(Oh boy! Please welcome my friend Kitty Amsbry of Gimme A Wristband here on the ol' Popthomology! Kitty was kind enough to review this UNREAL GOOD show we saw together the other night, leaving me to take the photos (and a little surprise video). Thank you, Kitty, and a trillion thanks as well to Suzi Pratt for kind help in securing a pit place. JOY! Here's what Kitty had to say!)

Fast, loud and furious, it was clear from the start that Orange County’s FIDLAR are the kind of guys who are down to get into a little bit of dangerous fun. They proudly represent the sound and feel of of late ‘70s Cali punk and drove the point home with a cocky cover of Fear’s “I Don’t Care About You.” (ed. ~The band comes by it naturally: drummer Max Kuehn and his guitarist brother Elvis Kuehn are the sons of one of the members of iconic punk band T.S.O.L.) Tempered with just the right amount of slickness and old school (read: good) Weezer-esque hooks and cheerful drunken honesty, FIDLAR puts in the effort to make these comparisons work for them. They most definitely rock, and their unwavering confidence made FIDLAR a great choice to open for the kings of onstage bravado, The Hives.

(Click on the photos to enlarge and click on the Flickr links for more!)

After their roadies, who were dressed like ninjas (seriously!), quickly prepped the stage, The Hives quite literally leapt into the spotlights looking like demented wedding crashers, wearing matching top hats and tails. And just like at those once-in-a-blue-moon weddings that actually turn out to be really fun, the Hives quickly stripped down to their waistcoats and then some. Tucking into some serious Swedish garage-pop action, there was no mistake that this band was in it to win it. They might truly be the Hardest Working Band In Showbiz, and definitely the most fun.

This was my first time seeing The Hives, and while I had read about how they’re rated as one of the best live bands in the world blah blah blah, I was not prepared to be so, well… delighted. Every single person at the Showbox was captivated, just flat-out charmed. Singer Howlin’ Pelle Almquist has onstage cojones as big as his huge, anime-sized eyes. Like volunteers at a hypnotist sideshow, we gleefully submitted to Almqvist’s many demands for participation which were all very sweetly delivered with lots of “Ladies… and Gentlemen…Ladies and Gentlemen!” Howlin’ Pelle wants the entire audience to crouch down on the floor during “Tick Tick Boom?” You betcha! And without a moments hesitation, everyone in the joint is down on the floor and happy as hell about it. Really, it’s the very least we can do for a dude who repeatedly sang from on top of the bass drum to jump off with a high-kick flourish, throwing himself into the crowd to lay atop our outstretched hands like a Swedish supplicant on the altar of all that is Rock.

I’d say that guitarist (and Pelle’s brother) Nicholaus Arson set the place on fire, but you’d have a hard time burning anything on that stage because of all spitting he did. Now, you’re probably thinking “Eww grooooossss.” But nah. Somehow when it’s mixed with insanely awesome guitar playing and running around like those cartoon characters who jump straight up and start paddling their feet in mid-air, we don’t mind the spitting. In fact, we LOVE the spitting. We applauded every expectoration and cheered Pelle’s glorious spray of Evian. It’s as if these guys were having so much fun with the whole shebang that THEY WERE LEAKING FLUIDS. All of the Hives (Almquist, Arson, Vigilante Carlstroem on guitar, Dr. Matt Destruction on bass, and Chris Dangerous on drums) gave 100% at all times, and it was surprising that they didn’t explode in flaming black-and-white confetti pieces by the end.

The Hives played balls-out start to finish and the all-ages crowd lapped up every last serving from the set list. The icing on the wedding cake was Rob Lind of proto-punk garage godfathers the Sonics coming out to play saxophone along on the Sonics’ own garage-rock classic “Have Love Will Travel,” which fit the Hives’ style perfectly.

(ed. ~ Here's my iPhone video of the Hives and Rob Lind playing "Go Right Ahead," from the Hives' latest album "Lex Hives," and the fantastic "Have Love Will Travel," first done by the Sonics in 1965. I know it's not the best quality, but this moment HAD to be documented! WOOO!)

I think The Hives are a band that everyone should see at least once in their lives. I know I’ll never forget the experience of having my Hives cherry popped, and you can bet I won’t be the only one coming back for more.

(ed. ~ agreed!)