Happy Hives-o-ween to all that celebrate!
I had Halloween circled on my calendar for quite a while because that was the night that The Hives, aka the self-proclaimed Champagne of Bands, aka The Best Live Band on the Planet, were bringing their rock n’ roll might to Union Stage at The Wharf. The Hives are known worldwide for taking large venues and making them feel smaller with their high-energy shows that demand crowd participation.
How would they handle a big show at a tiny venue?
By performing as much of it on the barricade as the stage.
It started during the first song and it didn’t stop all night. Lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist (HPA) moved back-and-forth from the stage to the barricade (and sometimes on top of the barricade) time and time again, an endless parade of in-your-face performance that couldn’t have gone over better. Lead guitarist Nicolaus Arson wasn’t far behind and didn’t hesitate to hoist himself and his guitar into the fans with abandon.
The action was intense and non-stop. In my three songs in the miniscule photo pit on Oct. 31, I got hit with a guitar, kicked multiple times, hit in the face with the mic cord, shooed out of the way by HPA’s foot, sweated on and had drinks spilled on me. It was GLORIOUS.
When I was done shooting and had a chance to actually watch the show, I was really amazed by HPA’s insistence on physically touching everyone in the first few rows in one way or another. He let people sing into the mic, and he gave handshakes, high fives, gentle head butts and head pats to everyone within his reach. It was a real pro move, embracing the fans that got there early for the good spots on the rail, each one no doubt felt invested and involved with the show. He also crowd-surfed during the second song. Why wait?
The reason The Hives were playing their first DC show in 10 years is their excellent new album, The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons. Packed full of they type of high-energy punk anthems the band is so good at, the new tunes formed the base of the setlist, including singles “Bogus Operandi,” “Countdown to Shutdown,” “Rigor Mortis Radio,” and “Trapdoor Solution.” “Countdown to Shutdown” in particular sounded absolutely mega and has a drop that is as good as anything that you’ll hear in the Sahara Tent at Coachella. They of course played their hits “Hate to Say I Told You So,” “Tick Tick Boom,” and “Main Offender.”
Watch The Hives perform “Hate to Say I Told You So” live at Union Stage in DC via YouTube:
HPA was his loquacious self, constantly goading the crowd into making noise if he deemed the venue too quiet. “If the Hives are not making noise, you should be making noise,” he told the crowd. Guitarist Vigilante Carlstrom, bassist The Johan and Only, and drummer Chris Dangerous mostly kept to the back and kept the show rolling, each playing their parts perfectly. Also worth noting were the band’s two roadies, constantly untangling wires, repositioning stage monitors and occasionally playing tambourine. And for the record, they dress as ninjas for every show, not just for Halloween.
Walk Idiot Walk
Rigor Mortis Radio
Go Right Ahead
Hate to Say I Told You So
Smoke & Mirrors
Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones
Countdown to Shutdown
Tick Tick Boom
Here are some photos of The Hives at Union Stage on Oct. 31, 2023. All pictures by Kyle Gustafson.