Friends, Howler @ The Corner
It was a weird set, just a little off-kilter. Howler’s four smirking rabble-rousers were obviously jet-lagged. They had come a long way to play a not-very-full room populated by people who clearly didn’t know their band – excluding a thuggish knot of fans at the foot of the stage who tried very hard to get the Howler party started. It didn’t quite fire, despite their best fist-pumping efforts.
Singer Jordan Gatesmith strained to recreate the bawling post-pubescent energy of the band’s debut album, America Give Up, but there was no real playfulness in Howler’s performance. Slower tunes like Too Much Blood and Back To The Grave seemed to drag while the grinning garage pop nostalgia of songs like Beach Sluts and Back Of Your Neck came out perfunctorily, noisy but dispirited. Meanwhile between song banter – usually the band’s forte – was kept to a minimum. What the boys did say was awkward and loaded with subtext, as though these Minnesotan kids were unsure how to address a room full of politely disinterested kangaroo herders (we Australians are, after all, a frightening alien breed).
When a small crowd of enthusiasts stormed the stage at the end of Howler’s set, it seemed to take the band by surprise, along with everyone else, and it was hard to not feel slightly embarrassed for those involved – not least the fan who tried to strike up a conversation with guitarist Ian Nygaard in the middle of the song. His misplaced enthusiasm capped off a performance that could have been magic but fell disappointingly flat.
In the headline slot, Brooklyn’s Friends fared a little better, their insipid jungle pop drawing the crowd in; uber-hipster vocalist Samantha Urbani doing her very best hip-swinging rockstar impression for a warm and welcoming crowd. In the flesh, bass player Lesley Hann was impossibly skinny, thrumming away with all the power her bony little fingers could muster (presumably to make the most of the three notes she’s learned how to play), while Samantha wailed breathlessly in her monotonous Cyndi Lauper-cum-ESG fashion. Beside these two, the older male players in Friends looked positively dad-like, and I couldn’t help but wonder how all this sultry, disposable art pop could possibly be of interest to them. I guess Samantha is pretty interesting to look at, no matter what the angle.
BY SIMONE UBALDI
LOVED: Jordan’s mid-'90s high school basketball top. A gentle ‘fuck you’ to fashion.
HATED: Meh. Nothing.
DRANK: Beer. Probably not enough.