Howler at the Triple Rock, 01/14/12

January 14, 2012
Triple Rock Social Club

After setting the U.K. ablaze with both hype and hyperbole in 2011, Howler returned home to Minneapolis to try and do the same thing to the sold-out Triple Rock on Saturday night. While the groundswell of support for the quintet has been slowly building here in the Twin Cities (this small club gig didn't sell-out until the day before the show), the local furor over the band doesn't come remotely close to approaching the excitement and passion shown to them across the pond. And after their brief 35-minute set, I'm not sure if that difference in opinion is going to change anytime soon. For while the performance was certainly a fun one, it was missing a spark or potency which would have made the show truly memorable.

The band were celebrating the release of their debut full-length, America Give Up, and their lightning-fast, 11-song set drew mainly from the new record. After opening with cursory, somewhat tentative versions of "America" and "For All Concern," the band finally caught fire with a dynamic rendition of the rollicking (and hilariously-titled) "Beach Sluts." But the band slowed things down quite a bit with the pensive "Too Much Blood," which further added to the uneven start to the set.

But Howler quickly caught fire with a boisterous version of "You Like White Women, I Like Cigarettes," with frontman Jordan Gatesmith joking afterwards as the band lobbed beers into the swelling crowd, "Apparently PBR is sponsoring the show tonight...unofficially." They wisely kept the momentum going with the hard-charging "This One's Different," rolling from one fleeting, fiery track to the next at breakneck speed. And while the blistering pace of the performance only complimented the youthful, exuberant spirit of the band, the rapid-fire songs tended to blend into one another as the quick set wore on.

Howler at the Triple Rock, 01/14/12
Photo by Tony Nelson
Howler at the Triple Rock, 01/14/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

After Gatesmith failed to elicit much of a crowd singalong on Howler's hit single, "I Told You Once," he endearingly joked that, "About a year ago at this time, we played the Triple Rock to just my mom and dad. And there they are again. Thanks for coming out." A rocking version of "Pythagorean Fearem" quickly followed and was over in a flash, as the band really let loose during its rowdy chorus.

Gatesmith teased us a bit by saying, "The only problem with having a 30-minute album is you have a tendency to throw in a Led Zeppelin cover into your set, or the Smiths" as the band played brief snippets of riffs from each legendary group, but sadly didn't try any surprising covers that would have fleshed out their set.

Howler at the Triple Rock, 01/14/12
Photo by Tony Nelson
Howler at the Triple Rock, 01/14/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

So the band stuck to their own songs as the relentlessly catchy "Back Of Your Neck" closed out the half-hour main set on a high. The guys barely left the stage before regrouping for their hasty encore, with Gatesmith farcically claiming that, "We just wrote this one in the green room," before the group brought their breathless set to a close with a rousing version of "Black Lagoon."

While Howler's performance was certainly an enjoyable one, they didn't forge much of a connection with the audience, failing to give us something that would have turned the show into a significant spectacle instead of a mere musical curiosity. But the band are indeed quite young and still finding their stage legs, and they have loads of raw potential and an easy charm about them. So give Howler some time and they are bound to do something special, I just hope they don't get buried under the relentless hype in the meantime.

Critic's Bias: I saw Howler open for tUnE-yArDs in November, and while I enjoyed both of their performances, I still see the band as a growing work-in-progress.

The Crowd: Other than the families of the band, the place was packed with a cross-section of the Twin Cities music scene both young and old.

Overheard In The Crowd: "Play a Smiths cover, damn it! Don't tease us."

Random Notebook Dump: I was surprised to see Howard Hamilton from the Red Pens onstage when I walked in. He was playing with Prissy Clerks (also featuring members of Total Babe and Teenage Strangler), who delivered a spirited opening set.

For More Photos: See our slideshow by Tony Nelson.



For All Concern

Beach Sluts

Too Much Blood

You Like White Women, I Like Cigarettes

This One's Different

Back To The Grave

I Told You Once

Pythagorean Fearem

Back Of Your Neck

Black Lagoon (Encore)

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