Haim, Shy Girls
Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro
Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The sisterhood of Haim comes with denim and top knots, but if you can find a miniskirt or a pair of cutoffs, you’re in the club. At a sold-out Cat’s Cradle on Tuesday night, there were plenty of both. There were middle-schoolers and a member of Superchunk, too. There were women, and there were men. All told, the congregation’s real unifying factor seemed to be a love of sweet riffs and earworms, delivered like sugar and sent back to the stage in shouts.

Indeed, the crowd’s fervor was one of last night’s most winsome elements, a twin testament to the notion that popular music isn’t necessarily terrible and that letting the band onstage know you’re enjoying the show isn’t a sin. The opener (Shy Girls, made entirely of men) was a falsetto, mid-tempo bore, dependent upon a few unfortunate electronic samples. The moment Haim took the stage, however, the evening went electric. The trio (plus a drummer and keyboardist) has shaped their modest repertoire into a full set and to a fine point, too, capable of shuffling between upbeat and contemplative numbers without losing audience enthusiasm.

Guitarist and primary vocalist Danielle Haim (who visited Carrboro once before, on a tour about five years ago in Jenny Lewis’ band) managed a shred-fest bravado that was endearing and impressive, without succumbing to any obvious circus tricks. Even when Este Haim (you know, the one that makes the bass face) decided she’d mark an item off the bucket list and climb atop the shoulders of a security guard while sporting her instrument, the move felt less like showboating than a genuinely good time.

Fissures in the set were small but detectable: At one point, they encouraged their fans to get wild before “Honey & I,” which isn’t a number known for doing just that. Some of the extended instrumentals became mechanisms by which to stretch a small set of songs. The banter got a little redundant, although the band’s ostensible joy at playing show after successful show was redeeming.

So many of the elements that make a performance euphoric are intangible—a vague energy that emanates from performers who are totally stoked about being in front of you, about the way their fingers move between the frets and do something remarkable, maybe magical. For a band that’s been playing the same 11 songs since last September, Haim approached each number with an elevated sense of purpose. Put simply, they wanted to be in Carrboro on a balmy night in May just as much as the 800 or so fans stuffed into the Cat’s Cradle wanted to sing along to “The Wire.”

Sometimes, bands and fans meet exactly in the middle, reaching across the divide just long enough to slap a high five and think, “This is worth the gas money.” For me and (seemingly) most people in the room, including the ones on the stage, that’s how last night felt, too.