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The Hives At No Vacancy, Wednesday May 10th 2023

The Hives
The Hives

If you are lucky enough to get a ticket for one of the tiny shows that The Hives have scheduled around Los Angeles, you thank your good fortune and go to the place early to be in the front. This is exactly what I did when I managed to score a ticket for their show at No Vacancy, a very cool bar venue located inside a restored 1902 Victorian house. It was probably the most intimate big show I had ever attended: it was as if the Hives were playing in my living room, or rather on my porch – the stage was actually set up on the porch of the house and the crowd stood up in front of it, inside a patio. The venue is tiny, it probably doesn’t fit much more than 150 people (or even less) and the décor (prohibition bar ambiance) would rather suggest a burlesque show or a jazz quartet – the house smells “history,” and I have even read that it used to be a school for the children of Hollywood big shots such as Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B DeMille in the ‘30s. The place was not ready for the Swedish tornado, but honestly, what venue can be truly ready for this level of insanity?

Attending a Hives concert is always an invigorating experience, comparable to surviving a hurricane or a cyclone, but standing this close to frontman Pelle Almqvist gives a new name to concert participation. Taking the stage at the sound of a funeral march, they instantaneously exploded into their usual theatrics, and it took exactly two seconds for Almqvist to scream two cm from my face. If “too close for comfort” is the idea that comes to your mind, this concert was not for you:  Pelle rubbed his head against ours a few times, spit his water over our heads, made his way through the dense crowd many times, climbed the porch balustrade at countless occasions, and his mic cord often brushed our hair. He was restless as usual, constantly interacting with the crowd, and probably felt a bit frustrated by this cramped porch stage, but he certainly made the most of it.

Whatever the occasion, the Hives dress sharp: they were wearing their matching black and white lightning bolt suits and kept their vests till the end, despite the sweating stage workout. From “Bogus Operandi” to “Tick Tick Boom,” they unleashed the same insane energy, with barely a moment to catch their breath, restlessly bursting their garage rock energy at every corner of the stage and patio, howling in the mic, pounding on the drums as if there was no tomorrow – they actually had another show scheduled the next day. It was swagger with a capital S, fooling with people without being annoying, while Almqvist was screaming between each song: ”Laaaaadies and gentlemen…and everybody else.” Humor is a big part of a Hives show, and Almqvist effortlessly commanded the crowd at the tip of his fingers, making everyone sit or clap at will. However, fans knew that since the release of their well-named “Veni Vidi Vicious.” “The economy in the US is not great, I have heard,” he told us after just a few songs. “Have you seen the size of this stage? We used to play for thousands of thousands of thousands of thousands of thousands of tens of thousands of hundreds of thousands of people and tonight there are only two hundred lucky souls! This is not enough to satisfy my gigantic ego and this stage is kind of problematic for me to move around it, but I will do what I can.” He didn’t need to say anything to own the crowd, but people laughed and cheered up even more.

The band also had new material, as they played several cuts from their upcoming new album “The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons” – their first in 10 years and set to be released on August 11 – and the songs had their raw garage rock signature. “Rigor Mortis Radio” had even a bit of the Stooges, and the music was played so loud that it could have made our heads explode.

Chaos reigned and there never were five guys rocking harder than these Swedes: besides Pelle, Nicholaus Arson on lead guitar, Vigilante Carlstroem on rhythm guitar, drummer Chris Dangerous, and “The Johan and Only” on bass were all on fire. On top of this, they never took themselves seriously despite obvious success. The mythology behind the Hives is hilarious and more absurd than any story surrounding your average punk rock band. To explain the genesis of this new album in a recent press release, they have claimed that they haven’t heard from Randy Fitzsimmons, the mysterious person who got them together and writes their material, but they have nevertheless found demo tapes when digging Fitzsimmons’ alleged tombstone.

If they sweat their asses on stage and do everything they can to deliver a memorable show, their fans return the favor. I spoke to several people who had the intention to attend all their shows around LA, and some of them had even flown from far away to do so. “One more song from our soon-to-be award-winning album” yelled Almqvist. But they couldn’t leave without the hits, “Hate to Say I Told You So,” and “Tick Tick Boom” that they did during the encore. Whatever they played, it was efficient and fast, executed with incredible urgency and a burning desire to give everything in a burst of immature teenage energy: the true essence of rock and roll.

Setlist
Bogus Operandi
Main Offender
Walk Idiot Walk
Rigor Mortis Radio
Good Samaritan
Go Right Ahead
Stick Up
Hate to Say I Told You So
Trapdoor Solution
I’m Alive
Countdown to Shutdown

Encore:
Come On!
Tick Tick Boom

 

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