LIVE: Dave Hause @ Union Chapel, London

By Katherine Allvey

Union Chapel in London probably isn’t haunted. Probably. That hasn’t stopped sincere punk rock survivor Dave Hause  from including the historic venue in his ‘Haunted Churches’ tour of Europe, but what’s conjured in his set isn’t ghosts or ghouls. It’s the spectres of Hause’s own past brought into the light. 

It’s clear from the moment that the dapper singer bounds onstage, his shirt unbuttoned to reveal his full chest tattoo and his laughter lines hidden behind Clark Kent glasses, that Hause has made peace with most of the pain which permeates his music. His time as the frontman of the Loved Ones represented, at one point in his solo career, a sharp division in his back catalogue, but no longer. He laughs with hecklers, reminiscing about the first time he came to London with the punk band “with the express purpose of partying, and sometimes we’d play a show on the side”, before launching into ‘Pretty Good Year’. His early years in music have been reclaimed, and there’s a tinge of regret and fondness in his voice when he sings of his youth.

Hause is unflinching in his vulnerability, and as the set progresses to ‘Gary’ the show becomes a communal confessional. We chorus out our shared atonement while the solemn organ intones the terrifying pain of missed chances. “I had this feeling that America is so fucked up, that finally I’d seen my last bit of corruption, and I needed to get the fuck out of there,” shares Hause before the hollow worry of ‘Pedal Down’ rises with the dry ice. Live, it’s rich in car crash foreboding, biblical end times and immersive echoes.

A Dave Hause show is also very much a family affair. His long time collaborator and younger brother Tim Hause takes the wheel to showcase two of his solo songs, ‘Summerkiss’ and ‘High Hopes’. It’s a window into what could have been. Tim embraces the fleeting moments of autumnal sweetness which he shares with those he loves, and Dave dwells on the past which looms large in his psyche. Even in the expanding longing of ‘With You’ or the easy chain gang harmonies of ‘Louisiana’ there’s an emptiness, a desire for more which shakes within us. Hause can snap between friendly stage banter about biscuits and, a second later, drown us in the struggle of ‘Time Will Tell’ or the fear at the heart of ‘The Vulture’. He’s wrapped himself in the reassurance of survival, able to present his songs with warm hindsight now his scars have healed. 

“The closest thing I’ve found to religion is rock n roll,” declares Hause. He refers to his music as ‘rock n roll’ frequently, eschewing the ‘punk’ label. “We’ll play this one like a hymn”, and with that, he transforms Tom Petty’s ‘Learning To Fly’ into an incredibly simple and real devotional singalong. Each note grates your heart and twists the remains with raw fingers before fading into jet stream clouds. Will Hoge, Tennessee troubadour and Hause’s support artist, joins to complete the trinity of heartfelt, heartbroken men with guitars and between the lines of belief in the power of rock music, there’s a tangible aura of friendship. 

We’re left with ‘Damn Personal’s tattered remnants of repurposed loneliness as the last vibrations of Hause’s expansive, untamed voice die away. He apologises for not being able to use the venue’s historic pipe organ to really ruin our emotions, and urges us to donate to the church’s restoration fund. There’s a comfort in knowing that the pain Hause lays bare for us is just a retelling of a distant memory and no longer his lived reality. He’s able to joke about requests for ‘Freebird’ in between presenting songs of tremendous power and suffering, but his ability to create windows into the desperate despair of the past is undiminished. We walk out lighter, our personal demons exorcised by the purity and passion in Hause’s ‘rock n roll’.