Show Review: The HU – Black Thunder Tour – Crofoot Ballroom, Pontiac, MI

Mongolian hard rock band The HU brought their North American Black Thunder Tour to Pontiac, Michigan last night (May 6th) to a sold out Crofoot Ballroom. One of several sold out nights on the tour so far, and with just under twenty shows remaining until The HU takes off to Japan and Australia for the bulk of the summer, there will surely be more.

When was the last time you went to a show and the line to get in stretched around the building? Post-COVID, I’m guessing it has been quite a while. Though slightly uncomfortable, partially due do none of us really knowing how to act in public anymore, this crowd was heating up nicely for a band that came a long way to show us how they tear shit up in Mongolia.

The HU occupies a rather unique space within the Metal universe. They just played Coachella, for one thing. Not notoriously welcoming to Metal acts. At the end of the summer they’re going on tour with Five Finger Death Punch and Megadeth. It doesn’t get much more mainstream than that. On the other hand, they sing in their native language, regularly employ throat singing, and their main instrument is a morin khuur. It doesn’t get much more underground than that.

As an avid show-goer, and adversary of anything bloated or circus-like, I was a little apprehensive about seeing The HU. It was the mainstream aspect of the band that had me walking in sideways, because… well, native Mongolian instrumentation wouldn’t make Five Finger Death Punch sound any angrier, you know what I mean? Plus, their opening act – a young rock band from South Florida called The Haunt – struck me as a little too packaged. I was of the mind that it may do The HU a great deal of good to embrace the Metal and have a heavier opener. Someone like Midnight, or Spirit Adrift, for example.

It didn’t take The Haunt more than a few minutes to change my mind, and I was glad for that. They had a great presence about them, commanding the stage like pros, and showcasing well-written hook-filled rock tunes. An excellent fit for a room full of people ready to sing along, and many did. The set ran a little long, I thought, which isn’t much of a gripe. Worth showing up early if you plan on getting to one of the remaining Black Thunder shows.

When The HU took the stage, the room shook with percussion and the roar of a pumped up crowd chanting like warriors – HU! HU! HU! HU! – the four main members of the band all front and center, each possessing their own powerful individual forces – planted, root-based, and intentional – plowing forward with a sound so massive – HU! HU! HU! HU! – it would be dangerous in the wrong hands.

What made it so was not an overabundance of bass and guitar, it was both the rhythm kept by all of the traditional wooden instruments and the power of their voices, which they often use polyphonically. The HU seemed to extract music directly from the earth, proudly giving it back to the people and to the sky above us all. An absolutely breathtaking reminder that we’re all on this rock together, and no amount of distance or difference in language can discourage a group of people with a collective mind to celebrate.

During their set, which was a comfortable hour and a half, some stand out songs were “Yuve Yuve Yu,” “Shoog Shoog,” and fan favorite “Wolf Totem.” Not much of their debut album (The Gereg, 2019) was left out, and there was a generous amount of new material which was a nice sneak peak into what may be on their next album. The highlight of the show, however, had to be their encore of “Sad But True.” To my ears The HU outperforms Metallica on that tune, even on the recorded version available everywhere. Hearing them do it live was something special, indeed.

Would I go see The HU again? Shit yes! And I’ll bring all of my friends. Even the grumpy Death Metal guys. I would love to see The HU headlining festivals, bringing their infectious Mongolian grooves to as many people as possible. I recommend buying their album and marking your calendars for the next time The HU is within fifty miles of your house.

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