The latest ‘next-big-thing’ Howler had a lot to live up to with this gig. With a crowd consisting of people eagerly awaiting to either applaud a band who fulfill the title the press has given them of a ‘Vaccines-Drums-Strokes Hybrid’ or snap up the remains as they fail to reach anything above ‘not bad’, the pressure was undoubtedly on.
Support was provided from The Gentry Underground and Man Made. The former provided an interesting display of punk that resembled The Horrors first album ‘Strange House’ and a hyperactive lead singer who could have been having a fit throughout, or could just be a particularly unique dancer. Man Made failed to reach such heights however, with weak acoustic numbers that, while pleasant enough, were nothing amazing – I got the impression that the audience were just watching him whilst thinking about what they had to do tomorrow or whether they had recorded the show that they were missing to be here.
Howler emerged to a huge amount of enthusiasm from the audience and their lively set matched such eagerness throughout. The band’s catalogue of short, catchy songs provided a thoroughly enjoyable set for both fans and new listeners alike. Such songs as ‘Beach Sluts’ were played to perfection, with Howler seeming like a band fit to fill a stadium rather than such an intimate venue.
The highlights of the night were undoubtedly lead single ‘Told You Once’ and set-closer ‘Back of Your Neck’. The aforementioned was clearly the bands most recognized song with the majority of the audience echoing lead singer and guitarist Jonathon Gatesmith’s unique vocals, reminiscent of Julian Casablancas and Lou Reed. ‘Back of Your Neck’ is a song that sums the band up perfectly with its catchy central hook, fast pace and lyrical references to ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ and as such the song went down brilliantly. Other highlights were ‘Wailing (Making Out)’ and ‘Pythagorean Fearem’ which both featured the bands soon-to-be trademark catchiness. What was perhaps most impressive was Gatesmith’s onstage presence, which resembled a frontman who had been doing this for decades rather than the 19 year old on his first UK tour that he in reality is. He played flawlessly, sang uniquely and dealt with a heckler (who should brush up on his, quite frankly, embarrassing put-downs for next time) in a manner that cannot be faulted.
One flaw was perhaps the shortness of the set. Whilst undoubtedly a band with a limited back catalogue, the set did not warrant the build up created by the two support bands, leading to a feeling that the band perhaps short-changed the audience. This could have been due, in part, to the heat of the venue, repeatedly referenced to by the band, which was unarguably excessive, but still did not justify the gig’s shortness.
Overall, Howler have here proved that maybe they actually are the ‘next-big-thing’. Their catchy sound, encapsulating all the indie successes from recent years, and their onstage charisma created a show that was both thoroughly enjoyable and left the audience wanting more. Perhaps next time, they should learn some covers or play slower to prolong their set – when the tickets become expensive as they inevitably begin to play larger venues their set is going to need a longer lifespan.