Saturday, October 5, 2013

Review: HAIM and MS MR

Last night MS MR and HAIM played a sold-out club show in anticipation of their appearances at Austin City Limits Festival. It was my first visit to the newest version of Antone's and I have to say, fuck the haters. The space that is now labeled Antone's over on East Riverside is a great room. It's an intimate venue with great sight-lines. The sound is fantastic, access to the bar is easy, access to the bathrooms is handy. Did you notice that bathroom was plural? That's right, there are TWO! The parking lot was full by the time we arrived but we managed to find street parking across the way near Buzzmill.

As I mentioned the show was sold-out, and both HAIM and MS MR are pretty buzzy right now so I anticipated a crowd full of scenesters who were more interested in saying they were at the show than actually watching the show. This was not the case at all. As we walked toward the venue I heard the man in front of us hurrying his girlfriend because he was concerned he might miss the opening moments of MS MR's set. That bit of eavesdropping truly set the tone for the night.

HAIM - Don't Save Me video via YouTube

Mer, Mr. S. and I walked into Antone's found a good place to stand and about the same moment that MS MR took the stage. We were watching from the balcony so we could see the crowd just as easily as we could see the band. It took a song or two for the crowd to really get into it but by the third song MS MR has the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands. There was dancing, singing, and an overall feeling of exhuberance that flowed back and forth between the crowd and the performers. You could see it on the band's faces as the set progressed, they were feeling the intense love from the crowd and they reflected it right back.

There are bands that create songs in a vacuum and then when they perform them they do so timidly. MS MR is not one of those bands. They perform like a band who has been on their grind playing half-empty clubs for year. They don't just stand on stage and run through their songs. They live every word and feel every break. It was plainly evident that they were having a lot of fun on stage and they were psyched to be sharing the bill with HAIM.

HAIM is one of the buzziest bands in the indie-verse today. Last night's show was their first U.S. performance since the release of their album on Tuesday. Their set began roughly 12 hours after the band's feet touched American soul and it was followed by a DJ gig. Most people under these circumstances would be zombies but the ladies of HAIM are pros. They have been trying to achieve their music dreams as a band since 2008 and now that they are on the cusp of their dreams becoming a reality they are elated.

I knew that HAIM wrote great songs and that their record is brilliant and I had read all of the buzz about them. Hell, I even featured them as a band to catch at SXSW this year but until I was in the same room with them I felt like the whole thing could be an elaborate marketing campaign. Turns out, I was wrong. Or maybe I was right but they are still incredibly fucking good. I walked out of Antone's after seeing HAIM last night convinced of this band's superstardom. I guarantee the band's next non-festival, Austin appearance will be a sold-out show at Stubb's.

Not only is the songwriting on point, the musicianship was also on point, the banter was on point, and the stage presence was also on point. The sisters of HAIM have that 'it' factor that compels an audience to watch them. I was incredibly impressed with their crowd control skills. They know just when to yell, "C'mon!" and get the crowd to roar, they know just when to flirt with the crowd and when to shred and unleash a psychedelic freak-out. When we all sang along to, "Say you will, say you will save me." We all meant it and it felt like they could.

I won't be attending ACL Festival until next weekend and I'm already counting down the hours until I get to see HAIM perform again. Don't let your pre-conceived notions of this band prevent you from seeing them if you get the chance. Those of us who were at Antone's last night have seen the future and the future is 3 sisters from L.A..