“Who’s The Hu?” You may ask yourself. Well my metal loving lovelies, you are in for quite the treat. These top notch gents hailing from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia may be new to the scene since their formation in 2016, but the rate at which they have gained international stardom is simply astounding. Their name stems from the Mongolian root word for “Human”, and the way they have managed to combine traditional Mongolian throat singing, metal, and a wide and healthy mix of cultural instrumentals into what they refer to as “Hunnu Rock” will be sure to blow your mind. They are currently in their eleventh month on the road with “The Gereg” tour, which is also the name of their debut album that only made its release two short months ago in September. They are literally what the kids today call a YouTube sensation, with their two videos for “Yuve Yuve Yu” and “Wolf Totem” going viral and reaching over 30 million views. My husband had introduced them to me about six months ago, and I was immediately as much of a fan as he is. It was something I had never really heard before, hard, heavy, primal, and beautiful. So we jumped on the tickets, and stood in the block long line to attend the sold out show at Mr. Smalls on Monday night.
Drifting somewhere on the seas between Rush and Skynyrd, and setting the evening off to a righteous start was The Hu’s tour brethren Crown Lands. Hailing from Ontario, this truly classic psychedelic rock duo was honestly one of the best acts for their genre I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing, despite barely having a rind on them. With a commanding presence that flows with love and an irrefutable invitation to come along for the trip to follow, and not to mention hair for days, they began their set with a hug for luck, and made quick work of making myself, and I’m sure everyone else in the room, a fan of their craft. The moment Cody Bowles, also the band’s drummer, began to swing through vocals that hit ranges between a jackhammer of blues rock and delicate fluttering as if every note was set free from its cocoon and carried away on a breeze, I was all in. If it was ever possible for Freddie and Janis to have had a lovechild with the swagger of Jagger, he was before me now. His counterpart, Kevin Comeau, was equally impressive with what he brought to the table. Jumping seamlessly between guitar, keyboard, backup vocals, and even busting out a double neck electric for their last song, you would never in your young, sweet life believe this was only two humans if you didn’t see it for yourself. Throw in the fact that they are sweet as pie and gifted me a copy of their newest album “Rise Over Run”, and the day they come back to Steeltown can’t come soon enough.
On to the main event. The room was ensued by primal stomping and chanting as The Hu made their descent upon Mr. Smalls. It vibrated through the floor and hit you in your gut. It was pure, old school musical magick. Eight men stormed the stage in various garb, some traditional looking Mongolian Armor, others in more modern show metal attire. The band’s four main members, Gala, Jaya, Temka, and Enkush, took the front of the stage. Four additional musicians claimed the back, with two additional guitar players, and two styles of drummers. The growling style of Jaya’s throat singing is hypnotizing, combined with native flute and the jaw harp. However, the star of the show for me was the instruments. Gala and Enkush play what is called a Morin Khuur or “Horse Fiddle”, a two stringed traditional Mongolian instrument. It is simply one of the most beautifully crafted and detailed piece of art I have seen played. One of blue and one of red, the necks are carved into intricately detailed horse heads, each unique in style and shape. In a beauty all its own is the Topshur that Temka played. Traditionally a two or three stringed lute, His had been made to mimic a spear head and it is the epitome of heavy metal. The whole set made you feel as if you were taken back in time and thrust into a last supper before charging gloriously into battle with endless dancing, stomping, chanting, heart pounding euphoria. So the next time you hear of The Hu, grab the tickets, have the time of your life, live for the music, and if you didn’t know, now you know.
A photographer in the Pittsburgh Music Scene for First Angel Media and The X, Amanda can often be found at shows, supporting local music and trying to help where she can with a passion for what she does.