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Howler at Triple Rock, 3/20/14

Howler at Triple Rock, 3/20/14
Photo By Erik Hess

Howler
With Frankie Teardrop and Whatever Forever
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
March 20, 2014

Those wondering where all the guitars have gone in the modern Twin Cities music scene would have been best served by heading down to the Triple Rock last night. The small club was appropriately decorated with festive balloons for Howler's record release show for World of Joy, with two other local bands in varying degrees of ascendancy there in support -- Frankie Teardrop, who added a new guitarist and is poised to hit the road with Howler in May, and Whatever Forever, Clara Salyer and Howard Hamilton's (Prissy Clerks) rambunctious new band who were playing their first show ever.

It all amounted to a fun evening filled with plenty of crunchy guitar riffs and just the right amount of attitude, as all three bands proved that Minnesota's prestigious rock 'n' roll tradition is in more than capable hands going forward.

See Also: The world of Howler's sophomore album

With Prissy Clerks on a bit of a break at the moment, Salyer and Hamilton recruited Selby Tigers drummer Dave Gatchell (who recently returned from an extended stint in Japan) and CLAPS bassist Sara Abdelaal to round out the lineup of their boisterous new band, Whatever Forever. The band rushed to get their set ready for their debut performance, but from the first song it became clear that they intended to hit the ground running.

Their material alternated between fiery, spirited garage rock with a catchy pop pulse that was reminiscent of early Superchunk, and flat-out punk songs (including an ode to Bjorn Borg) that featured emphatic guitar interplay between Hamilton and Salyer, who also deftly traded off vocals throughout their 30-minute set.

Howler at Triple Rock, 3/20/14
Photo By Erik Hess

Salyer admitted that she was still working on vocals straight up until showtime, so the punishing guitar riffs consistently drove the songs far more than the lyrics, which were frequently buried under the devastating din. In fact, the band was rocking so hard that things started falling apart all around them. First a string of balloons came off the walls, adding to the rowdy house party vibes of the night. Then Clara's pedals conked out on her for a moment, and when that got sorted Abdelaal's bass-strap came undone mid-song, which she played through admirably. Those minor issues didn't keep the band from impressing.

Frankie Teardrop expanded from a trio to a quartet for this show, adding guitarist Dan English into their rowdy, garage rock mix. The titular frontman's humorous introductions consistently added a facetious edge to the material, as he dropped a series of hilarious one-liners throughout their breakneck 25-minute set. "This song is about killing a guy" came before "Killed a Man," while he exhorted the crowd to "get fucking pissed" before "End of Summertime Blues." "This song is about my dead friend. It's an upbeat number. Yeah!" was another sardonic intro, but the uproarious, catchy songs themselves more than justified his between song shtick.

Howler at Triple Rock, 3/20/14
Howler at Triple Rock, 3/20/14
Photos By Erik Hess

Teardrop just finished an album that he is looking to release sometime soon, so the second half of the all-too-brief set was filled with spirited new tracks like "100%" ("It's about everything, ever"), "Bling Item" and "Raiders," which all rocked. He also invited us all to start using his new slang catch phrase, "Nice one." "You can say it every time anyone fucking does anything. Brew me a coffee - 'Nice One.' Fall on your face - 'Nice One.'"

And when he announced that they would play some new songs, on cue someone in the crowd shouted, "Nice one!" "That's my man right there!" Frankie exclaimed. "You want to join the band too? We just added this guy."

 
Howler have defiantly pushed aside whatever hype and notoriety that circulated around them following the release of their hotly-tipped debut album. After tuning and getting everything sorted on stage for about 10 minutes, frontman Jordan Gatesmith nonchalantly thanked the crowd for coming out and announced that they were ready to start. "We're just gonna play some tunes" he said, before leading the band through an aggressive run through of "Back of Your Neck" that took on a fresh urgency.

New drummer Rory MacMurdo made his presence felt straight from the start, laying into the cowbell to count off the intro to a fiery take on "Al's Corral" that raucously introduced the World Of Joy portion of the set. The band tore through the first two-thirds of the album in order, as the punkish blast of "Drip" gave way to the La's-esque single, "Don't Wanna," with Jordan's truculent vocals giving a welcome gritty edge. "Yacht Boys" simply slayed.

Howler at Triple Rock, 3/20/14
Howler at Triple Rock, 3/20/14
Photos By Erik Hess

After the effortlessly catchy "In The Red," guitarist Ian Nygaard took over lead vocals for the album's rhythmic title track. "We're going to play a pop banger now," Gatesmith flippantly announced, before the band dove into  "Louise" that was completely dominated by the percussive fury of MacMurdo. He must have thought that the band nailed it, too, as he bounded from behind his drum kit after the song to lead them through celebratory group hi-fives.

Someone in the crowd requested "Beach Sluts," and the band dutifully honored the desires of the audience who even jokingly counted off the song for the band, but the quartet were laughing too hard to actually start the number on time. But once they did kick in, it had the crowd riled up as a pit started in front of the stage. "We're leaving tomorrow for a tour of England," Gatesmith announced to a round of cheers. "We've been in Minneapolis for the last year just hanging out, and we're going to miss it here." The band then launched into a dynamic version of "This One's Different" that had balloons flying amongst the crowd and even an unsuccessful stage dive.

Howler at Triple Rock, 3/20/14
Howler at Triple Rock, 3/20/14
Photos By Erik Hess

Gatesmith slowed things down ever so slightly with "Here's the Itch that Creeps Through My Skull," before the main set closed with an incendiary, punk-fueled version of "Indictment." "Thanks a lot boys and girls. Have a good night," Nygaard said, as the group left the stage and hugged their family members who were perched supportively to the side.

The crowd demanded an encore, and got one, as the group returned (with MacMurdo having to slightly reassemble his drums) and delivered a knockout version of "Wailing (Making Out)" that brought the night to an exhilarating end.

Howler at Triple Rock, 3/20/14
Photo By Erik Hess

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: After coming away slightly unimpressed by Howler's 2012 show at the same venue, I'm happy to see the band has grown in both potency and poise over the years.

The Crowd: Full of musicians from all over the local scene, there to support their old friends.

Overheard In The Crowd: "One guy blew up all of these fucking balloons?! Nice one."

Random Notebook Dump: It was a really nice nod by Howler to their hometown to be sure to schedule a local record release show before they head off and tour the U.K. And the Twin Cities scene rightfully showed up to show their support to a band that definitely deserves it.

Setlist:

Back Of Your Neck

Al's Corral

Drip

Don't Wanna

Yacht Boys

In The Red

World of Joy

Louise

Beach Sluts

This One's Different

Here's the Itch that Creeps Through My Skull

Indictment

Wailing

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