Review: The Growlers @ Roundhouse, London
When I was asked by someone on the tube to describe what I thought of the show I answered ‘pleasantly underwhelming’.
Waking up this morning with a blistering hangover I kind of know what I meant, but I feel like it needs more explanation.
First, here’s a hungover thought to lead us in. To grab your hand and slowly walk you down the stairs to the muffled spooky fairground sounds of The Growlers behind the cellar door.
London is massive, right? And at any given time crazy things are happening. But, at those times, is there still one event that outright beats the rest? One that everyone wants to be at, above everything else in the whole city?
Because this felt like that and when The Strokes played there a few days earlier I had the same thoughts. I’m most likely wrong, but hey. Anyway.
I’d been gifted two tickets from my sister so took the opportunity to invite the girl I met last Sunday at the Windmill.
We started at the office bar. I work in a WeWork and we have free beer on tap Monday to Friday, a cool concept down here. An abomination when I tell my friends and family back up North.
We say ‘one for the road’ too many times and arrive halfway through the first song, Something Someone Jr. There’s more of a thrill when you can hear the band playing and you’ve got to rush through security. This was the perfect, bouncy record to soundtrack that mayhem.
I took notes this time because clearly my memory doesn’t want to be mine. It’s like the shadow escaping in Peter Pan.
Now I’m that wanker taking notes in the crowd. Not a great deal of fun for the date you take either. It also makes you a prime target for getting ragged into a mosh pit whilst tapping away about how you don’t particularly like them.
Roundhouse is exactly that, a round house. So naturally, as a band that goes heavy on the reverb, you pick this echo heaven. It worked a treat, I must say, although it could have been louder.
We went from one side, to the back, to the other side. Believe it or not, the 5’ 2” girl I was with couldn’t see at any spot.
The first drum hit from Night Ride, their third song of the night, crashed in and triggered a harmonious cheer from the crowd and everyone threw up an arm. The show truly started here.
They’ve got a strange presence on stage. Almost lifeless, but captivating. Eerie, yet reassuring. You feel haunted by them, but they’re a tired old ghost who just has stories to tell.
Singer, Brooks Nielsen, only began to sway once they reached One Million Lovers, before that I mistook his body for the microphone stand. I couldn’t help but see Edgar the Bug from Men in Black in his mannerisms. And, to be honest, I’ve got a lot of time for that.
The strange aura of the band shaped a crowd I haven’t witnessed for a while. A very social crowd with nearly everyone just stood chatting to their pal next to them (this could have been down to how quiet it was), but I liked it. It gave a niceness to the atmosphere, and I think you could describe the sounds of The Growlers as just that, niceness. There were also few people kicking some questionable grooves and stroking walls (I can’t excuse this one with the volume).
Dope on a Rope, the ninth on the setlist was the crowd favourite, as expected. There’s more life injected into everything at this point and there’s the first real sign of centre crowd carnage. Yis yis.
Black memories followed immediately after, which had the same vibes as Dope on a Rope, but slower. The crowd had retained the energy and desperately look for anything other than a simple two-step. There we go; out came a lighter.
We’re 15 songs in now and I took some notes for a song called ‘No One’s Perfect’ – it doesn’t exist. The song in question was actually called Truly. It was much grander than the studio version.
I acknowledge that I’m not a hugely dedicated fan when I realise I was posting Instagram stories and tagging some random growler account all night. Shoutout to @thegrowlers.usa.
They played covers Mama Said by Shirelles and Charlie Don’t Surf by The Clash which could easily be one of their own. It’s made unique purely by his vocals.
Remember when Chris Kamara missed that red card? I felt like that at points. I turned to check the queue for the bar for one second and heard an enormous cheer; Brooks had a T-Shirt in his hand all of a sudden. He briefly attempted to put it on, but then just carried it in his hand for the rest of the song like someone who avoids paying for cloakroom to save a quid.
The show was almost anti-climactic but in a good way. Which is where I got to the ‘pleasantly underwhelming’ comment. Yes, it’s a bit misjudged, but there is some truth. There are no sing-a-long anthems or mosh pit starting anger releases, but that’s okay.
They make wicked records filled with reverb and weird sounds, to lay the road for Brooks’ distinctive vocals to drive deep, dark lyrics into your earholes in a dented, old, flower painted Cadillac. And that needs to be appreciated.
It turns out you don’t go to watch The Growlers, you go to honour their music in a different form, with bigger sounds, wilder solos and immersion you don’t experience through your speakers at home – while chatting to your pals and getting wrecked… It’s great.
My plus one/guest/acquaintance/date? goes to the bathroom multiple times throughout the show and each time comes back with a new 500 photo album of her and her new-found friends and a story to go with it. One of the stories was particularly shocking.
“Sam, I’ve just heard the saddest ever story about the band”
“So apparently, they all lived in a house together which caught fire, burned down and one of the members died”
After a Google search, it turns out that it’s false (luckily). They did live in a house together and they did have a house fire which partially ruined the house and wiped the power to it. But no one died.
In fact, they just bought a generator and continued to live in the house anyway to finish recording their album. If that’s not documenting the madness, I don’t know what is.
It seemed to go on forever. This usually has negative connotations, and I’m still trying to work this one out. They played 32 songs in total and that is an absolute shift.
“We’re gonna go off and do more shit and then come back and play more shit”. Was this my internal monologue or what Brooks said before the encore. You’ll never know.
I scoot off to the toilet which has speakers connected to a microphone in the venue so you don’t miss anything. Since it’s the break, I just hear the crowd chanting ‘Olé, Olé, Olé’. I animatedly chuckle to myself and accidentally piss on my jeans. Time to head back.
Got too pissed. Said stupid things. I don’t wanna talk about it.
(I should make this sign off into a template.)