“There are a fuck ton of people here” Este, the eldest in LA-based sister trio Haim, (made up of Alana, Danielle and Este with Dash Hutton on drums), cries to the sold-out, sweaty crowd at Dingwalls in Camden. After playing a series of showcases at SXSW in March, Haim quickly became one of the most buzzed bands of 2012 and it is clear that they’re somewhat overwhelmed by it all: “I’m not going to cry,” Danielle says, “I’m not going to cry.” I’ve heard them described as Hanson for hipsters, Wilson Phillips for the millennial set, and everything in between. Their music has been marketed as folk R&B, which is certainly one way to describe their harmonious vocals and drum-heavy instrumentation but more importantly Haim exudes girl power 2.0; it’s clear they were raised on a healthy diet of 90s music videos and family values.
Despite the buzz they seem to have their feet firmly planted on the ground. They radiate humility; perhaps this is because they’re sisters, or perhaps it’s because they abbreviate their words in a way that only American girls of a certain age can – “I’m supes emotional right now,” Este proclaims. Danielle manages not to cry, and the girls begin the show by playing ‘Better Off’ and ‘Forever,’ two songs off their EP. “Folk R&B” quickly feels like it is not too far off the mark, despite its simplicity; these girls can play. All three of them handle their guitars with more than just ease but with the steady hands of a virtuoso, layering their infectious sound to deafening levels but not in a “noise” kind of way. After introducing us to some new material, which sounds pretty much exactly like their old material, they launch into mid-tempo jam ‘The Wire’ which turns into my favourite song of the night. In between songs there’s a healthy amount of sisterly banter as well as unbridled enthusiasm for the UK, “I’m obsessed with this place and I want to live here forever” .
Then Haim plays their trump card. “We’re about to bring some people out here that have never been here before,” says Danielle. “They are LITERALLY aliens,” adds Alana. They pause for effect… “They’re our parents.” Mama and Papa Haim emerge from backstage, and Mama Haim takes her place in front of the microphone, tambourine in hand while Papa Haim sits behind the drums. The girls explain to the crowd that they used to be in a band with their parents called Rockinhaim. The Haims burst into a rousing rendition of ‘Mustang Sally,’ making it clear – if it wasn’t before – that Haim is a full-on family affair.
“Well thanks so much for having us,” Danielle says after Mama and Papa Haim exit the stage. “That felt a bit like our finale, but this is our real finale.” The girls finish the show with ‘Let Me Go,’ a song that starts off mid-tempo, but escalates into a bit of a banger, ending with all three of them drumming furiously. It’s only been three months since the girls played at SXSW, but if tonight’s performance is anything to go by, they have serious staying power. As an American 20-something who’s still obsessed with TLC, I’m probably not the toughest crowd Haim will ever encounter, but their sound is unique and their talented musicianship is refreshing. Job well done girls or “totes amaze” as they might say.