked bouncing from the Ogden and looked at my phone to find a text message from someone with plenty of time and experience in the Denver music scene to develop a thick layer of cynicism. It was one word long.


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Kiernan Maletsky is a former Westword intern.
Contact: Kiernan Maletsky