HAIM at House of Blues, 4/22/2014
Aspiring bands wondering how to go from obscurity to selling out House of Blues in barely two years could do worse than studying HAIM's example. In this case, the L.A. act fronted by the three Haim sisters fills a niche that hardly even existed previously: girls next door who happen to be badass musicians. Both categories are abundant within the past 50 years of pop history, true, but not together in the kind of proportions that HAIM brings to the table.
There is a little more to it than that, yes. Originally from the San Fernando Valley, Este, Danielle and Alana Haim (pronounced HEYE-m) have already had their share of lucky breaks. Their arrival/discovery at SXSW 2012 looks destined to be a story HAIM tells at many a Texas show to come. Onstage, they come across as genial, wisecracking young ladies who are unafraid to be cheesy and will let an f-bomb fly at the drop of a hat. They're easy to root for.
All of which is fine, but what sets HAIM apart is how they combine what can safely be called a unique take on pop music with the serious chops to back it up. The legend is that the sisters effectively melted down their parents' '70s-heavy record collection to arrive at their sound, but even that doesn't quite describe what they did to Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" early in Wednesday's set. Picking a tasty psych-blues nugget from well before that band's Lindsey/Stevie heyday is more evidence that HAIM knows their stuff, but turning it into a full-on hair-swinging Led Zeppelin-style breakdown is proof of how well they can execute it.
Their other great talent is extracting lethal hooks from songs with quite a few individual moving parts; that's also how you build an 80-minute set (including encore) out of just 12 tunes. Lurking among the stuttery electronic rhythms, copious synths Danielle's fearsome electric-guitar licks, Este's rubbery reggae-derived bass lines and various '80s cheese-pop allusions (was that Expose I heard?) were these lethal hooks like on "Change Your Mind" or "Days Are Gone" that eventually came to dominate the entire song.
Review continues on the next page.