The Hives Return To Houston

Swedish rockers The Hives are returning to Houston to perform at White Oak Music Hall on November 2.
Swedish rockers The Hives are returning to Houston to perform at White Oak Music Hall on November 2. Photo By Göran Broberg
Houstonians will have a new chance to get their faces melted off with the return of Swedish rock band The Hives to White Oak Music Hall on Tuesday, November 2.

“We will do that, that's what we do best,” says Niklas Almqvist lead guitarist and back up singer of the band's ability to burn it down for an audience. It’s their explosive on stage energy that has pushed them to be widely recognized as one of the best live acts in the world.

The Hives will be joined by The Mystery Lights and the event will have COVID-19 precautions in place including showing proof of vaccination or wearing a face mask for the concert.

The Hives have only recently gotten back to touring and in a short two weeks since their arrival from Sweden, they have already left a trail of great reviews rattling audiences from Florida to Atlanta’s Shaky Knees Festival. They will also be performing at Levitation Fest in Austin just a couple of days before their Houston show.

“It’s all great,” says Almqvist of returning to the stage. “It’s moving along pretty smoothly. Maybe there's still some hesitant feelings with the crowd to go into shows and stuff but for us, it's great to be back and to be up and running again.”

It is impossible to watch, listen to or read anything about The Hives without mention of the high levels of vitality among the band. Each band member and all of their songs are like grenades with freshly pulled pins.

So what did they do with all of that pent up energy for the past two years when they were forced to stop performing? According to Almqvist, they have been saving it for their return.

“We pretty much just put it in there,” he says of their pent up steam. “That's all we do with energy. It's all just accumulating energy to be able to do a show.”
The Hives broke into the mainstream with a string of hits in the 2000s like their instant hit “Hate To Say I Told you So” and “Tick Tick Boom” which put them front and center in the garage rock revival as they offered a welcomed respite from the other radio friendly trends of the time.

Despite being accepted by the powers that be, The Hives didn’t get to the airwaves by being a watered down version of an evolving genre. They have always come full force with their music and shown an ability to tap into the primitive force of rock and roll while playfully experimenting with newer sounds on each album.

“There was all that talk about saving rock and roll,” says Almqvist, thinking back on 20 years ago. “Saving rock and roll from what rock and roll was.”

Their five albums, personas and aesthetic have helped them to become one of the rare bands with mass appeal that can tour with almost anyone from The Arctic Monkey’s to Pink, who they played with at Houston’s Toyota Center in 2013. Almqvist remembers the “very tall fellows” of the Rockets watching the band do sound check.

“It’s always been the case for us,” he says of their ability to fit almost anywhere in the wide gamut of music venues and bills. “We were always kind of an oddball out. We didn't fit in in all the scenes. We can play for nine people, we can play for 9,000 people and we could play for 90,000 people, it was never an issue for us we can do anything. For us it's just shows really.”

“The past two years there’s been nothing really so now you're grateful just to get anything. A show in front of five people and you're happy. After two years of not doing anything if you haven't realized before, you realize how much you miss it when you're not doing it. It’s like a shark not getting to eat fresh meat.”

"After two years of not doing anything if you haven't realized before, you realize how much you miss it when you're not doing it. It’s like a shark not getting to eat fresh meat.”

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Almqvist says the band is sitting on about two albums worth of music at the moment and aren’t saving the new songs for the studio as they are already testing the tracks out in front of live audiences.

As a band who has somehow remained consistent in their approach, aesthetic and line up, with only one band member change in the last 20 years, while somehow sprinkling in new sounds and maintaining their signature sound, it’s an easy question to wonder if their new tracks will sound well, new.

“It’s hard to say, it all depends on what sort of sound you think is new. For some people The Hives change all the time. I really like the way that we change from record to record but for some people that change is not as dramatic as it is for other people. Some people can hear that change, but some people think that it sounds exactly the same.”

“They are new songs but if anything, they are very much Hives songs so if you like The Hives sound then that's your bag.”

Formed in 1993 with Almqvist and his brother and lead singer Pelle Almqvist, the band never intended to go beyond three albums as they assumed they would be done by then.

“We thought we would be too old after three albums,” he says. “You couldn't be an old rock band and then we played with the Stones,” he says, remembering chatting with Mick Jagger in his dressing room where the legend had fruit and a treadmill.

“They did the show and they played for like three hours with him just like running all over the stage all the time and us bordering on 30 then and thinking, fuck this guy is 70 years old and he’s in better shape than we are. We gotta step it up a notch.”

The brothers began playing and recording at the ages of five and six when an older neighborhood kid turned them onto AC/DC. Their father, an avid jazz and blues lover, encouraged their interest in music.

Now as they look out into the crowds, Almqvist says he sees a nice mix of ages and is hopeful for the future of rock and roll. “We have people of all ages coming to our show. You have to attract the younger crowd. If you only attract people your own age, that music will die with you but if you're constantly attracting new fans that music lives.”

The Hives will perform with The Mystery Lights on Tuesday, November 2 at White Oak Music Hall, 2915 N. Main, 7 p.m., $27
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes