New York City is full of private clubs that fuel the ultrarich, places for the “elite” to host their coked-up private pitch meetings for God knows what. Years ago, I went to the now-defunct Norwood Club with my friend in lower Manhattan. There I felt so poor it was like being karmically unblessed. I ended up drinking my weight in free 20-year-old scotch and almost punching out a young man who told me—and this is a direct quote—“Ronald Reagan was the greatest thing to happen to this country. Got any ketamine?”

The CREEMers (that’s what I call us now) were invited to Soho House for a press dinner ahead of the first Hives gig in NYC in almost 12 years. Representatives from the label, Hives management, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone were all there to mingle, network, and maybe get a free plate of salmon. There are Soho Houses all over the world, self-described as a “members’ club for like-minded creative thinkers to meet, relax, have fun and grow.” Which kind of sounds like they just zhuzhed up a bar with marketing language because it sits between the Apple Store and Hermès. Anyway, I sauntered up, put my name in for the dinner at the front desk while waiting for my colleague, and took the elevator up, hoping to get a few minutes with the dashingly dichromatic sextet. Unfortunately, their extreme travel schedule meant that the band was too sick and wanted to rest, opting out of the dinner. Two $28 drinks later, after ogling hot people who were not the Hives, overloading on small talk with people who were not the Hives, and scarfing down said salmon, it was time for the show.

The newish West Side club Racket NYC (formerly the Highline Ballroom) played host. Outside the venue there were hordes of fans desperately searching for an extra ticket, some even pleading for one. The glimmer of hope in their eyes tugged at my heart, but I trudged on. The band took the stage promptly at 9 p.m. You couldn’t tell that these rock monsters had been traveling as hard as they were. After an hour of the most intense live rock ’n’ roll I’d seen in years, they hung it up to the gaggles of slack-jawed fans. I saw the Hives in 2012, and it felt as if they had been frozen in time and were catapulted to the stage mid-set from then. After the show, we all sauntered back to Soho House for an after-party that felt like a scene out of Succession—Chads, Gregs, Tuckers, and an army of Beckys feeling out their own rock ’n’ roll fantasy. Was it always like this?

The Hives
Pelle re-creates the oil spill for the fans. Photo by Keith Marlowe

No, thank God. Before all the hotels and the private clubs, the Hives were just another band about to break all the barriers, quietly traversing the U.S. in a van and staying on any empty floor available. “Those early tours and shows were always so chaotic,” guitarist Niklas Almqvist tells me some weeks later. “We were playing a racetrack in Fagersta, and of course that came with a lot of drinking, as any hometown show would. We all started to play around on this giant hill that overlooked the racetrack. I took a tumble and fell into [frontman Per “Pelle” Almqvist] so hard that my two front teeth punctured the back of his head.”

“Somehow Florida was always the most fun on those early runs,” Pelle adds. “The memories get blurry, but we were invited back to a house on the Gulf Coast of Florida by these girls. We went out to the water to get drunk and were hit with this insane smell. Turns out there had been a massive oil spill. No swimming for us, I guess.” But as the drinks flowed and the fireworks came out, in addition to the petroleum spill, bottle after bottle was consumed and smashed as the merrymakers frolicked in the moonlight.

“Honestly, aside from the oil spill, it still sticks out as one of the most fun moments we ever had on those early tours,” Niklas recalls fondly.

When the drink prices in your milieu approach the $30 mark, maybe “Fun, aside from the oil spill” becomes a mantra a band needs to hold on to.

Then again, maybe all the glitz and glamour can’t be as easily avoided as an ecological disaster. If all you once needed was to explore and take a chance with your friends in a van, maybe press dinners, being shuffled around, and talking to old men in suits about music is actually the antithesis of it all (“it all” being...the stuff that made—and still makes—the Hives such a hoot). Maybe taking it back to where it started is the only answer for any of this. Or maybe I’m acting like a big ol’ bay-beeee (said in “Wonderwall” voice). But I will tell you this: Drinking on a beach with my band while the world burns is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. And I think the Hives still believe the same. At the very least, they still sound like they do.

Gulf Spill Martini
Photo by Keith Marlowe

1 oz. vodka
1 oz. tequila
2 dashes mole bitters
½ oz. strawberry juice

1. Shake

2. Pour into a martini glass and drizzle chocolate syrup at the bottom of the glass to make your own little oil spill. Sparklers and any other fireworks inserted into the drink are highly recommended.

Thanks for reading CREEM. This article originally appeared in our Fall 2023 issue. Explore the full mag in our archive, buy a copy here, and subscribe for more.




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