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When Hacienda took the cramped stage at Emo’s Jr. as part of the Panache Booking Showcase, they had already played three shows in 24 hours. The band just came off their two-week national tour supporting Black Keys’ guitarist Dan Auerbach, but instead of showing signs of road weariness or been-there-done-that-syndrome, Hacienda rocked and rolled with enthusiasm appropriate for a still-young group on the rise.

The band of brothers (Abraham, Rene, and Jaime Villanueva) and a cousin (Dante Schwebel) has definitely learned a thing or two from touring with Auerbach, and not just the finer points of beard upkeep. Hacienda’s set was half-hour showcase length, but they made the most of it with seamless transitions and a minimum of stage banter. After a rocking opener, they immediately jumped right into the infectious “She’s Got a Hold on Me,” lead single from their buzzed-about (and Auerbach-produced) debut, Loud Is the Night. The song’s pleasant enough, but is carried to greatness on the strength of Rene’s fuzzed-out, unshakeable bass riff. The rest of their tunes go by without a hitch, flirting with ’60s touchstones like the Beatles and the Beach Boys (Rene even breaks into some Elvis-like dance moves at one point) before explicitly name-checking their influences with a faithful cover of Sonny and Cher’s 1965 hit “Baby Don’t Go” near the end of their set.

By relying so heavily on the ’60s pop-rock format, Hacienda runs the risk of painting themselves into a musical corner. Other indie-rock bands who ape a specific bygone musical era do so with a knowing, “aren’t-we-clever” wink to their audience, but when Hacienda covers “Baby Don’t Go,” they’re not doing it to be ironic. They’re doing it because, removed from the cheesy context of the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, it’s actually a pretty damn good pop song — something that hadn’t occurred to me until that moment. (RIP Sonny.) Every young band sounds a little too much like their musical heroes, but Hacienda has actually processed their influences into a sound that manages to echo the past and resonate in the present, even if it may ultimately prove limiting as their career takes off. And hey — at least they’re not writing songs that sound like they came from the ’80s, like, oh, every other indie-rock band on the scene today.

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January 13, 2020

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