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MERRY SKULL BITES: The Hives @ The Roxy 12/2001

"The Hives were already a couple of songs into their set and what I saw and heard left me slack-jawed and thoroughly blissed-out. The band was tighter than a frog's ass, viciously pounding their grooves home, with a singer who dominated the stage like a young Jagger in the packed club. How can you not love a singer named Howlin' Pelle Almqvist?"

by David Weiss


A few months ago, as I dozed in front of the telly in the wee, wee hours, I was jolted wide-awake by what turned out to be the rawest, truest rock and roll that I have heard in quite some time. A singer, manic and bug-eyed, yelped and strutted with gleeful abandon. "Be ignored by the stiff and the bored, because I'm Gonna!" he shouted. OK, you've got my attention. The video was unusually simple and creative; a simple white backdrop left plenty of room to showcase the band's over the top performance style. Some well-placed and tastefully restrained graphic effects enhanced the video--for once. The band too performed with feverish intensity. The bassist, looking like a refugee from behind a fast food counter, attacked his bass like it owed him money all the while pursing his lips insolently in classic rock face. WHO THE FUCK ARE THESE GUYS?! I thought, by now bolt upright. This was my introduction to The Hives, and the song was Hate to Say I Told You So, a feverish slab of 60's garage rock with a high-octane blast of unalloyed punk rock energy. As the first bars of the tune blasted forth (and blast it did, even at low volume) I leapt off the couch, popped a videocassette into the VCR and hit Record, determined to capture what had roused me from my middle-of-the night torpor.

My next stop was the Internet where I found the band's label, Burning Heart Records, out of Sweden. I immediately ordered 'Veni, Vedi, Vicious' (the Digipack includes 3 videos, and it's cheap!) AND a t-shirt, so thoroughly besotted was I after seeing a mere one song on video. Although I am a stalwart music fan, it is a rare band that spurs me to this kind of immediate action to discover more about a group.

Imagine my thrill when, some weeks later in December, I opened the L.A. Weekly on a Friday night and saw that the band was at the Roxy opening for the International Noise Conspiracy (another Burning Heart band). I called the club only to hear that both of the shows (one on a Friday night, the other on a Sunday) were sold out. Undeterred, I high-tailed it to the Strip and got there good and early. The first person I ran into was my old S.F. acquaintance Steve DePace of Flipper, who had just given his one spare ticket away to an extremely grateful young punk rocker. SHIT!! I stood beside the will-call line and asked, "extra ticket? Extra ticket?" to everyone and anyone that came up to the window. After less than 10 minutes, a guy said, "let's see if my friend shows up, if he doesn't you can have this ticket". His friend didn't show, and I was in, YES!! (For $5 too!) I made my way into the packed club. The Hives were already a couple of songs into their set and what I saw and heard left me slack-jawed and thoroughly blissed-out. The band was tighter than a frog's ass, viciously pounding their grooves home, with a singer who dominated the stage like a young Jagger in the packed club. How can you not love a singer named Howlin' Pelle Almqvist? The resemblance to Jagger didn't end there either. The haircut and physique were not unlike Mick circa '65 or so. He twirled the mike by it's cord, always catching it precisely when his next phrase began, leapt about like a madman, and incited the crowd to frenzy. He had more moves than a Swiss watch and complete command with which to put them across. The band looked just like they do on their CD cover: black pants and shirts with white shoes and ties. The guitarists one thin, one thick, blasted their parts with sweaty precision. The drummer was a rock and roll revelation, driving every tune home with unflagging energy and gusto. The aforementioned bassist thundered on his Rickenbacker and anchored the whole joyous din. The lot of them has great punk rock monikers: Vigilante Carlstroem, Nicholaus Arson, Dr Matt Destruction, and Chris Dangerous!

In between songs, Pelle was Ali-like, rapping about how great his band was and how L.A. music sucked. "There is a lot of bad music coming out of this town and The Hives are here to play some great music for you people for a change!!" "Say hello, to your favorite band, The Hives!" He held his arms out straight in front of him and clapped his hands, demonstrating what the crowd was supposed to do. They did not need to be told twice. Such patter might have fallen flat, but he was endearing and funny. I found myself laughing out loud more than once. The crowd roared after each song. Highly unusual for unknowns playing Los Angeles, but no other reaction could have greeted the uproarious and refreshing torrent of energy pouring off the stage.

The crowd was there for the International Noise Conspiracy whom I enjoyed, but not enough to stay for more than 4 songs.

Two nights later, on Sunday, I headed back down to the Roxy. This time, I was not as fortunate and had to fork over $25 for a scalped ticket in front of the club. It was, of course, more than worth it.

"Do what I please, gonna spread the disease, Because I Wanna!"

Veni, Vidi, Vicious indeed!


Bored and razzed in New York City, David Michael Weiss moved to San Francisco in his early twenties. After nine years of mostly unbroken debauchery and casousing (yes that's spelled right) with sporadic employment to break the monotony, he relocated to the smog-bound megalopolis of Los Angeles. Once there he put together several bands, one of which - SlackJaw Blues - has released 2 cd's and criss-crossed the U.S. on numerous tours, playing holes-in-the-wall as well as numerous music festivals. The band's most recent tour in the summer of 2001 found them playing at the renowned Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, OR opening for Los Lobos.

A die-hard music fan as well as musician, over the years David has seen Bob Marley & The Wailers live at The Apollo in N.Y.C. (twice!), Miles Davis several times, as well as everyone from Sonny Rollins to The Sex Pistols, John McLaughlin, Tom Waits, Nirvana, and of course, The Hives, his favorite new band. He currently resides in the seaside hamlet of Venice, California and runs his own marketing and consulting company.

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