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Friday, November 2, 2007

Last night’s Hives show at Showbox Sodo, as reviewed by my hives.

posted by on November 2 at 15:19 PM

We have to start with a bit of autobiography. The other week, I got hives. No idea where they came from. Never had hives before. All I know is I woke up in the middle of the night feeling itchy, and when I turned on the light and stood in front of a mirror, my naked body was covered in sweaty welts. My back looked like bubblewrap, except the bubbles were, you know, skin. Dripping with sweat. My outer thighs, my inner thighs, my elbows, my wrists, my hands—wet bubblewrap. I had dots across my face and in my lips and eyelids. This had never happened to me before, so it felt like it wasn’t happening. But it was happening.

The doctor’s can’t figure it out—according to my dermatologist, they only ever find the cause of 1 out of every 100 cases of hives. (Because I know someone in comments will want to know: hadn’t changed laundry detergent, hadn’t eaten anything weird, wasn’t on any new medication, etc., etc.) I’ve been dumping a pharmaceutical product called Xyzal into my body for a couple weeks now to keep the hives at bay, and doctors say they’ll go away if I keep up this treatment.

So my hives weren’t out in full force at the Hives show last night, although they are apparently still under my skin somewhere, inconspicuous. From a medical standpoint, hives thrive on stress, and the Hives play a very fast, frantic kind of garage rock that could be construed as stressful. Also, hives thrive on foreign elements, and the Hives are from Sweden. However, hives, the condition, are not so big on irony, what with the force and directness that they come at you—no subtext, no relief—but the Hives are really big on irony, what with “The Hives” written in narrow red neon cursive across the wall behind the band, like some sort of corporate throwback, and frontman Pelle Almqvist’s banter is knowing, you’re-at-a-rock-show banter, of the slightly tiring variety.

Like, for example, after the first song he said, “Take out your ticket stub and have a look at it. It says, ‘The Hives’!” And later, “We’re playing both kinds of music tonight. Rock and roll.” And later, “If there were an election right now and you had to choose between rock and roll and other types of music, how many of you would choose rock and roll?” And so on.

My hives wanted to hear the Hives song that was big, you know, a while ago, whenever that was—it wasn’t “Fell In Love with a Girl,” that’s another band, and it wasn’t “Last Night,” that’s also another band—although the Hives song that was big was big right around the time “Fell In Love with a Girl” and “Last Night” were big. But my hives, having histamines for brains, couldn’t remember what the big Hives song was, although, experts at sense memory that hives are, they were pretty sure they’d remember the song once they heard it. They were playing a lot of newer material, the Hives, and seemed sort of annoyed that the audience wasn’t as into the new material as they wanted them to be—“Some of you look like you’re still a little tired from Halloween or something,” Almqvist said, which was crazy, because plenty of people down front were into it, even if the rest of us were sequestered in the back, behind a gate, because we were drinking—and anyway my hives left the Hives show thinking that they’d just stuck to mostly newer material, never playing their big song from years ago, whatever that song was.

Then my hives checked the iTunes stores after the show to see what that big song was, because iTunes (for whatever else it doesn’t know) does know about hits, and it turns out the Hives did play their big song—“Hard to Say I Told You So,” with its refrain: “because I wanna…”—and my hives just didn’t recognize it. Does this mean it’s not a good song after all? My hives have no idea. My hives are not a music critic.

Some guy sitting at a table up in the side bar had no hesitation about how good he thought the Hives were. He was drunk and bald and said to his not-bald friend during the encore, “Fucking razor sharp, man.” The not-bald guy said, “Timing was fucking impeccable.” The bald guy nodded, “My new favorite band.” The not-bald guy weirdly produced some eye drops—was he having some kind of reaction to something?—tipped his head back, and dripped some drops into his eyes. When he brought his head forward again, he had eye-drop tears running down his cheeks. His bald friend leaned over to wipe a tear from his friend’s face, and his friend recoiled and said, “Don’t touch me.” We were, after all, in Sodo.

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The "New Favorite Band" remark could be a reference to Hives stage banter from years past. When I saw them six years ago, Howlin' Pelle must've said "We are your new favorite band, the Hives" about 50,000 times over the course of a 45-minute set.

Posted by Hernandez | November 2, 2007 3:30 PM

Awesome review. Laughed my ass off.

"But my hives, having histamines for brains, couldnít remember what the big Hives song was."

Now THAT is interesting perspective.

What if the Hives were opening for the Shins - and you had hives on your shins?

Posted by trent moorman | November 2, 2007 3:41 PM

Ah! I DID have hives on my shins...

Posted by christopher Frizzelle | November 2, 2007 3:44 PM

Ok, I've got it - it's Hives opening for Shins with hives on the shins, and the Hives play that "Voulez vous coucher avec moi, ce soir" song (Patti Labelle?) and it goes:

"Itchy Kitchy ya ya da da"?

That's a stretch. I know. Do hives itch?

Posted by trent moorman | November 2, 2007 4:10 PM

um, YES.

Posted by christopher Frizzelle | November 2, 2007 4:19 PM

@1: Your New Favorite Band is the title of a Hives greatest hits CD. Yes, I actually said, 'Hives greatest hits'.

So, I saw the show last night. Or at least, part of it. Left one or two songs after 'Hate (not Hard) to Say I Told You So' (yes, I recognized it; I love that song). Also liked a few songs from the new album, like Try It Again. Yeah, the music's not terribly innovative, but it does rawk, and sometimes that's all you need.

No, what got me out of there early was a distaste for their live show, which grew with every minute. I'd never seen them perform before. I honestly had no idea that this band would seem so contrived, so manufactured. Like every little gesture, expression, movement, bit of banter, even the singer's fake Jagger-esque accent, was completely calculated. The way the singer kept begging, no demanding, that the audience applaud, got old really fast. And every time he extolled the residents of 'Seattle Washington' to clap and cheer louder, it just felt like he was working from a script for [insert city name here]. So yeah, I guess he was being ironic. At least, I hope so. Either way, I lost interest.

"What if the Hives were opening for the Shins - and you had hives on your shins?"

You'd probably have to give your Shins a few Strokes then, I guess.

PS - Hives can be a sign of something more serious going on. And in severe cases, it can involve your larynx and cause acute airway obstruction. Just sayin'.

Posted by rkpetersen | November 2, 2007 8:00 PM

The Hives stage banter is contrived and over the top for a reason, its supposed to be funny and to make you laugh.

Its a clever joke that might wear thin if you believe that they honestly think they are the greatest band in the world.

Posted by mcarman | November 3, 2007 11:35 AM

There's a fine line between stupid and clever.

Posted by rkpetersen | November 3, 2007 12:40 PM

Oh my gosh, wow this review is not really all that good. You didn't even get the name of the hit song right. I am by no means a huge hives fan (or at least I wasn't). I thought the show was great, very entertaining. Not contrived at all, the comments by the lead singer were very tongue and cheek. I thought it was funny, and I think most normal people would too. They are from sweden, so I would imagine that is where the accent comes from. They just rocked, what more can you ask for for 12 bucks?

Posted by dave | November 4, 2007 9:48 PM

Nice job. I just hope you never review Throbbing Gristle.

Posted by E. Steven | November 7, 2007 3:45 PM

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