Photography by Kris Lenz
“It’s Saturday night. I know we all wanna get lit,” Danielle Haim exclaimed to a frantic, devoted, and borderline catatonic sold-out crowd at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre. With each passing show, the sisters HAIM gather more and more fans, mostly teenage girls, though there were several eligible bachelors willing to marry Este on the spot.
This is how their mythos has grown in the past year, and it shouldn’t be surprising. After finally releasing their long-awaited full-length debut last fall, California’s daughters have amassed the brand of success that record companies have been trying to design for every post-Vampire Weekend act. The thing is: HAIM didn’t really need to paint the numbers; their personalities speak for themselves.
“This is my favorite song of the set,” Este declared, capturing the attention of an all-ages show, which by and large is a remarkable feat. “People tend to shake their asses and lose their shit to this song.” She paused, allowing some screams and a few declarations from some Chitown bros at the bar. “Shake yo tittays! I can see that, too.”
They then played “My Song 5”, arguably the weakest track on the album alongside “Days Are Gone”, though both cuts produced the sort of enthusiasm that an encore hit would elicit. How do they do this? Well, they’re remarkable saleswomen, treating each cut with the same unbridled spunk that fans want to know them for — whether it’s how they see them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or onstage.
Regardless of the medium, it’s always the same three Haim sisters. Este gets the laughs, Danielle has the edge, and Alana, aka Baby Haim, charms the rest. They’re all laid-back enough to make youngins feel like “one of the pack,” which explains why so many girls at the venue were dressed similarly, and they flocked to the Days Are Gone photo-op installment next to the merch tent.
Okay, so HAIM has become a brand, and while that should be seen as a red flag, it really isn’t. They’re such remarkable musicians that few can argue against their tactics (see: the new, updated “Running If You Call My Name”). It’s also just fun. Este’s stories — how she posted a Craiglist ad with Alana’s number, asking for submissions with the best Chewbacca impersonation to win Coachella tickets — still feel like little secrets she’s letting you in on.
What’s more, their rookie personality remains. For example, something like throwing the first pitch at a Cubs game still feels like a triumphant victory for the trio. “Apparently, I had great form,” Alana admitted. “I’ve never done that before, and that memory will forever be tied to Chicago,” adding: “I’m just glad I’m not a funny YouTube video now.” Este spit back: “Night’s young.” C’mon, how could you not smile at that?
Opener Tennis certainly is. “It’s our honor to be on tour with HAIM,” Alaina Moore said. “Three biggest babes of Los Angeles.” Their set was chummy with the brand of champaign indie rock that might sift through Wes Anderson’s iTunes, though their new tunes off their forthcoming follow-up to 2012’s Young & Old feel structured along the lines of HAIM’s basslines and percussion — not a surprise. “I got to do makeup with Dani, Alana, and Este,” Moore gushed some more. “I could get rich selling those rights.”
I’ll admit this: I danced, I sang, I watched others do the same, and I even walked out with an Este Haim shirt. Yes, an Este Haim shirt. Why? Because I’m easily sold I guess. Because I like my rock ‘n’ roll fun, memorable, and catchy. Because maybe, just maybe, there’s something in the “mainstream” worth rooting for, even if the whole shebang could be argued as transparent or part of one big marketing ploy.
Whatever: I’m a material boy, apparently.
If I Could Change Your Mind
Oh Well (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Honey & I
Days Are Gone
My Song 5
Running If You Call My Name
Don’t Save Me
XO (Beyoncé cover)
Let Me Go