Concert review: Katie goes to HAIM at Kool Haus


Super hi-res photo. You may use this as desktop wallpaper if you like.

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.

Final thoughts:

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.



PS – Exclaim’s writers are nicer than me.


3 thoughts on “Concert review: Katie goes to HAIM at Kool Haus

  1. Hi Katie,

    I just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading this post. Your knitty-gritty details and honest opinions provided me with a pretty accurate description of how I pictured HAIM to be live in concert. I liked how you incorporated your opinions, dialogue and descriptions together which made this post enjoyable to read. At some points I even found myself laughing from your remarks.

    I’ve never really gotten into HAIM, to be honest, so I found your concert review even more interesting because I learned more about the band without having to research; your post had a great balance of narrative and fact.

    Overall, I really like your blog and I have found a lot of great music from your playlists, and posts. As an amateur concert blogger, this post helped me with my writing and how to balance narrative with reviews.

    Thanks again for such a great blog, and I look forward to reading more.

    – Lyndsay

    • Hi Lyndsay,

      Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed and heartwarming comment. It totally made my day! I’m an automatic skeptic when it comes to buzz bands and it takes a fair amount of ingenuity for me to feel that an artist lives up to the hype without collapsing beneath it. In the case of HAIM and any other musicians on rotate at Urban Outfitters, I tend to take a hard look at the concert atmosphere, almost as much as the music itself. Glad to hear that you’re enjoying the music on our blog! We do this for readers like you :)


  2. I recently saw Haim perform live. I have to say that I am in agreement with your review. My exact words after their set were ‘self-indulgent’. Playing to a crowd of mostly teen girls and their moms at a Taylor Swift concert as an opening act, and not caring about who they were playing to but rather just doing a metal jam session left me in awe. As I looked around the stadium I saw more than a few mouths agape wondering what it was they were listening to. I will say that they appear to be a very talented bunch of ladies, but I don’t think they know how to put together a set list to hold the interest of the crowd at hand. Considering who the main act was, to think that there would be hardcore metal fans in the audience was a stretch. It would have been nice if it hadn’t been so self-indulgent and they had tried harder to relate to their audience. The comments weren’t good, at least from what we were hearing. Wrong band, wrong crowd? Maybe getting put out there before they are seasoned enough? Too much hype, not enough substance in my opinion. Was bored and could not wait for the set to end. Kids wanted earplugs. Enough said.

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