LIVE REVIEW: HAIM @ The Wiltern, L.A.

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After appearing at almost every music festival that summer had to offer this year, HAIM returned to Los Angeles for two nights of homecoming shows that were destined to be nothing short of a kick ass homage to the city that made them who they are. Lots of L.A. love was being thrown around for their second night at the Wiltern. Their openers, a valley girl punk band called Bleached, got the 818 area code sistas to rally for most of their show (that’s not to say the gentlemen and non 818ers in the crowd, which made up a considerable amount of the audience that night, were not feelin’ the love).

Bleached was the perfect opener for what was going to be a rockin’ girl fest. Sisters Jessica and Jennifer Clavin exude that classic punk girl attitude, a seemingly effortless style of performing that feels like a peek inside a garage jam session. Later in the show, Este Haim would admit that that’s exactly the vibe they were going for – the old jam sessions they used to have at their house parties when their parents were out of town. Bleached could certainly be that band straight out of the epic house party from your teenage years. With little stage production and a pretty packed house, they were not phased by opening for an act as wildly popular as HAIM; they treated the crowd like the old chums that brought the keg to the party. The performer-audience relationship deepened when their stage hand started throwing out Capri Suns to the crowd. Within their hour long set, they played a good chunk of their latest LP, 2013’s Ride Your Heart, along with some older stuff from a few of their earlier EPs. Even up in the very last row of The Wiltern on the top balcony, it felt like a kickback California punk show, with lots of sweat included.

By the time HAIM took the stage, the air in the theatre had congealed into a sticky humid mess. I wasn’t even in the pit and I was fading fast until that echoing thud of “Falling” rung through the night. From that point on the energy never ebbed as the crowd erupted immediately into a dance party. The best thing about a live HAIM show is that something comes through in the flesh that is absent on the recorded album. Aside from that attitude that can only be exuded by Este’s infamous bass face, the sisters’ instrumentation is exuberant in a live setting. The bass is more jarring, the vocal harmonies are more impressive and Danielle flashes her chops as a guitarist in a way that makes you wonder why the hell there aren’t more guitar solos on the album.

As they have been doing for months, they covered “Oh Well” by Fleetwood Mac three songs into the set, further proving that there’s something very classic and also eclectic about their style. Their rendition of the song shows that that their roots are founded deeply in classic rock. The best performance of the night was easily “My Song 5,”which was right in the middle of the set. Este admitted to the crowd that playing it is her favorite part of the night because the song gets people to “shake their asses,” and the audience happily fulfilled her predictions, lifting their voices in the best sing along of the night as every single person in the place chanted “Honey, I’m not your honey pie.” And I certainly wasn’t alone in my air guitarring and head banging for this song.

Afterward, the girls kicked it down a notch with a new rendition of “Running if You Call My Name.” This version features Danielle solely on guitar for the first two verses and doesn’t pick up until the bridge. It was yet another moment in the show that Danielle stole the performance by virtue of how talented a guitarist she is. They finished off the set with “Forever” and a confetti explosion to boot, which in my experience makes any concert ten times more magical.

When they returned for an encore, Danielle jumped on the drums for a cover of Beyonce’s “XO.” Every single girl in the crowd went nuts for the Queen Bey cover its insanity rivaled only with the pandemonium that ensued with follow-up “The Wire.” I knew it would be the crowd favorite but people started dancing on the stairs and in the aisle- a girl in front of us literally took up the span of five seats for her overly excited dance move which involved sidling back and forth and throwing her arms out as wide as she could. I was disappointed to see that a lot of people bailed after “The Wire” – if you’re a true HAIM fan you are not going to miss the “Let Me Go” finale. It’s just not right. The girls complete every show with this rendition of the song, culminating with all three sisters wailing on drums in a primal evocation. There’s a strong sense of finality that comes with this ending and it’s blasphemous to willingly miss it.

Whether you are in the front row of the pit or at the highest point on the balcony, when you are at a HAIM show you become a part of the greater HAIM experience and will witness one of the best rock shows you’ve ever seen. It’s amazing that after months of nonstop touring, they can pull off two solid shows so effortlessly. Their stint on the road is coming to an end very soon, so I’m more than pleased that I caught one of these astounding homecoming shows. If you’re in Seattle or Portland you’ve got another chance to catch these incredible sisters before they play FYF Fest in Los Angeles; in October they head to Mexico City for Festival Corona Capital.

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