Gig ReviewsReviews

[Review] The Hu @ The Bridgeway Hotel, Pooraka 6/8/2022

A lot has happened since the last time Mongolian band The HU was in the country. Their first visit to Australia coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to some very uncertain times (to put it mildly) with a lot of restrictions suddenly popping up which had huge implications for the music industry. The HU was first in Australia as part of the 2020 Download Music Festival, which was canceled due to COVID at the very last minute, leaving them in the country to only perform a couple of their sideshow gigs. I attended one of these gigs at The Gov in Adelaide and little did I know at the time, that it would be the last proper gig I would see for quite some time. The venue capacity was reduced due to restrictions on the very day of the gig, leaving many ticketholders unable to attend the sold-out show, and one of the few phrases we heard the band speak in English that night was ‘fuck coronavirus!’

Two and a half years later, The HU is finally back in Australia, and under much less uneasy conditions.

For those not familiar with The HU, they certainly are a unique band. The band itself calls its genre ‘Hunnu Rock’, which is a mix of traditional Mongolian music and western metal. The band uses a combination of their traditional instruments including the morin khuur (or horsehead fiddle) and more typical rock instruments like the electric guitar, giving them a very distinctive sound.

This Adelaide gig was originally booked for the new Hindley Street Music Hall but with construction still underway, the show was moved to The Bridgeway Hotel.

Opening up the show was Brisbane’s The Blackwater Fever. I can’t imagine how you might find a suitable band to open up for The HU in Australia, given their unique genre, however, The Blackwater Fever supplied some tight bluesy garage rock which sat well with the packed venue’s crowd. Their set served as a fairly laid-back warm-up for the main act to come.

As the headliner’s set start time was approaching, I found my way down to the front of the stage. Despite the room being at capacity, there was a very relaxed vibe in the room. There didn’t seem to be the usual push and shove down at the front of the stage and it was quite easy to get a good spot without getting in anyone’s way. Looking around at the punters before the lights went down, there didn’t seem to be any clear demographic in attendance either. There wasn’t a ‘crowd type’ to be seen at all and it had me wondering how this large crowd had discovered The HU. 

Right on schedule, the lights dimmed, and the band entered the stage to rapturous applause, kicking off with a track called Shihi Hutu from their forthcoming new album Rumble of Thunder. This song showcased everything that the band is known for, sounding like an epic battle-cry anthem. Their traditional throat singing and morin khuur’s were used to great effect. In contrast, the second song of the set Shoog Shoog would have to be The HU’s most upbeat-sounding song with its almost danceable beat. Next up was the title track from the band’s debut The Gereg album, which showcased some of vocalist Jaya’s playing of the tumur hhuur (jaw harp).

As the band worked their way through their set of songs mostly from their debut and also from their album coming next month, I noticed how transfixed the crowd was by the band, despite the lyrics being in Mongolian and not being easy songs to sing along to. A lot of The HU’s songs have a hypnotic rhythm to them, and the appearance of the band is visually striking. On stage, the core members of the band are at the front of the stage. Gala, Enkush, Jaya and Temka all dressed in intricate leather, with their beautiful traditional Mongolian instruments are the focal point of the show. Seeing such different instruments being played is part of the appeal of The HU for me, and I’m sure for many others who have seen the band perform.

Behind the core members of the band are the members of the band who play the more typical western instruments and are considered the touring members of the band. Ono, Jamba, Davaa and Odko are all set back from the front of stage, playing guitar, bass, drums and percussion in the semi-darkness for a lot of the performance. With eight band members on stage, it’s this combined mix of traditions that gives The HU such a rich and distinctive sound.

Later in the set came the two songs that introduced the world to the band. Both Yuve Yuve Yu and Wolf Totem, when released, garnered millions of views on YouTube. It was the later re-recording of the latter song with Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix that was my introduction to the band. These two songs got a huge response from the crowd.

Rounding out the set were a couple of new songs, Black Thunder and This is Mongol both of which were released this year, preceding the rest of the new album.

After almost ninety minutes, the band took a bow and exited the stage. The crowd most certainly still wanted more so the band returned for the obligatory but well-deserved encore.

As the band arrived back on the stage, the now familiar sounds of the morin khuurs rang out before the electric guitar kicked in with the instantly recognisable riff of Metallica’s Sad But True. The Hu’s version of this song has got to be the perfect blend of western metal and traditional Mongolian folk instruments for sure and was a brilliant way for the band to bring the set to a close.

Although I was initially disappointed that this gig had been moved from a new city venue to an older suburban hotel, The Bridgeway did turn out to be a great place to relocate to. With the big stage and impressive light set-up, the sound and visuals of The HU were well showcased, and when it was all over and the house lights came on, there was a definite buzz in the room and there were a lot of smiling faces from punters who looked really happy to be back at big gigs once again.

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[Review] The Hu @ 170 Russell, Melbourne 03/08/2022

2 years ago, in the before times, The Hu were here, and were ready to play on the Download line up, then tragedy strikes, the plague times begin, and they get locked in Sydney for a couple of weeks. Now, they are back and hungry as ever to play for Australia and starting off their tour with 2 sold out Melbourne shows!

Rocking up to the line about 45mins early, a little later than normal for me, the line was already around the block and in the alley way behind the venue, people are keen as hell for this show! Doors open and the line moves reasonably quick for people heading straight to merch or the front of the venue for prime viewing, I manage to get my regular spot at 170 Russell, you’ve always got a regular spot for these types of things.

The Blackwater Fever take the stage right on time and straight from the opening chords, I’m hooked. This 3-piece Brisbane rock band sound like Sabbath if they were playing in the deep south instead of London. Think big sounding bluesy style riffs with a ton of reverb, a bassist that also plays keys and then add double that amount of reverb on the drums! Producing a massive sound and holding their own in the thick atmosphere they created, they entranced all watching and the rhythm took over to bring the people in and headbang. The Blackwater Fever prove the point that less is sometimes more, you don’t always need crazy intricate riffs to get people interested, these guys write a damn good tune and a killer opening band.

As The Hu crew set the stage with a drum kit, a percussion kit and then a totem raised in the middle of the stage as well for good measure, the crowd’s anticipation skyrockets. There are cheers, people start pushing to the front and all eyes are on the stage. The lights darken, music starts and The Hu storm the stage in their full leather gear and instruments in hand. What surprised me tonight was how close the music translates from recording to live, with the number of instruments changing on stage with one of the singers wearing a belt of flutes and the percussionist also had things changing every couple of songs as well, everything was audible. One of the main draws to The Hu is the traditional throat singing and vocal harmonies created, they did not disappoint. All members on stage have a microphone and the vocal mix is well done with only one of the main vocals being lower in the mix at some points but watching them sing together is nothing short of amazing.

The sheer happiness and excitement of the band is an energy that is room filling, they didn’t stop smiling or laughing to each other from start to finish. They are incredibly passionate about their music and culture and having that energy come back at them from the crowd, they couldn’t stop jumping and screaming “Thank you” and “Rock On” which were pretty much the only English sentences spoken by them. One of the main vocalists would occasionally have a quick little speech in their native tongue to be met with cheers or people looking around not knowing what was said but there was one girl who made the crowd laugh each time because each time he spoke in Mongolian, we would here “I farkin luv ya” in such a thick Aussie accent. The complete opposites in languages but I’m sure the sentiment was the same.

The crowd involvement for songs like Shoog Shoog, Yuve Yuve Yu and Wolf Totem was electric. The rhythms of this band just sent people dancing and singing. Ending the set on the latest singles Black Thunder and This is Mongo, the crowd and band are relentless, thriving off each other’s energy and getting a circle pit going. They come back for a sweet little encore with a cover of Metallica’s Sad But True and what a cover! What a great way to end the night!

For my first international band in about 18 months, what better way than to get back into it than with The Hu? I had high expectations for these guys, and they blew them out of the park! I hope the rest of the tour is as great as this was.

Black Thunder Australia & NZ Tour 2022

Saturday, August 6: Bridgeway Hotel, Adelaide
(Previously Hindley Street Music Hall)
Sunday, August 7: The Roundhouse, Sydney Sold Out
Thursday, August 11: Powerstation, Auckland NZ Sold Out

For complete tour and ticket and information, visit: 
livenation.com.au, livenation.co.nzthehuofficial.com

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