Listen to Austin 360 Radio

ACL Fest review: Haim

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Eric Pulsifer

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 12, 2013

Harmonies ain’t easy, don’t get me wrong. You might be fooled into thinking so by many of the performers you see at ACL Fest, but when you’re singing side by side, being a tad flat or sharp sticks out like an OU fan in the beer tent on this (unexpectedly) sunny Saturday afternoon.

I adore Haim (PSA: it rhymes with “time”), their EP and their just-released full-length debut, “Days Are Gone,” but there are some things I cannot abide, and off-key harmonies from a band built on three-part harmonies is one of them. I caught the end of Haim’s show last weekend and witnessed this then as well, though I hoped it was some sort of audio illusion — like the Doppler effect or whatever (I don’t know, science wasn’t my subject). But, being near front and center today, I was able to confirm my fear that the three sisters Haim have a little work to do on their live vocals. I understand this won’t be a popular opinion, and Haim is beloved by most (I haven’t overheard the word “awesome” coming from a crowd after a show so much all weekend). And, sure, those pitch-perfect voices on their expertly produced LP are a high standard to live up to, but let’s keep in mind that the band is far from an overnight success — they’ve been playing together for years — and we should expect a bit more polish by this point.

That necessary gripe out of the way, (this piece is about to turn around, please don’t come after me women of Haim or hardcore Haim-heads) Haim put on one heck of a show.

Haim are a modern-day Wilson Phillips or TLC, a female trio (and their male drummer — yeah, yeah …) potentially destined to leave a lasting mark on pop music with an amalgamation of everything that has come before them with a Fleetwood Mac meets late-’90s R&B sound and hooks that’ll take an eye out.

Guitarist and lead vocalist Danielle Haim absolutely shredded on her gorgeous crimson blood red Gibson SG, and I think my eyebrows might be permanently raised thanks to Alana Haim banging out the most suggestive bass drum playing I’ve ever seen. Este Haim, bassist and self-proclaimed lover of “boot-ay,” dished up expert level banter and flirted with the crowd. “Last weekend I said shirts are for work — take them off — but then realized I didn’t have a shirt to take off. This weekend, I say bras are for work, so I’m not wearing a bra,” she said to applause. “Hello, new friends. Welcome to my show.”

Other quotable highlights from Este included her intro to “Go Slow,” which the band said they consider their favorite recorded song: “This is baby-making music, so if anyone has a baby nine months from now, it better be named Este … or Esteban if it’s a boy. Deal?”

After an explosive, all-percussion closer to their final song “Let Me Go,” Este ended the show by tossing off her boots and launching into the audience for a post-set crowd surf. It was a gleeful moment of triumph, one hard not to smile at given how far Haim has come since playing Austin at SXSW 2012 and 2013.


1. Falling

2. The Wire

3. Oh Well (Fleetwood Mac cover)

4. Honey and I

5. Go Slow

6. Don’t Save Me

7. Forever

8. Let Me Go