At Union Stage on Halloween, The Hives asked, “Do you feel alive? Well you do now. Do you love rock n’ roll? Well you do now. Do you love The Hives? Well you do now.”
It’s been 10 years since Swedish punk rock band The Hives graced a D.C. stage. Their first album in 11 years, The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons, was released last August with explosive singles: “Bogus Operandi” and “Countdown To Shutdown.” In the band’s lore, Randy Fitzsimmons is their fictional manager/songwriter/sixth Hive who catapulted them to fame in the 90s. The name is a pseudonym for lead guitarist, Niklas Almqvist, but the band insists that Fitzsimmons is the mastermind behind The Hives.
I heard “Bogus Operandi” for the first time on Sirius XM’s Alt Nation while driving. I remember hearing the gritty opening guitar riff and thinking– who is this? My eyes glanced at the dashboard – could it be? The vocals came in and I instantly found myself transported back to my parents’ living room in 2005.
My dad owns a copy of The Hives’ 2005 DVD Tussles in Brussels, which includes a live concert performance, music videos and a documentary. Some of my fondest childhood memories include dancing around the house with my little brother to the concert video. At that time in my life, the only band I’d seen live was The Wiggles, so beholding the flashing lights, loud guitars, and the howling vocals of Pelle Almqvist blew my mind.
Occasionally, my dad would bust out a disco ball and flicker the room lights to make it feel like we were in the crowd. These viewings of Tussles in Brussels as a child primed me for a life of concert-going. My dad saw The Hives open for Maroon 5 in 2007 and I was devastated to not be going too.
On Halloween night 2023, it was finally my turn to see The Hives — and I brought my dad along to their sold-out headline show at Union Stage, with support from Olivia Jean. On Instagram, the band announced a costume contest where the winner would get a “so-called ‘meet and greet’ with yours truly.” I walked in and recognized attendees dressed like the band – the black and white lighting suits, and a few white suits emulating their early days.
The Hives took the stage with their backs to the audience as the opening guitars of “Bogus Operandi” filled the room. Frontman Pelle Almqvist wasted no time getting himself face-to-face with the crowd. They played Main Offender off of their 2000 album Veni Vidi Vicious, which was in the Tussles setlist as well. Suddenly the bassline to “Walk Idiot Walk” – a classic from my household – surges through the venue. I got walked on by Almqvist himself as he paraded out into the crowd. Hands were outstretched everywhere, including my dad’s, as he floated by.
My brother and I tried to mimic Almqvist’s jump kicks as children, but never did I imagine myself inches from Almqvist’s shoe. Time hasn’t compromised his commanding stage presence. The kicks, the jumps, the swinging mic cord, the crowd surfing – all witnessed in person was surreal. Even the way he bantered with the crowd felt nostalgic. Despite this being my first live experience with The Hives, it felt like being reacquainted with old friends.
Almqvist asks the crowd, “Do you feel alive? Well you do now. Do you love rock n’ roll? Well you do now. Do you love The Hives? Well you do now.”
Randy Fitzsimmons may be dead, but The Hives remain alive.
Words and photo gallery by Carolin Harvey.
Listen to “The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons” on your favorite streaming platform now. Learn more about The Hives at www.thehives.com.
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