WHO: The Growlers
It was a spazzed-out, hopped-up, sweaty set of pure fun at Friday night's holiday weekend kick-off with the Growlers and their devoted, drunken fans.
Partly made up of beach-bums with some gothy trendsetters thrown in, the Growlers gathered a mass of peeps who just wanted to bust it out on the dance floor now that the cool grey downer of June's gloom has finally burned off. Needless to say, The Growlers' pro-summer soundtrack of mostly bouncing, rollicking and suped-up garage rock melodica went down smoothly.
The dimly-lit show was played out with a super-casual, house party vibe. Free of rock n roll frills - no colored light show, no announcer coming to stage to introduce the band - Friday night belonged to the Growlers just throwing out easy, warm and blissed-out tunes with their signature, subtle undercurrent of creepy/dark tones. Like, did they just slip the Munster's theme song into their set?
Singer Brooks Nielsen started off the night by telling the crowd what drugs everyone was on. "He's on ecstasy," he motioned widely around him "aaaand I'm drunk. The rest of you assholes are probably on something too." Between his careful shuffling about the stage, Nielsen swigged from a Bev-Mo-sized plastic jug of Bourbon. Some girl in the crowd offered Nielson a sponge-y pink Tiara she'd bedazzled herself and he put it on gladly, "Yeah, I'll be your princess . . ."
Through the pot-cloud lingering above the crowd, one dude in the wings ran across the stage diving head first into the audience. After a slightly delayed reaction Nielsen urged him encouragingly "Hey, take a chill pill, man." It was a sign of things to come. The band revved-up the show with a twinkling version of "Sea Lion Goth Blues" and its circus-like Calliope organ swing sent the crowd into psych-punk overdrive.
But it was near the end of the set, during the bands' ode to the she-devil "Wetdreams" that chaos broke out. Excited revelers couldn't hold back and overran the stage in what had to be 75 to 100 people clamoring onto the platform and totally overwhelming the two confused security guards - kids danced, stripped, shook booty and lingered to smother singer Brooks Nielsen with smooches.
Okay, so The Growlers always get compared to those VH1-approved Sunset Strip bands from the fabulous '60s: The Doors, the Byrds, the Turtles. And while these South Bay/O.C. boys do that tinny surf guitar thing mixed with something dark too, that's about where the similarities end. The beach sound is a burning craze right about now (or ten months or more ago) - but that heavy buzz about regurgitating the '60s just ain't right. Dear Mr. blogger, music reviewer, VH1 viewer, please understand what L.A.'s got going on with bands like Best Coast, Soft Pack, Tijuana Panthers is not only borrowed; its as hearty and homegrown a situation as the Ventures spearheaded on the west coast in '58.
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The Growlers aren't doing anything that weighty and don't act the role of rock n roll saviors - they're more fun than that - which is not to say they're no good. The Growlers are working out their own whacked version of showmanship while mining loads of musical periods for a sunburned goth mash-up: with piles of beastly-fast guitar churning, chiming organ melodies and dark wave theatrics. They really deserve better than a Jim Morrison comparison.
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