Dramatic ‘Hiahlights’: Hiahli reckons and revels in Good Party music fest

Hiahli. Contributed photo / Hiahli

Five bands from Fargo-Moorhead and the Twin Cities will grace the stage at The Aquarium on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, for Hiahli’s Good Party, a mini winter music festival produced and promoted by local music collective Hiahli.

It’s an ambitious but totally doable post-pandemic project, considering Hiahli had all intentions of breaking into the local music scene in the spring of 2020 when everything closed due to COVID-19. 

Now, this live hip-hop/rock ‘n’ roll music collective reclaims the stage and is ready to turn up the lights alongside the bands Smokin’ Joe of Dead Larry, Ruth, Socktopus and Walking Phoenix. 

The Aquarium show Friday night is the first big local show Hiahli has self-produced and self-promoted, since the band is accustomed to opening for major headliners when they come to town.

“We wanted to try to do our own show and see if we have what it takes to draw a crowd,” Hiahli bassist Jason Boynton said. “It is an inside joke (maybe not anymore) that Hiahli has 12 fans in Fargo. We are hoping to convince ourselves that we have more than 12 people that appreciate our music.”  

They won’t need to try hard for that. Their music is being received well by a wide array of local music fans because of their onstage approachability, commanding musicality and outright funness. 

Say hi to Hiahli

Hiahli, pronounced HIGH-uh-lie, is a live hip-hop band that plays rock ‘n’ roll instruments. Members describe their style as a mashup of old-school Golden Era hip-hop beats, rock, disco, blues country and jam band. 

The group certainly commands in a wide-ranging arena, stylistically speaking — one that’s been, unsurprisingly, likened to The Roots for their on-stage energy and use of instruments. Unlikely comparisons, however, include Rage Against the Machine for their social justice commentary and Kid Rock for their heavy guitar paired with rap. 

These likenesses are ones Boynton said the band takes in stride. “We’ll take it. They’re all great,” he said. “Every band thinks their sound is absolutely fresh and unique. We just want to have fun, make some good music, and not take ourselves too seriously.”

Social distance, social justice

Hiahli performed their first live gig just before the pandemic hit in 2020. 

“We got together, played one gig, and then everything shut down,” Boynton said. “Luckily, Ryan (Tetzloff, vocalist, aka, Cold Sweat) was awarded a grant from The Arts Partnership so that we could focus on producing some studio recordings and accompanying videos.”

Listen to La Misma Cosa, Hiahli’s latest song

Amidst all that, “Hiahli was forged out of materials whose elements included the complete disarray of public safety and health institutions,” Boynton said, recalling Hiahli’s earliest days, which coincided with both the pandemic and George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis. “I know it hit us all individually. We definitely talked about it, and it definitely caused us to take some action.”  

That action included collaborations with each other, but also with city leaders to encourage positive conversations about race in the community. A majority of Hiahli bandmates identify as Black, Brown and Indigenous.

Gearing up for the Good Party

Since pandemic restrictions lifted and live events came back to life, they’ve been building momentum locally and regionally, opening for Brother Ali, Dessa, and Jon Wayne & The Pain. 

To be sure, Hiahli’s Good Party is a product of their patience and perseverance. Aside from the excitement of just getting onstage with a handful of other bands, Hiahli is eager to unveil their EP hiahLIVE the same day.

The EP was recorded and captured by The Aquarium’s sound engineer Clyde Schuman, and mixed by Hiahli Collective member Steve Wallevand, whose “ears are like sonar dishes,” Boynton said. The album will be available on Spotify.

hiahLIVE also features The Space Monkey Mafia Horn Section, Tom Johnson (of the Johnson Family Band) on dobro, and Kevin Gastonguay on keys and synth. 

Meantime, tickets are available presale online or at the door on the day of the show. “We will absolutely try to rock the socks off all the people in attendance, even if there are 12. We are obliged to entertain every single guest at a Hiahli show,” Boynton said. 

The Good Party is sponsored in part by Swing Barrel Brewing Company and She Said Butcher Shop.

For event tickets and more information about hiahLIVE, visit the band’s Facebook event page. Watch Hiahli music videos on YouTube

About the author

Lonna Whiting is a freelance writer and owner of lonna.co, a content marketing and communications agency located in Fargo, North Dakota. She is a frequent contributor to The Arts Partnership’s content library and also provides strategic communications consultation to the organization.




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Tania Blanich is the Arts Partnership’s Director of Operations


Tania Blanich - Director of Operations - The Arts Partnership