Let me be clear: I am not a cool girl.
I don’t own jeans made in this decade. No one has ever asked me to pose for their popup’s lookbook. My It Bag is a Jansport. I am genuinely surprised when people compliment my outfits, because most of the time I have either honey, milk or breadcrumbs in my hair (it gets pretty Biblical up in there).
I stuck out like a sore thumb at the HAIM concert last week, which was a sea of tasteful black lips, bruised eyeshadows, and blackened drapey dresses.
You might be asking why I started out this concert review with something as trivial and superficial as the clothing I saw: Because I was bored out of my skull and the clothing choices of the girls around me were far more inventive than the set list was.
When I arrived at the venue to meet my companion for the evening, Greer, it was already drizzling and Tennis was due to start. Being a fan of 2012 internet buzzbands, I was interested in catching their set to see how they matched up to their recorded sound. However, the media line was so painfully slow (the girl running the booth was texting for two-minute spurts while people were waving their IDs in her face) that it took us over half an hour to get inside. We basically missed all of their performance.
Once we got inside, we caught the last Tennis song, and Greer optimistically remarked, “At least her voice sounds like it does on their recordings.” Sure, Alaina Moore sounds like Alaina Moore, but the overall audio quality in the Kool Haus that night was quite muddy. With such delicate beach music, we should have been able to pick out the nuanced keyboarding and vocal layers; this isn’t high tide, it’s a gentle surf.
While we were waiting for HAIM to take to the stage, I scoped the crowd. Everyone was drunk and could have almost been labelled “slizzered” if they belonged to a different social caste. The crowd was predominantly female, which I presume is because HAIM is one of many modern female artists brazenly waving the flag of fashionably tongue-in-cheek fourth wave feminism.
I went to the bathroom to put in eyedrops in between sets (aging blogger alert) and a girl in one of the stalls whined, “Ew! Is it gross that I’m standing in a pool of water right now? It’s ruining my Marc Jacobs!”
I nearly shit myself when the set actually started, because the PA was so off-balanced that it sent a sonic blast of deafening volume into the crowd. Luckily I kept it together, which was quite fortunate since I declined to wear underwear that day. #free
They opened with Falling, which was tight enough, but it sounded like their third vocal harmony was missing. I’m not a HAIM purist by any means, but with the revenue they’re making on this tour, I’m sure they could afford another backup female singer to flesh things out. Particularly given that Alana and Este’s vocals are quite weak without Danielle’s.
When they segued into If I Could Change Your Mind, the Metallica fan standing with his girlfriend beside us moaned, “Didn’t they play this already?”
Their third song was a self-indulgent and ill-timed shred session reminiscent of a 1976 classic rock headbanger. Metallica guy was loving it. “Forget the change my mind shit, this is SO GOOD!” You are correct, Metallica Guy, it was technically proficient, and I’m all for improvised songs within sets. But when you don’t give the crowd enough time to get warmed up, it just comes across as self-indulgent.
Yes, Este’s bass face was present. Yes, she had “coarse and blunt” stage banter (Wikipedia’s words, not mine). At one point, she said, “Okay, for this next song, every mother fucker is gonna lose their shit! I wanna see you shake your ass and your tits!”
When your crowd is so young and lithe that most of their tits don’t shake, I’m not entirely sure this message is absorbed.
At this point, Greer turned to me and said, “Isn’t she like 35?” (Editor’s Note: She is 28)
I replied, “Her crop top says otherwise.” (Editor’s Note: Her crop top is clairvoyant)
We were about six songs in when even HAIM’s diehard fans were starting to look disinterested. Of course, we were trolling the concert at the back of the venue, but it was clear that for most people, this was nothing more than a glorified hang out/miserable date night.
I turned to Greer and said, “I think I want to give this a 7/10. It’s not technically bad, but at least they’re trying to have fun.”
Greer said, “All the songs are in the wrong order! If they just fixed their set list, it might not be so boring.”
I replied, “There are too many B-sides! This is what happens when you go on a major tour before becoming really developed as a band. Although they’ve been playing together since 2006, their sound isn’t particularly cohesive, and it comes across in their live performance.”
HAIM is a band that received too much hype in a short period of time, and if their fans were old enough to remember Wilson Phillips, they’d realize that HAIM is basically capitalizing on the exact same sound and repackaging it as cool girl empowerment.