Haim – Music Hall of Williamsburg – December 15, 2012
“This is the best birthday I will ever have in my life,” Alana Haim told Saturday’s sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg crowd. It was her 21st, and she still hadn’t had her first legal drink. Along with playing guitar and keys, she’s the baby of Haim. “I don’t think I could breathe without everyone on this stage,” she later revealed. “Everyone on this stage” included oldest sister Este (bass and vocals) and middle sister Danielle (lead guitar and vocals). And with drummer Dash Hutton, they played the best show I’ve seen all year.
Haim’s destiny seems almost preordained. Their parents (known as “Mama and Papa Haim” by the sisters) were both musicians—Mama played acoustic guitar and sang while Papa was a drummer. For 10 years, the Haim sisters played in a cover band, Rockinhaim, with their parents. This experience proved integral to their development as accomplished musicians in their own right. (Este studied Brazilian music and percussion at UCLA, and Danielle has toured with Jenny Lewis and Julian Casablancas.) And it brought them all so close together that, to this day, Haim still bring Mama and Papa on tour with them.
This grounding influence readily appears onstage in a couple of ways. First, they’re incredibly comfortable under the lights. Este, Danielle and Alana are witty, charming and hilarious, and they banter like friends entertaining guests. Second, their live show absolutely rocks. Their two outstanding EPs display a penchant for electro pop, and live, they seamlessly blend classic rock, ’80s pop, country and rockabilly. They’ve opened for such diverse acts as Mumford & Sons, Florence and the Machine and No Age. Danielle especially impresses on vocals and guitar. She channels her inner Melissa Etheridge and shreds on her Gibson SG, the iconic axe used by legendary lead guitar players like Angus Young and Derek Trucks. Although stylistically, she sounds more like David Gilmour, picking and choosing each note with deliberate care.
But in the end, it was Alana’s night. And before they played what happened to be their first ever encore, Mama handed Alana a cupcake lit by a leftover menorah candle, and the family led the crowd in a verse of “Happy Birthday.” “It’s officially Alanukah!” announced Mama. Alana closed her eyes for a few seconds to conjure a wish. And after she blew out the candles, the band became Rockinhaim, playing a stunning rendition of “Mustang Sally,” with Mama impressing on lead vocals and Papa banging a heavily funky beat. Though we’ll never know what it was, Alana’s wish will almost certainly comes true: For this band, the sky is the limit. —Alex Kapelman