On Wednesday, just after sundown, some 50 Haim fans found themselves packed into Petworth’s Call Your Mother deli.
For fans, it all happened fast. The tour was announced on Monday via Instagram, and confirmation emails were sent out to selected guests around 10 AM yesterday. Guests were instructed to RSVP by 2 PM and pick up wrist bands from Kramerbooks by 6.
As I headed out to Kramer’s to pick up my own wristband, the vibe in my office was weird. News broke every few minutes of canceled events, Mayor Bowser was set to declare a state of emergency over the novel coronavirus, and the streets of Dupont Circle were quieter than normal. The weather was even that of an oncoming storm: humid and cloudy, with harsh gusts of wind that seemed to signal foreboding.
Then, there was a small bubble of giddy excitement in front of Kramer’s.
“DC doesn’t even have real delis,” one too-cool-for-school patron whispered as we collected wristbands. “I wonder where they’ll play.”
That night, the line outside the deli was shorter than a typical Sunday brunch rush. A few folks heard the scoop, though. A straggler with a messenger bag approached me and asked, “What are the odds of getting in with no wristband?” He’d just hopped off a plane from one of the Carolinas where he was “avoiding corona.” Both his plans sounded dubious, but to my shock, he appeared inside minutes later.
Call Your Mother’s interior is a small but vibrant space with framed photos of Drake and his mom adorning the walls. Tonight, the tables were replaced by amps, speakers, and guitar stands. Folks meandered around the space eating free bagel sandwiches and collecting swag bags with Haim Deli Tour merch.
When Haim took the stage—er, deli floor— at 9 PM, they broke into their breakout 2013 single “The Wire.” Between songs, the sisters bantered about their favorite reality dating shows. Bassist Este gave guitarist Danielle a hard time for starting “The Wire” off too slowly—like when you start a record on the wrong RPM by accident.
For the next song, super-producer and DC native Rostam Batmanglij emerged from behind the counter for an assist with the sisters’ newest single, “The Steps.” Batmanglij—who performs by his first name—produced Haim’s upcoming album Women in Music Pt.III. He was previously a member of Vampire Weekend and has collaborated with the likes of Maggie Rogers and Carly Rae Jepsen—on some of favorite records in the world, for what it’s worth.
Tonight, @HAIMtheband played an intimate show at @CYM_DC as part of their five-city deli tour. There were bagels, a Brittney Spears cover, and a cameo from producer and collaborator @matsoR. pic.twitter.com/hKCvNCJFVy
— Washingtonian (@washingtonian) March 12, 2020
Other highlights include a cover of Britney Spears’s “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” sung by Este the way she used to sing it in the 8th grade—in a Brittney baby voice. The trio also debuted a new song from their upcoming record called “F***cked Up But True,” a slow-burning ballad drenched in reverb.
They closed out the set with a rendition of “Summer Girl,” which has a sauntering bass line that references Lou Reed‘s “Walk on the Wild Side.” In lieu of a horn player for the “sexy sax” part, Este filled in by verbalizing the sounds herself and encouraged us to do the same.
As we spilled back out onto Georgia Avenue, I remarked to my friend, “That felt like a time warp into an alternate reality where things are okay.”