After three months of waiting since I knew Minnesota-band Howler was coming to play Debaser, last Thursday was finally the day I got the chance to experience myself what NME had been hailing as the best new band in 2011.
Around 8.40 pm, the Canadian four-piece band Hooded Fang opened the show delivering a solid performance through and through of more or less 10 indie-pop songs with danceable 60’s rock sound. Shamefully, the audience who sparsely filled the room seemed reluctant to move their bodies which I bet they secretly wished have done, well maybe except for the one girl who could not look away from seeing Howler’s Jordan Gatesmith (vocal) and Max Petrek (bass) who stood by the stage watching Hooded Fang played. Even so, it did not stop the pair of Daniel Lee (main vocal, guitar) and April Aliermo (bass, vocal) from embracing the crowd with friendly greetings and funny and slightly inappropriate jokes as common attributes they apparently shared with Howler. From that moment on, it was really nice to see how in juxtaposition these two bands took their shows both lightly and seriously which has become their appeal beside their music. Anyway, Polaris Prize-nominated Hooded Fang has released two greatly praised albums called Album and Tosta Mista for you to check out.
After doing sound check by themselves, Howler finally took the stage shortly before 10 pm. Kicking off with Wailing (Making Out), Howler effortlessly showed their quality, but when I looked at people around me, there was an atmosphere of uncertainty of how good or bad the night would turn out. Throughout all the songs which were taken from their debut album America Grow Up, some genuine fans in the front row let loose with the music (especially during Told You Once and Back of Your Neck), yet some others were unmoved. It was absurd (and a pity), but it was a relief as well to see that the crowd still appreciated the band in their own way because they should have. Musically, in my opinion, Howler is The Strokes meets The Libertines. However, Jordan’s low, rough and sometimes a bit mumbled voice, Ian Nygaard’s sharp guitar playing, Max Petrek’s kicking bass and Brent Mayes’ powerful drumming brought on their own kind of rock and roll and professionalism. They were loud, a good kind of loud which could make you just want to grab someone and dance like no one was watching. The fact that Ian had to use Jordan’s guitar because of his own broken strings in the middle of the show and how they were actually looking forward to going home after a long tour did not make me doubt of their young, fresh and huge talents. Behind the skinny jeans and the sneakers, they have quality which makes everything totally worth it. Howler lived up to the hype, and absolutely so much more.