Rockin' HAIM

Words / Reilly Cardillo

The magic thing about watching the Haim girls perform is that they harness the same attributes that made so many other rock bands into icons.

They are unshakably talented. These girls play almost every instrument out there and they play fast, hard and unforgiving, a musical force to be reckoned with. Each are blessed with significant vocal talent, too, and not just your run of the mill, "sung in the Sunday choir and performed at school events" voice but serious, unique, powerful tonal tools with which they can shape their music into a variety of shapes and spin it into whatever genre they please.

They also have the benefit that few other bands comprised of musicians their age have— they’ve been playing together for a lifetime, literally their whole lives. They possess a certain chemistry, telepathy, and ease with one another that few other bands even have a shot of achieving. This connection shows, whether it be the quite literal way they sync up to cover Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” or the explosive, incredibly cathartic drum finale, or in the way they exchange with one another.

They tell stories the way siblings do, content honed to a tee with the occasional exception of a correction or a forgotten detail. They are always, always loving and kind to each another, and their affection seeps into the audience, too. While standing in front of these sisters, they can make you believe for a second that you’re part of the family, too.

Another thing the Haim girls have in common with the great rock bands of the past is the brash, unapologetic yet somehow still subtle sexuality they bring to the stage. They achieve this projection through intensely honest expression in their craft. Danielle’s intentional vocal hiccups, Este’s uber-imitable “bass face,” the rocking of Alana’s hips as she mans the lone drum in “My Song 5”— these are all aspects that ultimately make the Haim sisters desirable (not to say they aren’t beautiful in their own right because these girls are indisputably babes).

The infamous Este "bass face". (Photo: Erika Rich For American-Statesman)

The infamous Este "bass face". (Photo: Erika Rich For American-Statesman)

It’s a phenomenon akin to the attractiveness of Mick Jagger’s seemingly wonky dance moves or Janis Joplin’s husky, roiling wails. It’s not the thing that’s sexy, it’s the person wearing this unsexy thing like its a brand new pair of YSL boots: confidently and with not one shit to give. These things make them look like rock stars because it sends the message all rock stars send: I’m hungry, I’m determined, I’m powerful and I’m fucking ruthless.

As shows go, it’s fair to say that Haim are topnotch performers. They thoroughly engaged with their audience, spoke honestly to them about their own lives, told jokes that were actually funny, and spilled interesting stories. They played a majority of songs from their first and only album, Days Are Gone, with a couple shout outs to their upcoming and unnamed release thrown into the mix.

“Nothing’s Wrong,” one of the unreleased numbers, is a gracefully executed ode to Fleetwood Mac, complete with a sprawling, complex, mountainous guitar solo (Danielle’s lot) accompanied by a circuitous backing guitar and bass (provided by sisters Alana and Este, respectively). The other unreleased song, “Give Me Just A Little of Your Love,” is what it would sound like if the snap of Michael Jackson’s drums summered with the psychedelic twang of Tom Petty. These tracks bode well for their sophomore album, which is rumored to be released this fall.

There were, of course, some standouts from their standard set. “My Song 5” frenzied the relatively mellow crowd towards the precipice of a mosh pit, and imbibed the night with a bit more promise, a new layer of auditory humidity. “Honey and I” was a sweet break from the sweat of the previous numbers, allowing the pureness of the lyrics to waft their way onto Red River Street, though the raucousness of the extro pulled focus back to the stage.

Another highlight was when, after telling the crowd about their old family pastime of gigging as “Rockin’ Haim”, the sisters brought out their parents, Mordechai and Donna Haim, to revisit an old classic: “Mustang Sally.” Once Donna’s awesome stage presence and Mordechai’s unflagging drum skills were witnessed, it was easy to see where the girls had gotten their talents from. Judging by the crowd’s enthusiastic response, it looked like Rockin’ Haim might be due for a revival tour.

Watching Haim play feels like watching history. And being a part of it is every music fanatic's wildest dream. Any show these girls play in Austin, best believe I’ll be there, watching rock’n’roll’s Next Big Thing.