During their tour, Ella Kemp reflects on why we love the trio, and what they remind us about music made by women.
There’s always an annoying, nagging awareness when going to any form of evening event in London. Will it finish before the last train home? You find yourself checking the time before it’s even started, immediately resentful of however much anticipation is building up because you might have to catch three connecting trains instead of one.
Haim came onstage at 9:40PM for the first night of their sold out Alexandra Palace two-day triumph. I was stressed. But if my memory serves me correctly – it took a grand total of three women, three drumkits, one pink eyeshadow and maybe 10 seconds in total to forgive and forget everything. I was elated, in awe, celebrating and questioning what I love with glorious enthusiasm.
Haim are three sisters, one onstage force of nature. Alana, Danielle and Este Haim have been making music for as long as they can remember – growing up in California and surrounded by 1970s Americana that feed their sound and infectious style. They write and sing together, but they also play all their own instruments with some kind of magic and dextrous power.They’re not the postergirls for a more elaborate production going on behind the scenes — the breadth of their talent travels through each sister and out into the open, begging to be admired.
It’s trendy to support and even initiate all-female endeavours to challenge age-old discrepancies in the arts industry which favour male artists. But Haim aren’t following a template – the band has existed for over 10 years and there’s nothing that feels formulaic or opportunistic about where they are now. Looking around the vibrant Ally Pally audience, it’s an eclectic mix of faces – not just teenage girls who might want to be in a band, but listeners of all ages and backgrounds that recognize the hypnotic fun, skilfully catchy and endlessly stylish, that radiates from the sisters on stage.
The Sister Sister Sister tour introduces the band’s second album, “Something to Tell You”, to a worldwide audience. Doing my homework before the show, I was sure that it was inferior to their outstanding debut, “Days Are Gone”. Not because the melodies or lyrics were poor, but because I felt that I’d already had my Haim fix in the first record and wanted something different. But seeing the sisters perform live completely changed the game – nitpicky criticisms that I felt towards the new batch of songs evaporated with the boisterous confidence that dominated the show. Regardless of what they were singing or playing, I was hypnotised by the Haim sisters’ presence – we listen to their music, but onstage, all we want is them.
They have the kind of chemistry that Netflix sitcoms capitalize on, walking a balance of quirky, awkward, outgoing and suave and sexy all at the same time. Alana isn’t shy to acknowledge her revealing outfit as soon as the first song is over – she’s empowered by the wardrobe choices that everyone is in awe of, and makes sure she’s in complete control of it as she twirls for the crowd. She’s a firecracker with pink eyeshadow, ferociously lighting up the show with keyboards and solo drums in turn, with the voracity of a tiny unstoppable rocket. Este remains loyal with relentless facial expressions that are saved for the stage, gorgeously grotesque expressions of how into the music she is – she plays bass with the same kind of guttural catharsis that you feel when you’re just a bit too close to the speakers, while still savouring the intensity of it. And Danielle, the middle sibling, stands tall centre stage. Singing most of the vocals, taking on the most epic guitar solos and blowing all othe drum solos out of the water with her own, she’s an elusive, ethereal presence that anchors the band and guides the show.
The concept of “Girl Power” is only referred to once over the evening – when the sisters thank their support acts for joining them on tour. It’s refreshing that there isn’t any need to remind everyone that hey, women can make music too, because it’s a given understanding and vital prerequisite that has allowed such wondrous artists to exist in the first place. The talent that these women, and the other women in the music industry, possess is taken as an assumption. It isn’t a token, or an anomaly. Listening or watching Haim won’t necessarily make you a militant activist for women’s rights – but it’s never felt quite so good to not be celebrating something a man did.
Danielle sang out to the crowd, in the second verse of ‘Little of Your Love’: ‘don’t it feel like tonight is from a dream?”. Remembering the pride and desire that I instantly had for these women during that gig, it now still does.
Words by Ella Kemp
Follow Ella on Twitter: @efekemp