Tag Archives: The Hives

Cold Fact

6 Nov

If you saw the documentary Searching for Sugar Man or his interview on 60 Minutes, you know the story of Rodriguez. If you haven’t, consider this a spoiler alert:

Sixto Rodriguez, a promising Mexican-American singer/songwriter, recorded two albums in the early 1970 yet his career went nowhere and he had to make his living cleaning out abandoned houses. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to him, his music became hugely popular with white, liberal anti-apartheid South Africans, who considered him on par with Bob Dylan. After years of obscurity, Rodriguez connected with his Afrikaans fans for the first time in 1998. Now at age 70, he is reaping the rewards of being a world-famous musician while staying humble enough to remain in downtown Detroit.

Rodriguez played at the Crofoot Ballroom on Friday night to a sold-out crowd, many of whom (judging by their age and attire) probably hadn’t been to a rock concert since Three Dog Night only had two dogs. Venue management knew they were in for an influx of elder newbies because I received an email like none I have never received before in my whole history of concert-going: a step-by-step guide on how to better enjoy the show if you’re one of “our older friends”:

“The Crofoot is a ‘general admission’ venue. We have standing room for 1000 guests. For our older friends who are coming to see Rodriguez, there are lots of spaces to stretch your feet, walk on the patio, talk to your friends, and then – step anywhere into the ballroom. The Crofoot sound system is one of the best sound systems in the Midwest. It will provide great listening – instruments and vocals — everywhere in the ballroom. You do not have to stand in front… guard your place…or worry about getting a special place… it’s all special.”   

Would that I could have received a similar guide for some of my past concerts:

For our truly middle-aged fans (come on, you’re not fooling anyone into thinking you’re 28) coming to see Wilco, please note that others seated behind you would like to view and enjoy the show as much as you do. Please dance – if that’s what you call it – only in designated areas. It’s all special.

For our more mature friends coming to enjoy The Hives  (and we will refrain from asking why you are coming in the first place), please wear beer-proof, steel-toe footwear and attire that can withstand the perspiration of others. You do not have to stand in mosh pit territory in order to see the show, although it does afford the best view of the stage if those sweaty, tattooed meat heads would get out of the way. It’s all special.

And so on.

Rodriguez at the Crofoot

Right on time at 10:00 p.m., Rodriguez was guided to the stage for a 90-minute solo set. The crowd was adoring and the performer … well, he did his best. He doesn’t do a tight show: his vaguely philosophical/ political commentary rambled, and he repeated his best one-liners more than once. His musicianship has been hampered by time and personal health history: while his guitar-playing was essentially strong, his voice was not. By musical standards it was not a compelling evening of rock music. (His albums are a bit of an acquired taste in 2012, too, with the production a bit dated and dusty and the songs hewing a little too closely to Bob Dylan’s meandering style for my taste.)

And yet I heard someone standing behind me telling his companion, “This is the best concert I’ve ever been to … except maybe Sting.”

The experience overruled the music. The thousand of us were there to pay tribute to a man who’s been through a great deal and whose rock-and-roll Cinderella story resonates with many of us of a certain age and artistic sensibility. His current fame taps into our deep well of desire to be discovered. It gives us a subliminal sense of hope that fate might someday smile on us, making us the stars we know we could be if given the chance.

Next up for Rodriguez? Perhaps a trip to the Academy Awards. Only in America.

See you on the flip side …


Buzzing about The Hives

9 Jul

The Hives – a class act

My older daughter and I went to The Hives concert at Clutch Cargo’s in Pontiac a couple of weeks ago. The space is a converted church, and the stained glass windows were ablaze until about 9:45when the sun finally set. Since Michigan is at the edge of the Eastern time zone, it’s like Sweden this time of year; I’m sure the The Hives felt right at home.


There were two opening acts. The first was a three-piece outfit that introduced themselves as Hootie and the Blowfish before pounding through a ditty called, “I’m a Punk Rocker (Babe, a Punk Rocker).” The drummer was a girl—always nice to see a lady beating the tar out of a drum kit—and the band did a very respectable set of 12 songs in 30 minutes. (We think their actual name is The Flashlights and they hail from Austin. I can’t find any evidence of their existence online … leads on their online whereabouts would be greatly appreciated.)

Not punk

Then there was the second band, which I almost don’t want to name in case that garners them any more publicity: FIDLAR, which is an abbreviation for something obscene and asinine. (Don’t look them up, don’t download their stuff—don’t give them the benefit of additional clicks on their Google Analytics page.)

The whole ethos of punk is that music is an expression of rage, often for its own sake. Iggy Pop said in a recent NY Times interview, “I couldn’t stand the sincere punks [like the Clash] … I went more for the profligate, sneering groups.” You have to rage against something worthwhile like oppression or poverty or The Queen: go big or go home.

All these jackasses could come up with was a dozen songs about how broke they were and how high and drunk they would be if they weren’t so broke. This might be strong stuff if you’re twelve and riddled with acne but doesn’t fly if you’re touring the world with an internationally known band and have benefited from world-class orthodontia. (The lead singer, whatever his name was, had an absolutely fetching smile.)

Sensing the audience was ready to head to the parking lot to wait it out until The Hives showed up, the lead singer tried to strike a chord with the audience … by dissing Pontiac. “This place is stone cold ghetto. There is nothing here. When we were walking around before the show, all we saw was a head shop, a pawn shop and a liquor store.” Then he insinuated the town was racist (after calling it “ghetto”) and complained about being called a homophobic slur outside the venue (right after lobbing a homophobic slur at the audience).

There’s an unspoken rule of life: only you can say bad things about your mother, your dog or your hometown. Anyone else who does deserves to go down.

The crowd started rumbling. The dudes behind us, each of whom were four beers into the evening, looked ready to bound on stage and throw him into the balcony. I looked at my daughter, who was completely disgusted, then at the door, trying to map an escape route. Thankfully, they played two more songs in four minutes and were offstage before any bottles were thrown.

The Hives were stellar. I can’t really describe their music any better than my friend at Defending Axl Rose, who celebrates the charm of their “shouty-shouty-handclap” style. But what capped the experience for me was how lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist brought the show to a close by thanking the audience and acknowledging he and the band were from Fagersta, Sweden—“a rust belt town, just like here”—and how great that can make you.

So, hope you’ll enjoy a song off their new album and appreciate how great a garage band can look in top hat and tails (especially when they yet haven’t sweated through 90 minutes of crazy fun music):

See you on the flip side …

Pop Rocks

22 May

Not long ago, I got a text during school hours from my older daughter. Here’s the actual exchange, taking all of 30 seconds:

I’m glad they don’t have a Thor donut … I bet you’d find long blond hair in the icing


Because if we eat them we will be as large as the Hulk


I shudder to think what the fillings are …


Go back to class dear …


And please stop shouting …

This is not dissimilar to a text I received a few days later:

How can so much fabulousness be contained in just one band?


In both cases, she was alerting me to something outrageously colorful and fantastically delicious we both adore that, sadly, I have to say “no” to. See, we can’t go to the Scissor Sisters‘ concert because already have tickets for another show that evening: The Hives, who are touring with a new album and making a stop in Pontiac.

Two great bands both playing the same night within a few miles of our leafy Michigan suburb … this is a good example of a First World Problem.

My daughter and I are pretty stoked to see our punky friends from Scandinavia. I had seen them on David Letterman several years back and was impressed by their sound–screaming, bouncy garage rock–and their look–all dressed the same, always in black and white. And what great stage names, although I do wonder how “Howlin’ Pete Almqvist” and “Nicholaus Arson” sound in Swedish. Once “Tick Tick Boom” exploded over a montage of action movies at the 2009 Academy Awards, we became avid fans. We got a copy of Veni Vidi Vicious and settled in to listen to the album. Thirty minutes later, it was done. The Ramones are a jam band by comparison.

The best thing to come out of Sweden since Ikea meatballs …

But it’s killing us that we will miss our flamboyant friends from New York for the second time. When Scissor Sisters came to town two years ago between tour stops on Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour, we stayed home to watch the Oscars instead. I figured we were substituting one gay-friendly entertainment experience for another, but it was hardly an even exchange. (The 2011 Academy Awards, hosted by dissolute James Franco and overeager Anne Hathaway, was so terrible they did the impossible: screw up the In Memorium segment.) I’m still kicking myself.

Scissor Sisters burrowed into my brain in the summer of 2004, when “Take Your Mama” came out, rainbow flag a-flying. The song sounds like it was crafted by Elton John in full-feathered regalia: truly groovy and unforgettable. As colorful as The Hives are monochrome, the band’s showmanship and style ensures their concerts are a hoot and a half … not that I’d know from personal experience … kick, kick, kick …

There may be hope. My daughter raised a good point: if The Hives’ concert is as short as their albums, perhaps we can do both shows in one night.

If you’re seeing The Hives on June 27, see you there … and if you’re seeing Scissor Sisters that night, tell me all about it!

See you on the flip side …

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