Minneapolis indie rockers Bad Bad Hats released their second studio album Lightning Round on August 3 and it’s been playing in my car on the regular ever since, so I was really excited when I had the chance to see them live this past Friday night at The Roxy.
The show marked the first headlining gig in LA for Bad Bad Hats and the band seemed pretty stoked to bring their infectiously catchy tunes to the Sunset Strip. Lead singer Kerry Alexander joked “I hope we become famous so you can tell all the generations to come about being here tonight.”
When I first walked into the venue I thought the turn out was underwhelming for such a great band, but by the time BBH took the stage, the room had filled up to a nice sized crowd. Large enough to make the show a success but small enough that I never had to brush up against anyone’s sweaty skin. Yay! Perhaps I’m not the only person who typically shows up only for the main act. Sorry Cumulus (opening act) I’m sure your set was as excellent as all the tracks I’ve heard.
Bad Bad Hats opened the show with “Makes Me Nervous”, the first track off the new album. As the song began, the stage curtains must have wanted to make the band a little nervous too, as they couldn’t decide if they wanted to go up or down, so for the intro of the song, the band was half visible to the crowd. Alexander, along with band mates Chris Hoge (guitar) , Connor Davison (bass) and Reese Kling (drums) all looked confused but kept it together until the curtain was finally fully raised. The crowd gave a little cheer. This small malfunction was not a precursor for the rest of the show because everything else to follow was nothing short of awesome.
Alexander told the crowd that she was inspired to write the power pop song after listening to a few radio hits, mentioning Tove Lo’s song “Habits (Stay High)” and thinking about how many songs use drugs as a metaphor for love. She told the crowd “ I thought…I’d like to write a song about that, but Ive never done drugs, Ive never been high.” Hence the literal title “Nothing Gets me High.”
The crowd laughed, some seemed in disbelief to hear the confession, as if someone couldn’t really be that innocent. But that’s all part of the charm to Alexander and her band and what I find so endearing about them. They are adorably sweet to watch. They play fun, catchy music that hooks you with simple melodies and overall their songs are, dare I say, wholesome lyrically — which I actually find refreshing in a music world that is often overly explicit.
Their performance and stage presence doesn’t rely on gimmicks or crazy outfits. The band members were all dressed super casual, in jeans and t-shirts. You could even see Alexander’s cell phone peaking out of her back pocket and a set of keys dangled from her belt loop. Can it get any more casual than that? Oh and let’s not forget to mention the sunglasses atop her head that mid way through the show she finally put on to emphasize a rock out moment. She joked ‘’And you all just thought I had forgotten I had sunglasses on my head.” The simplicity of the show made it feel like a good old fashioned house party, where everyone was there to vibe and dance with friends.
What made the show even more charming, besides all the emotive pop tunes, was the dead pan humor of Alexander, who liked to tell funny stories in between songs. She even coined a new term for their style as “indie slapstick” and I definitely agree, it’s a fitting description. She had the crowd giggling most of the night, with her little anecdotes told in her unique drawl.
Another super cute fact about BBH is that Alexander and Hoge, are a couple, so every time Alexander would introduce a song that was written about love or the more recently penned tunes that talk about the challenges of a long term relationship, Hoge couldn’t help but smile over at his girl. Ugh, so sweet!
They ended the set with fan favorite, “It Hurts”, which got the crowd dancing and singing along. Shortly after, they came back with two encore songs, and ended the night with “Super America”, a song from their self titled EP that is a perfect example of the wholesome type of lyrics I spoke of earlier. The chorus repeats…
“I want an Icee, and a nice boy to date
I want a Pepsi and a heart that won’t break
I want a Reese’s and a nice boy to date…’
As I walked home from the show, I had the lyrics stuck in my head so naturally I had to make a pit stop for some snacks at my Super America, aka 7-11…but I did not find anyone nice to date. You can’t win them all.
Words and photos by Betsy Martinez