The Hives

I Saw Them Live! Memories From a Show with The Hives

Portland music fans come in all shapes and sizes, but the one thing that unites them is their enthusiasm.  They may not know how to dance, and they may not know all the words to a song, but dammit they’ll clap and yell like hell to show their appreciation.   Usually when a band like The Flaming Lips tells a Portland audience at this crowd is “the loudest they’ve ever heard,” the assumption is that they’re being polite; however, considering the sheer number of bands who as they pass through the Pacific Northwest take the time remark about the intensity of the crowds, the evidence indicates that this is a genuine fact.* But sometimes the Portland crowd’s passion gets the best of them.

Though The Hives have faded a bit from the mainstream, they still remain one of the best live shows that you can go see.  Singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist always is a delight with his theatrics and stage mannerisms, and drummer Chris Dangerous is worth the price of admission alone as he flies through each song at warp speed while at the same time keeping perfect time.  A couple of years back, due to a scheduling snafu, we had tickets for two concerts at the same time, and as a result we had to race across town and were able to catch only the last ten minutes of The Hives’s set.  But even though we only heard the last three songs, we still came out feeling pumped and eager to share the fun that we had, including the fact that Pelle had the audience on the floor at one point.

My favorite memory of The Hives is from a show they performed back in 2008 at the Roseland Theater, in support of The Black and White Album.  Even though there was an extra-long delay between the opener and the main act, the band was quickly able to win over the crowd with their infectious energy and an absolutely blistering performance, as they tore into all their hits from Tyrannosaurus Hives and Veni Vedi Vicious.  At one point in the show, Pelle climbed up a giant stack of amplifiers and into the Roseland’s balcony to sing one of their songs, a feat that I haven’t seen replicated since.  Each member got their time to shine, and the crowd ate it up.

As expected, the band left their mega-hit “Hate To Say I Told You So” for the encore, and when Nikolaus Arson launched into that memorable riff, the crowd lost their minds.  Everything was fine until the band hit the breakdown, when Dr. Matt Destruction received his moment in the spotlight as he played the riff on his bass.  There he was, motoring along, and the crowd was clapping right there with him, except…the audience was seriously dragging behind the beat and everything sounded like ass.  Dr. Matt Destruction, being the professional that he is, didn’t miss a beat and kept chugging along.  Meanwhile, Pelle heard the carnage that was taking place, and his face clearly indicated that he felt shocked and appalled at what he was witnessing.  He looked to the crowd, and asked the immortal question in his best Swedish-accented English:

“Port Land…Where’s your rhythm?!!??!”**

Pelle then proceeded to clap, and set the beat for us, and eventually order was restored.  I will never forget that moment, though I get constant reminders whenever I go to a show and I see Portland’s “rhythm” in action.  And thus, I can say that this Treme clip is just about the most accurate comment about Portland ever seen on television.

*Makes those “records” that you see for loudest crowd at Autzen Stadium in Eugene and CenturyLink Field in Seattle seem a bit more accurate, and not just the result of fancy acoustics.  Also, having seen shows on both coasts, I can speak to the volume of Portland crowds personally, for what it’s worth.

**Note: the emphasis on each syllable of ‘Portland’ is something that Pelle did throughout the night, and is an accurate transcription.

The Best Songs That Use Sleigh Bells

It’s time once again for another list, but this time we have one that’s a bit more season-appropriate.  Rust Is Just Right is ready to present to you the somewhat-definitive list of the “10 Best Songs That Use Sleigh Bells” that are in no way affiliated with Christmas.

10.  Death Cab for Cutie – “You Can Do Better Than Me”.  A selection that implies “we needed one more song to fill out this list” in more ways than one.

9. Grizzly Bear – “Ready, Able”.  A lot of people love this single off the excellent album Veckatimest, but it always felt a little incomplete for me.  But Grizzly Bear gets this spot because they often use a lot of unique percussion to great effect and should get credit for that effort, and I am at least certain that sleigh bells make an appearance (even if it’s a faint one) in this particular song.

8. Wilco – “Outta Mind (Outta Site)”.  While the raucous “Outtaside (Outta Mind)” has a nifty video, it’s the stripped-down reprise that’s augmented by the cheerful sound of sleigh bells.

7. The Replacements – “Kiss Me On The Bus”.  One of the highlights of the classic album Tim, you can hear the sleigh bells make their appearance on the final chorus, providing an intriguing color to the music.

6. Eric B. and Rakim – “Microphone Fiend”.  Built on a sample of Average White Band’s “Schoolboy Crush”, this is one of the landmark singles from the Golden Age of Hip-Hop and still sounds great today.  Always good to hear a smooth operator operating correctly.

5. The Walkmen – “Nightingales”.  The Walkmen were definitely not strangers to the allure of the sleigh bells, sprinkling their sound throughout their career, most notably on multiple songs from the beloved Bows + Arrows.  But we’re going to give the honor to this lovely track from their swan song Heaven, since it includes moments where the sleigh bells are given their time to shine.

4. The Hives – “Walk Idiot Walk”.  What should a band do as a follow-up for their huge break into the American charts?  If you’re The Hives, you write a single that uses the sleigh bells to keep time in the chorus for no particular reason.  If anything, it at least gives some insight to the casual listener that The Hives are willing to look outside the box of traditional garage rock sounds.  It’s too bad that Tyrannosaurus Hives has been neglected over the years, since it’s a fantastic album.

3. The Beach Boys – “God Only Knows”.  When you fill out your sound with a hundred-piece orchestra, you’re bound to have someone playing sleigh bells for some songs.  We’re going to go with one of the most beautiful songs in the deep catalog of the Beach Boys with this one.

2. Radiohead – “Airbag”.  Radiohead kicks off one of the defining albums of the 90’s with the sound of sleigh bells over sliced-up drum tracks, adding a touch of humanity to an opus about the haunting alienation of technology.  In a song about being miraculously saved from a car wreck, are we to assume that Santa was the savior?

1. The Stooges – “I Wanna Be Your Dog”

I don’t think there’s any argument here with this choice for the top spot.  Once you notice that insistent sleigh bells part chugging along with the rest of those buzzsaw guitars and ramshackle drums, it’s hard to get out of your head, and it adds a strange psychedelic element to the entire enterprise.

So there you have it–the greatest non-traditional Christmas song is “I Wanna Be Your Dog”.  Be sure to include it in your setlist tonight when you’re out caroling!