Concert Review: HAERTS @ 9:30 Club (8/4/17)

HAERTS @ 9:30 Club on Aug.4th (Photo from band’s FB; Credit: @williamaubreyreynolds)

HAERTS were on fire in DC!

As the line to enter the 9:30 Club at doors open snaked around the corner of the block (beyond Haikan) on Friday, August 4th, you could be forgiven for asking, ‘Who’s playing?’

The answer, surprisingly for some, was Michelle Branch – who took 14 years to put out a new record. Her show was good, but let’s talk about her opening band, HAERTS.

Arranged before the stage’s dark shimmering blue backdrop, HAERTS kicked off their 8-song set with a new song, “No Love for the Wild”.

HAERTS is an indie pop band, primarily Nini Fabi and Benjamin Gebert, with three backing band members while on tour.

“No Love for the Wild” highlights Nini’s powerful voice and (take a deep breath) her unwavering ability to sing very long notes with an extended breath. And she did it so often throughout the night, you almost started to take it for granted.

Nini and Benjamin both hail from Germany and formed HAERTS in New York City a mere six years ago.

While they don’t yet have a second album (their first, Haerts, came out in 2014) to promote on this tour, they do have new music! In addition to the opening song, they later played “Your Love”, released earlier this year, that transcends into a pleading and hauntingly sincere chorus about not wanting anything less than real love.

I discovered HAERTS about the time of their first album, and saw them perform at the 2014 Firefly Music Festival. One of my favorite songs from them is “Hemiplegia”, and Nini’s voice is like a relaxing meditation that slowly builds until the final musical crescendo at the end, one of the many joys of listening to the song.

The drummer was especially energetic, and the guy on the pedal steel guitar appeared to be tweaking a giant Etch-a-Sketch, where an occasional requisite twang would push forward into our consciousness. Benjamin played guitar and keyboards, while another backing member played bass. (Sorry I don’t know names.)

One of the few tidbits that Nini shared with the packed crowd was that HAERTS played their very first live show in DC. (I believe it was at U Street Music Hall in 2013.)

“Wings” was their first single back in 2013, and the lyrics were less sang in 9:30’s vast room than crooned, “I knooooow you want it.” During the melodic force of this song, there is a surprising change of style when Nini sings the line “The Sky will melt in tears”, where the word ‘Sky’ sounds like an ethereal or angelic declaration. Almost as if someone new was inviting us to join them up in the sky.

They closed with the rocking “All the Days”. There were a number of stretches were the lyrics paused while guitars, keyboard and drums blended together and intensified towards a repeated burst of lyrics “All the days we had togetheeeeeeer.”

All the songs we had together with HAERTS were gratifying. Yet somehow, not enough.

No Love for the Wild
Your Love
All the Days

(Coda: During Michelle Branch’s show I say, “The drummer really looks like The Black Keys dude.” Friend says, “Yeah, he really does have a Black Keys vibe.” Fast forward to later in the set to when Michelle introduces the band, “Now for the guys. On drums is Patrick Carney!” Both of us look at each other and say “Whoa!” It just goes to show you, there can be only one Patrick Carney.)

Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

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