Live: HAIM/Shy Girls
HOUSE OF BLUES — 4/22/14: HAIM finally made their first trip to Houston, and after seeing them at Austin City Limits Festival in October, I had the date marked on my calendar months in advance. I’ve been a fan since early 2013 when I heard them by chance on satellite radio and I’ve been kicking myself ever since for not finding them at 2012 or 2013 SXSW.
Openers Shy Girls, out of Portland, Oregon, like our own Houston band Young Girls, have a deceptive name indeed. No girls were in this band at all, although one could make an argument that they were a little on the shy side. They played R&B pop with no drummer — the kind of music I don’t listen enough to to be able to reference, except to say it reminded me of Maxwell (yes, I’m old).
I liked singer Dan Vidmar‘s voice, but when I hear a falsetto voice like his, I immediately want more out of it. I’m always in search of the next Jeff Buckley, and that he was not. The band’s lack of interesting chord structures and audible lyrics didn’t help to draw me in, either. That said, they were a good choice of openers for HAIM, because they didn’t try to steal the show, and this was definitely HAIM’s show.
In the photo pit, I happened to talk to three young ladies and jokingly asked how long they’d been at House of Blues today to get the prime front row spot. The reply surprised me: “We got here at 3PM!”, one of them exclaimed. So I told them about Space City Rock and snapped a photo of them, warning them it wouldn’t turn out that great since I couldn’t use flash (see below).
The band of Los Angeles sisters opened the show with flashes of light and the deep bass sounds that begin the lead track off their debut album, “Falling”. From the first lyric, their mostly college-aged fans sang along as if the song was as old as the fans singing it. Following “Falling” was another dance-pop track, “If I Could Change Your Mind,” which leans on the stylings of early Madonna for its production and Prince circa 1999 (the album, not the year) for its vibe.
Though some people probably find HAIM to be a cheesy ’80s rip, they’re completely charming to me. Like the old cliché goes, ladies want to be them and men want to be with them. After the second song, bassist Este Haim (every fan has their favorite sister, and Este is mine) had the light director turn up the house lights so she could see all of her beautiful Houston friends and proceeded to invite all of us to a party in her living room, where as girls the band would jam together. Even though she’s probably given the same spiel to every audience for the last year, the request felt endearing and genuine.
At that point, these ladies who might seem to just be simple one-track-minded purveyors of dance-pop “tore the roof off” the House of Blues by jamming out “early Zeppelin style” to pre-Stevie Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh, Well”. It was very tough to not put the camera down and just watch Este rip those basslines, as well as Danielle Haim‘s Lindsey Buckingham-esque guitar shredding.
Having proven themselves as blues-rock divas, they turned next toward the easy listening 1970s Joni Mitchell vibe of “Honey & I”. Unfortunately, right here I had to quit my photography and make my way to the side of the completely sardine-packed venue. There was nowhere for anyone to move, and yet I felt a little lonely as the band made their way through “Days Are Gone,” while I made my way to the rear of the venue.
At the back of the venue, I enjoyed the lights and soaking in the energy of the fans while HAIM performed their most fun song, “My Song 5,” an R&B number which seems to find influences from Janet Jackson and possibly TLC. “Running If You Call My Name,”, “Don’t Save Me,” and “Forever” followed, and quickly the show was over — all too soon.
While everyone clapped, cheered, and screamed for the ladies to return for an encore, I made my way to the other side of the venue to find my friend and HOUSTONIA music writer, Dean Davis. Dean has popped up at many a show that I’ve been at lately, and we always chat and find we have a lot in common, despite the difference in our ages (did I mention I’m feeling old lately, especially at this show?). He’s also a great writer.
As HAIM played their encore, I didn’t recognize it, but I watched as Dean enjoyed the hell out of the song, swaying and dancing to the beat. After HAIM finished the song, he turned to me and said, “I love it! They just covered Beyoncé!” Well, there you go. They’ve even got a song especially for us Houstonians. Talk about winning over a crowd.
It was then that I realized HAIM are a perfect band for friends to get together and rock out with. I’ve been doing it wrong; I listen to most of my music alone. Hanging out with Dean at the end of the night (HAIM wrapped up with “The Wire” and “Let Me Go”), I came to realize HAIM’s real niche as not just as purveyors of ’80s-influenced dance-pop, but as princesses of music you enjoy with your friends. END
(Photos [top to bottom]: Dan Vidmar (Shy Girls); Este Haim (HAIM); Danielle Haim (HAIM); Este Haim. All photos by Jason Smith.)