Haale @ Joe’s Pub

Haale (Olivia Taubner)NEW YORK, NY—Bronx-born and of Persian descent, Haale listened to musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Persian singer Hayedeh a lot while growing up. She didn’t pick up a guitar until 1996, but once she did, she began to create music that fuses together both ’60s psychedelic rock and traditional Sufi, gaining her the respect of people like David Byrne (Talking Heads), Sean Lennon (who lends his bass playing and vocals to “Before The Skies” on Haale’s Paratrooper EP), and New York Times critic Steve Smith. She’s one of the few artists helping today’s music redeem itself.

On a chilly Spring Friday night in the East Village, Haale played to a welcoming crowd that cheered, whistled and had no problem shelling out money for her two EPs at the end of the night. Throughout her set, I found myself zoning out and almost getting lost in a relaxed trance-like state of mind; she gave me license to blend daydreaming and work for about an hour and a half.

Some might refer to Haale as being “out there”—she goes off on tangents between songs about mysticism, the end of negativity, and the meaning of life—but all you have to do is open your mind and listen to what she has to say. It’s all meaningful, and she’ll surely teach you something.

Her voice proved strong and vivacious as it flowed with ease between mystical Persian and English poetic lyrics, ranging from smooth and soft to beautifully coarse, with impeccable rhythm. Percussionist Matt Kilmer stunningly filled out the sound of the band with his complex combinations of tempos, leaving you almost unaware that a bass player was not present. Guitarist John Shannon quirkily bounced as he cranked out riffs that were scarcely typical, but could surely be heard in rock-n-roll.

Every song has an important story behind it, and a sound that incorporates a perfect combination of drone, melody and driving pulse, especially during “Off Duty Fortune Teller Song.” On the newly composed “Zero To One,” a song inspired by a phone call from her mother (who was in attendance) telling her about a book she’d read that was written by a physicist, percussionist Matt Kilmer sounded as if he was channeling rolling thunder. The loud but billowy “Floating Down” was inspired by transcendence. She wrote it after hearing a story Jimi Hendrix told about being a paratrooper in the military—how he listened to the whistle of the wind and the hum of the plane engine, and later tried to recreate the sound musically on guitar—and the Hendrix influence is apparent. “Home Again,” which includes lines of poetry by Persian poet Attar, is probably my favorite song of hers, and it was certainly powerful as expected.

Haale is out there doing what no one else is doing. She’s not trying to fit in, or be popular, or solely to make lots of money, which could just work in her favor if she’s lucky. Think of most contemporary artists as the high school cheerleaders of the music industry, and Haale as the artsy outcast who keeps to herself and doesn’t care about high school antics. She’s certainly got the upper hand, considering the fame of most cheerleaders doesn’t extend past high school, and though the outcast’s moment to shine may take much longer to arrive, it outlives anyone else’s.

Photo Credit: Olivia Taubner