Haim / Death At Sea - Manchester Deaf Institute, 13 November 2012 15

Haim / Death At Sea – Manchester Deaf Institute, 13 November 2012

Of course the big draw tonight were the much vaunted headliners, but to be brutally frank, we were as keen to see Death At Sea. They’re a band we’ve been watching for some time, quite literally as it happens. We were impressed in a ‘good developing band’ sort of way back in May, when we caught them opening for Twilight Sad, struggling manfully on that occasion with an audience that had it’s mind elsewhere. It’s a rite of passage bands have to go through, even as in this case, in their home town, and it’s a mark of kudos that they still gave it their all.


Then in August this year, without knowledge aforethought, we saw them once again on their Liverpool home turf. This time round, they were opening up for Palma Violets and Savages, a night when the place got blown apart, and then those shrinking Violet lads got themselves locked up. Despite the sense of occasion for the headliners, it was Death At Sea that opened my eyes. I knew there was something up when my editor kept texting me while I was queuing to make sure I didn’t miss them. He was quite right, to the extent that I actually googled my own blog from inside the venue just to double check that this was in fact one and the same band, so far had they progressed. Yup, sure enough!

They were so striking that the idea had hung around in my mind ever since, a question really, of whether they had simply been egged on by the occasion to play wildly out of their skins? Tonight soon told though, and very far from any slide back to mediocrity, they’d only gone and got about 50% better again! Absolutely no chance of audience inattention tonight. If they keep going exponentially like this, something is going to explode, there’ll be blood and guts everywhere. Hyperbole aside, they looked comfortable and confident on stage, with the right mix of self-assuredness and utter snot. Melodic, even as they staggered and clenched together like drunken boxers; they got the tunes even if front-man Ralph Kinsella’s charity shop jumper did make him look like an extra from an 80’s episode of Brookside. He had the good grace to say “Last time we played Manchester we were shit”. Not tonight boys you weren’t boys, not at all. That ‘5-piece with three guitar’s formula is a statement of intent about how they see the future of music, and we’re right there with them.

By the time Haim got on stage, it was clear that they were a much bigger deal than I’d been expecting. Rabid, that’s what their fans are, and the Deaf Institute, with it’s hemmed in Dickensian lecture theatre shape and hanging gallery, is just the place to pressure cook yourselves some emotions. Three Californian sisters and a drummer named Tim – I bet he keeps out of any arguments.


I had to check their provenance, since when do Californians say ‘Fucken’eh’? For anyone who might have been fooled by their jaunty single and clean cut image (ahem, that’d be me), it was shocking just how much they rocked, in a shredding, face-pulling, lead guitar solo sort of way. This was frantic but blissed out west coast rock par excellence. They might joke that now that they no longer tour with Mama and Papa Haim, they’ve given up the Santana covers, but trust me on this, like a Catholic upbringing, that sort of influence can never be rinsed out. By now it was getting a bit frantic in there. I’d been a good little trooper and got there early to snag my stage front spot, but there were kids barrelling up so enthusiastic they couldn’t be denied. One girl was desperate to shout out the lyrics and managed that trick, we’ve all been there, of screaming them really loud at the wrong moment, and into the only quiet bit of the whole set. Sister Alana cracked up, loudly sympathising, declaring this girl the queen of the night, and who’d we be to deny that?
Given that there seem to be about four Haim tracks on the whole wide internet, I was doubly impressed by the devotion shown by most of the crowd knowing every single word to every single song. Sister Este declared it the best night of the best tour ever, and I totally believed her conviction on that, especially when she declared that Manchester might just be the place she gets pregnant. She’ll have to master the language first. There was an anecdote about how she’d done her tour laundry that day, and her dress, once knee-length, had shrunk and would now barely cover her ass. “Show us it then!” came the inevitable shout, in a male Manc accent. “Say what?” “Show us it!” “What? Josephine??? Who’s Josephine?”. As well as Tim behind his kit, there were hefty floor drums set up for each of the girls, and the night got even more sweaty as they finished off the set with current single ‘Forever’ segueing out into a climax of tribal drumming before they crashed off the stage. It was a religious revival in there, it really was.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.