HAIM’s family business is music, and business is, at the very least, a hell of a good time. The three sisters that form the bulk of the band have an easy chemistry, born of years no doubt spent yelling at each other while simultaneously loving each other more than is normal for an outfit. The trio (plus drummer Dash Hutton) played an hour-long set at Music Hall Of Williamsburg on Saturday night, and they took control of the 500 person room with their easy-going charm and seeming lack of interest in general rock show conventions. Lead singer (although that term is a bit loose because all three sisters share vocals) Danielle is perhaps the quietest of the three when it comes to banter, but the duo flanking her more than made up for that: Este and Alana Haim went back and forth all night, teasing each other and generally making the audience giddy. It happened to be Alana’s birthday, a fact that Este celebrated by telling her that she needed to strip to her birthday suit. This did not happen, despite some catcalling from the crowd. “Perverts!” Alana yelled, everyone laughed, and then the next song kicked in.
The next song generally turned out to be a good jam: these ladies have some serious chops. Perhaps it is their family band past (more on this in a bit), or perhaps just a devotion to their craft, but HAIM unleashes more energy than one would expect from a band that has just one EP to their name. Songs like “Don’t Save Me” and “Go Slow” buckled under the raw power on stage, as Danielle used her almost hoarse vocals to guide the songs to their next points, while her sisters provided everything from backup vocals to bass solos to thundering drumbeats. There was a reggae-influenced song that should have seemed out of place but instead fit like a glove, giving the more exuberant fans a chance to dance.
And dance they did! HAIM’s fans are as passionate about the band as the band is about its music; every lyric was sung, every head was banged, and every dance was performed, sometimes with choreography (a group of fans employed dance moves from the band’s “Forever” video, and quite well at that). Even the band seemed taken aback early on, with “holy shit” being uttered by all three. “This is the best show we’ve ever played, obviously,” said one, and the other two agreed. They got over those jitters (although not entirely; at one point, Alana noted, “You guys are fucking making me cry. I can’t see my keys!”) and stepped up the energy to yet another level, because that’s what rock stars do when they play to adoring fans. The pre-encore set ended with a gratuitous (but not unwelcome) drum-off between the sisters and Hutton; it was more drum circle than competition, with a crowded venue and disco ball subbing in for a full moon-bathed beach. As the rhythms climaxed and exploded into finality, the foursome ran off stage.
They were back soon after, however; in fact, perhaps it was too soon, a fact acknowledged by Danielle: “This is our first ever encore! We had no idea how long we were supposed to stay back there.” It was a charming moment of sincerity for a band that oozed coolness for 50 minutes beforehand. The cracks in their armor were showing, and they were the better for it. Also fueling this? The happy birthday singalong that prefaced their final song: no matter how cool you are, a happy birthday singalong is always cheesy, in the best ways. This was just a prelude to what ended up putting a dumb smile on everyone’s face: the reuniting of the Haim family band, Rockinhaim. “Papa” and “Mama” Haim came out and performed with their daughters with an ease born of many a show in the Haim living room. With their mom singing lead vocals and their dad rocking the drums, the sisters took the chance to run around the stage, laughing in ways that you don’t normally see. A family affair this was, and damn if it didn’t make you just a bit jealous to not make music with your closest kin.