Concert Review: Iran's Hypernova Hits D.C.

by Z*

Two years ago I sat down to write a paper on the potential of the underground movement in Iran to change the country's conservative regime although that regime does not tolerate any sign of Western influence. As my case study, I chose Iran's rising indie rock band Hypernova. However, after a couple of weeks I had to explain to my disappointed professor that I could not finish my research for several reasons. First of all, there were only three songs available online. There were no online videos or blog entries (National Public Radio and The New York Times ran articles playing on the same government vs. youth drama). But the main reason for discontinuing the research was that no matter how much I wanted to discover some revolutionary spark in Hypernova's music and the underground life of Iran, all I could see was a bunch of guys who loved rock ’n’ roll and sang about whatever was happening in their lives.

When I found out that Hypernova were coming to Washington, D.C. over spring break to promote their new soon-to-be-released album Through the Chaos, I thought, “Wow, God must be real."

My friends and I sat at the DC9 nightclub enjoying happy hour specials but we could not keep our eyes away from the five skinny guys in skinny jeans walking back and forth setting up the instruments. The venue upstairs, where the show took place later in the night, is intimate and has a specific touch to it that perfectly fits Hypernova. You find yourself standing a few steps in front of the band. The light is dim; the stage, randomly covered with black and red curtains, barely rises above the floor. You feel as if you were transferred over the Atlantic to one of Iran’s underground parties.

But despite the perfect surroundings, Hypernova’s performance seemed to be flawed by disproportionately loud sound. The lead singer Raam’s deep baritone at times drowned in the music. If you were listening to them for the first time you could not tell what the lyrics were. This is certainly a shame as their lyrics are the reason why I like Hypernova so much.

Their music is very personal. Hypernova seems to be spilling out their guts to their highly receptive audience, which thanks to media hype, sometimes tends to care about the idea of a rock band from Iran more than about their music. And Hypernova feeds that intrigue surrounding their rebellious background by songs like “Viva la resistance:”

I will not bow down to your God this is not who I am,
I will not give in to your lies this is not who I am….
You can burn down my house, throw me for life, take what you like…
But you’ll never succeed….

Surprised yet as to why these guys** have not been home for a couple of years now?

In fact, Hypernova has a song about their newly found fame in the United States and its ramifications — “American Dream.” It starts out with a poignant lyrical moment about how the singer knows he'll never go back home, and then asks rhetorically, "Is this not the life that you wanted to have?" A lot of people can identify with “American Dream” as every foreigner in the U.S. has their own idea of the American dream that quite often leaves one disillusioned.

But then you look at the guys and you see that they are truly living their dreams.

In the end, I have to admit I came to the show biased and left even more so. I came to see the band I had discovered when very few people knew about it. I got to see a very personal performance, after which the five skinny guys were running around the venue, collecting their instruments, taking pictures and talking to their fans, making sure to ask every one of them, “Hey, are you coming out with us after the show?”

*Z is from a country that made up the Soviet Union, and her writing on cultural and political matters could have a backlash when she returns home from the U.S., so she writes under a pseudonym.

**All the members of Hypernova use pseudonyms so their rock performances don't have an effect on their families and friends back in Iran, and on the off chance that if the members of the band wish to return some home someday, perhaps they will face less of a political and cultural backlash.

(The photo of most of Hypernova — missing is bassist Jam — performing in Washington, D.C. is by Z and is used with permission. Hypernova will be concluding this leg of its U.S. tour with an appearance at the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX on March 21. To see a Hypernova's R-rated video for "Fairy Tales," please check below.)

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