One of my favourite things to do of late seems to be to venture down to Stereo’s basement venue on a Sunday night (a little hungover) to see some live music. The staircase may now be strangely naked and bereft of posters after their fifth birthday celebrations, but the room itself is still the same bristling sweatbox that I’ve had so many great nights in. Tonight it is the turn of L.A based four-piece Haim to provide the entertainment, they are the latest in a line of “sister acts” (nothing to do with Whoopi Goldberg, Teagan & Sara or First Aid Kit) or as they put it “three sisters and a mister” and have been creating a fair amount of online buzz of late. Those three sisters are Danielle (vocals, lead guitar), Alana (vocals, rhythm guitar, keys, percussion) and Este Haim (vocals, bass), while the mister in question is Dash Hutton on drums (suitably named for a fast drummer).
The gig marked the start of their inaugural UK headline tour, and to be honest I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from the evening. They have been championed on twitter by artists as varied as Katy Perry and Ryan Adams, and it was Adams’ recommendation that first brought them to my attention. I’d only really heard their Forever EP before tonight and so I was intrigued to see how their unique blend of folk rock, R’N’B and 80’s power pop would translate into a live setting. If you’ve never heard Haim before I know what you’re thinking, as a mix of genres that could be a car crash, but after witnessing them playing live I’m pleased to report it definitely works.
My previous evening was spent in the cavernous hole that is the SECC and to be honest it was only saved by the fact I was there to see the ever brilliant Bon Iver. It was however nice to get back to the small sweaty confines of Stereo for some face to face music at close quarters. As the stage was set up each of the three microphone stands we’re flanked by varying sizes of shiny silver and gold drums which would later in the evening be employed several times to devastating effect by the Sisters. A massive cheer went up as Haim took to the stage just after half past nine and fittingly launched into Better Off which is also the lead track from their debut Forever EP. The first thing you notice about Haim is the fact that they are all obviously very good looking L.A women, small almost nonexistent shorts, tight jeans and long hair, they look the part, the difference is this band aren’t style over substance, they can fucking play.
Daneille told the noisy appreciative crowd “we’re so fucking excited to be here” after the battering climax to Better Off in which she and Este joined drummer Dash in smacking their respective kits into submission simultaneously. It became clear quite early on in the night that the Haim sisters, and Este in particular enjoy a little bit of between song banter with the locals. Before The Wire she asked us “can anyone hear my bass at all? I can’t feel it and it’s making me sad, fuck it let’s do it anyway”, thankfully to us in the crowd the reverberating baseline rang out loud and clear, and perfectly complimented the switching layered vocals that built to Danielle’s energetic guitar solos.
It also became apparent as they reiterated how glad they were to be in Glasgow that although they look nothing like burly tattooed seamen they do swear like sailors. Danielle’s “It really is fucking amazing to be here” was followed by Alana’s “How the fuck are we feeling?” and it’s safe to say from the response from the crowd to her question that everyone packed into Stereo was having a pretty fucking great time.
Not to miss out Este then told us about a couple of things she had heard about Glasgow “one that the girls are all babes and two that the guys shag like minxes” adding “so there’s good odds for me tonight”. She then proceeded to volunteer that her sisters split up with their respective boyfriends stating “All three Haim sisters are officially single as of now”. A shout of “do you swing both ways?” then came from a female member of the audience to which Este replied quick as a flash “I was born in the 80’s I love the ladies”. You definitely get the impression that there is never a dull moment when Este Haim is about.
The immediate sounding Falling followed on with double drumming, more excellent guitar soloing from Danielle and repeated simultaneous and then slightly syncopated shouts of “falling, falling, falling” from all three of the sisters. Just as the set was getting into full swing and everything was going so well for the band Este made the cardinal sin a performer can make while playing in Scotland. Talking between songs she started saying “This is the part of the show where we like to just jam, like we were in our front room at home, so for England or wherever we are”. This mere mention of being in England was of course like a red rag to a bull to a Scottish audience and a chorus of boooooooo’s bombarded the stage. Danielle and Alana quickly chastised and corrected their sister and Este then diffused the situation herself saying “I know we’re in Glasgow“, in a truly awful Scottish accent that you could do nothing else but laugh at. Chatting more about Glasgow Este asked the crowd “What do you eat?” a shout of “Haggis” received the quick witted reply of “I’ve had haggis balls, you know how we feel about balls in this band”.
Someone else in the crowd gave the somewhat strange answer of “rain”, although I suppose given forecasted precipitation in Scotland and the amount of people living on the poverty line it might not be too far from the truth. Este responded to this again showing a great sense of humour saying “You guys eat rain? I’m going to move here, everything seems free, and you know us Jews love things that are free”. Finally managing to get their “jam” started they played a breathtaking riff heavy version of Oh Well by Fleetwood Mac with Alana taking lead vocals and totally killing the line “Don’t ask me what I think of you, I might not give the answer you want me to”. The cover sparked massive cheers from the crowd along with a shout in a broad Scottish accent of “that’s some answer”. Este somehow misheard this as “lots of motzah” and proceeded to say that they still didn’t have a name for their debut album and maybe Glasgow would be the place they named the record, following on with “Haim, lotsa motzah, Glasgow, I like the sound of that”.
Go Slow from their Forever EP gave a taste of their older material (well as old as it gets) and sounded big and bold. The old then met the new as Danielle took to the mic to announce “were gonna do a new one for your guys, it’s only like our third time playing it and It’s actually our new single, it’s called Don’t Save Me“.
Referring back to the eating rain remark, Alana said “I think we’re drinking the rain water” as they all sipped on their bottles of water between songs. Este then reaffirmed her desire to live here saying “I am going to move here, I need to find a husband first though, so sort that out”. I doubt she would be short of suitors in the crowd tonight should she actually decide to move to our beautiful yet rainy city.
Another moment of comedy then ensued as she talked about the mop of blonde hair that shrouded her eyes and face asking us “should I sort this out?”, a guy replied with a shout of “yes”. An offer of “Come up here and fix it for me” was made, however it seemed the poor boy was a wee bit shy and refused to climb up the stairs onto the stage. Este seemed quite perturbed that he didn’t take her up on the offer to be her personal stylist adding “are you really not going to come up here and fix it for me?” This then led to the whole band leading a chorus of “chicken chicken chicken” through their microphones accompanied by slow drumming. When it became apparent he wasn’t going to materialise from the safety of the crowd Este said flirtatiously “you don’t know you might have came up here and fixed it and we might have ended up making out or something”. The opportunity of a potential L.A rock star wife squandered through stage fright, tut tut, the phrase grow some (Haggis) balls comes to mind.
Arguably Haim’s most recognisable song Forever was introduced to a sea of handclaps from the crowd and sounded deliciously 80’s in the best way possible. It could easily have been played in the club scene in Terminator or the volleyball scene in Top Gun and have fitted in perfectly. Before playing the last track of their nine song hour long set the sisters again took to time to thank “everyone for coming tonight” saying “it’s like our biggest show ever”. Danielle then added “thank you, and someone give me a couch to stay on tonight”, again I don’t think she would be short of volunteers given the frenzied response the Glasgow crowd had towards the band.
All four members of the band took up drumming duties towards the end of Let Me Go and it provided the perfect climax to a highly enjoyable hungover Sunday night show. With a “we love you” Haim disappeared down the steep stairs and off stage through the bellowing crowd. The shout for an encore was immediate and loud but as I suspected after a last song as thrilling as Let Me Go it was never going to materialise. As the house lights finally flashed on after a minutes delay a big boooooo of disappointment rang out around the venue. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a non Scottish band that don’t even have an album out yet get such a great response from a crowd in Glasgow.
Haim might have been a long way from “Hame” but they certainly found a home from home in England, I mean Glasgow tonight.