Story: Brian Schmidt
Photos: Spencer Fleming
Tuesday (5/3) The Hu: Presented by 104.1 The Blaze.
After a grueling drive an hour to and back from the Lorna shore show Monday night (5/2), I finished an eight-hour shift only to leave and do it again, this time with Stories Co-Founder Spencer in tow. The Hu was playing at The Bourbon, and Spencer had piqued my interest in telling me they were a Mongolian throat singing metal band, which sounds pretty niche, but niche is right up my alley. With only an hour and 15 to grab dinner and make the hour trek, it was a bit tight. Fortunately, it was smooth sailing all the way down i-680, and we made it to Lincoln with a half hour to spare. We made good use of that half hour stopping by Egg Roll King, a rinky dink local Chinese joint, that honestly was a bit rough on the eyes, but I swear, those were the best egg rolls I have ever devoured in a 15 min timespan!
We arrived at The Bourbon just in time for me to drop Spence off for pit photos while I parked the car. When I finally got my butt to the venue, there was still a line of people waiting to get in, (Spencer must have cut.) Sorry people in line, the photo pit calls. For those not in the know, The Bourbon is a huge venue, not stadium huge, but much bigger than the average club, sporting three separate floors: standing level up front, elevated flooring in the center, and large balcony hanging above the elevated flooring bar. What I failed to realize going into the show was that people love The Hu, so much that the venue was packed to the brim. I had never heard their music before and had just assumed that this was going to be a fairly small show, typical of what you might see with a local band. I was dead wrong, dead and squashed.
Up first were pop punk openers, The Haunt, who were the only other band on the list for the night, which definitely contributed to my misconceptions about the show. The band had a youthful and stylish vibe, clad in all white, with black accented makeup. Lead Singer Anastasia, founding counterpart and sibling to guitarist Maxamillion, had donned an all-white jumpsuit with “I’M NOT YOURS,” the name of their newest single, painted on the back.
I was especially impressed with their stage presence. Being a 4 piece, they took up a pretty small portion of the stage but made a big impression with their bombastic rock n’ roll performances. I really enjoyed their more bass heavy tunes such as the new single plastered on Anastasia’s back, as well as “Love You Better.” Bassist Nat laid down some fat distorted bass riffs that brought the punk to the more pop-y sections.
I loved her tone, as well as her rock n roll stage demeanor, although the group of teenage girls in front of me seemed more impressed with Max as well drummer Nick. When the set had ended, they were screaming both their names attempting to get their attention while the band was tearing down. They were ultimately successful, and got smiles and waves from both.
I got to give it to them though, aside from being cute, they seemed like really cool dudes. Guitarist Max had made sure to say hi to the group of girls after their set, and The drummer went out of his way to make sure a young boy in the crowd got his extra sticks. It’s kindness like this that makes concerts so special. Those girls won’t forget it, that kid certainly won’t forget it, and I definitely won’t.
If you guys come back through hit me up, I’ll buy y’all some Egg Roll King!
Check out The Haunt and their killer new single at https://thehauntband.wixsite.com/thehaunt
In between sets the area I had carved out for myself got increasingly more packed. At one point some guy to the right of me was calling for his friend to come join their group. His girlfriend was like, “I don’t know if he’ll fit,” to which the guy responded, “He’s got my beer, he’ll fit.” It was packed so tightly that in order to not squash the teenage girls in front of me, I had to stand in such a way that this older ladies' purse was poking directly into my rear. I also noticed a guy covered head-to-toe in Mongolian battle armor. I can’t imagine all that plate metal and fur was comfortable, but hey, at least he didn’t have a purse in his butt.
On the other end of the barricade, Spencer was chatting it up with a lady who went by Red Dawn, which is the coolest, most bizarre name. What brought her to that name? Did she really like the Swayze classic, or was her name Dawn and she just really liked the color red? She had been saying how The Hu was the first band in a long time that she could really feel, and that it made her feel powerful and free. She decided to treat herself and get a single ticket for the show. She initially went to a sketchy third-party dealer and ran into some issues. Luckily, she told The Bourbon what happened and they were nice enough to put her on the guest as well as get her an extra spot, which she used to bring her mom. There were good vibes all around that night!
After what felt like forever and a day, The Hu pounced on stage sporting all leather traditional Mongolian garb. Immediately one of the girls from the group in front of me started having a seizure! Fortunately, with some help we caught her, and lowered her safely to the ground to prevent her from hitting her head. This wouldn’t be my first time experiencing someone having a seizure. When I was a teenager, my brother was diagnosed with epilepsy, and had a seizure during a car ride to school. It’s scary, but really the only thing you can do to help is lay them down on their side and clear the area of any sharp objects. Fortunately, the seizure only lasted a few seconds, and in no time the girl was up. Her and her friends were ushered over the barricade and out of the crowd to recoup, and the crowd was back to being tightly packed around me once again, purse and all. Later on, I saw the girls further back and asked them if everything was alright. They had said they were okay and they’re not sure what happened. Glad they stuck it out and didn’t let that ruin the entirety of their night.
The Band kicked off their show with the title track to their most recent album, The Gereg. I was fairly surprised by what I was hearing, it was both more and less what I was expecting. For starters, they were not a metal band, they were a rock/heavy metal band, which once again is my fault for not having researched the band. Although I would argue that if I had, I probably wouldn’t have had as unique of an experience. I was however impressed by their non-western instrumentation, and unique sounds it brought. The band had 8 members in total, with over half of them being traditional Mongolian instruments, and the remainder being traditional rock instruments to back up the rock half of their sound.
Alongside an electric guitar, bass, and drum kit, were two electric morin khuur, sometimes known as shoor, which were horse-headed, two stringed fiddles, played with thick strings and a bow, a tovshuur, which is a 2-3 stringed lute style instrument traditionally played by Mongolian Oarits, heavily tied to western Mongolian folklore, as well as a tumur hhuur, or jaw harp, and a tsuur, an end blown wooden flute used in loads of traditional Asiatic folk, both played by lead singer Nyamjantsan "Jaya" Galsanjamts. While all this seems a bit much at first, you’ll get it once you see the photos and listen to the music. The follow up research for this article was actually one of my favorite parts of this experience, as I got to learn more about Mongolian culture.
The band played a whole hour and a half set to a continuously packed venue, which is impressive. Usually, you get some of the older patrons bouncing maybe 5-6 songs into the set, but I wasn’t seeing any of that. It’s truly a testament to the band for being able to capture an audience's attention for that long.
They played loads of classics such as “Wolf Totem”, a song that reached number one on Billboard’s hard rock digital sales chart, making The Hu the first Mongolian act to top a Billboard chart, “Yuve Yuve Yu”, which followed “Wolf Totem” reaching number 7 on the same chart; and “Sugaan Essena”, a song featured in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. This band has loads of hype behind them, attracting western collaborators such as Lzzy Hale, Jacoby Shaddix, and From Ashes to New, and was even featured on the Metallica covers album The Metallica Blacklist, with their cover of “Through the Never,” which was performed in Mongolian, and is arguably the best cover on that album. Although, there are some pretty bad covers on there. (I’m looking at you Mac DeMarco.) I know this article is starting to look like a history report, but I think it’s important to understand how this band got to where it is, as well as its trajectory.
I feel that while a huge part of what made this band so successful, was them finding a good mixture of western and non-western elements, making their music “safe enough” for a western audience, I personally found myself bored at points with the traditional rock riffs, while enjoying the more Mongolian musical elements. I hope that going forward the band has garnered a big enough audience that they can start incorporating more Mongolian elements into their music and ditch some of the corny rock riffs, a la The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood”, to “Within You Without You” transformation from rock with a sitar, to Indian classical piece. I would love to see more tracks that are less western music with nonwestern elements, and more non-western music with western instruments. They’re in a spot where they could really bring some variety to the average westerner’s musical palette, and perhaps bring even more awareness to Mongolian culture.
Sorry this article got so introspective. There was a lot to learn from this experience, and this article kind of served as a way for me to unpack and get the purse out of my bottom.
Check out The Hu out at www.thehuofficial.com
Thanks to The Hu's PR for photo access and to 1041. The Blaze for bringing this show!
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