In support of their second album World Of Joy, Minneapolis’ surf-punk Howler popped into Birmingham on March 28 to play a set crammed full of boisterous antics and amps turned up loud enough to make sure no-one could leave without complaining about lack of hearing.
Brum’s own Elephantine opened the evening with grungy, deafening tunes which set the mood for the rest of the night. The few early comers were treated with full-frontal, unrestrained everything with vocalist/bassist Anna Palmer taking centre stage with her wailing voice taking precedence. The erraticness of the bass lines and tempo proved unpopular with some but Elephantine’s unpredictable nature couldn’t help but please the rest.
Following on were Broken Hands who straight away owned the stage. Once again, heavy guitars, heavy bass, heavy drums just heavy everything carried on the full-frontal approach but this time with a more blues rock slant. With the slowly growing crowd becoming more and more impressed with the Canterbury 4-piece’s big tracks, they mixed things up a bit and threw in some slowed down numbers which let the distinctive vocals shine through.
Being told a gig is one of the best gigs a band’s played after not even 10 minutes is a good sign. Once Howler persuaded the small crowd to close the gap between the barrier and the bar, the loud ear-splitting set began. ‘Drip’ was the final straw for Jordan Gatesmith’s guitar as after just 5 minutes his E string broke meaning there was a short interval which left the rest of the band to give everyone a little lesson about astrology from drummer Rory MacMurdo (thanks Rory) and feeling good about life. There’s no way you can fault a gig where there’s a competition over who’s the best dressed.
After the onstage banter about Primark and star signs, Howler pushed on their set to be stopped shortly again by the breakage of the same string but a quick guitar swap ended all the problems. With a predominantly mature crowd there wasn’t a high chance of pits forming but nevertheless no-one looked bored with the ongoing disorder occurring in front of them. Moving to and fro between America Give Up and World Of Joy left everyone with at least one song they could have a good sing along with. Tracks like ‘Back Of Your Neck’ and ‘Drip’ left everyone singing/screaming the lyrics back but then the likes of ‘Louise’ and ‘Don’t Wanna’ signalled the nodding of heads and tapping of foots while others danced along.
The jokes quickly returned when Gatesmith interrupted guitarist Ian Nygaard announcing ‘Free Drunk’ with the wrong song which led to the worse joke you will ever hear. “We always finish off each other’s…..sandwiches!” Painful, cringy jokes are the best kind though. Soon Gatesmith got what he wanted to play as ‘Louise’ wasn’t too much later which left everyone swaying along and the people nearing the barrier joining in with the sweet cries of “Louise, oh please”.
The end of their set saw the same energy it started with and with a lone stage invader, it was clear the crowd were finally getting involved. As soon as the “erm that’s it” got declared everyone (even those on their phones) reacted with a shout for more which was answered with an extremely short drum solo – thanks again Rory.
It’s hard to understand why Howler aren’t selling out every venue they visit; they have a set packed with big guitar numbers and all the banter you could ever need. They know how to work a crowd even if they don’t want to start hurting each other and are just one of the coolest bands you could ever see.