Its Sunday night everyone has work in the morning and there is a snow storm happening outside… but, that doesn’t stop California’s very own seaside shanty hit makers The Growlers, breezing into the sold out warehouse space at SWG3, bringing with them their very own brand of laid back garage rock and maybe even a little glimmer of the unclouded beach vibes from their hometown.
The event tonight is billed as ‘An Evening with The Growlers’ and that is exactly what we get. Two and a half hours of uninterrupted low-fi, shambling garage rock, tinged with disco notes and some cowboy themed guitar riffs.
The band have been making waves ever since 2009, they write about a variety of every day experiences, from lost love to meeting annoying people at parties, with both a high school sweetheart wide eyed wonderment about the world but also more than just a nod to the sleazy underbelly of it all.
The band stride on stage to what sounds like an Edwardian overture sporting baggy corduroy and polo neck t-shirts advertising a funeral home its exactly the hip ‘devil may care’ style that oozes just the right amount of nonchalance to make it just cool enough. They are met with rapturous applause from the crowd – who seem completely up for it right from the opening chords of Heaven and Hell, from 2018’s compilation album Casual Acquaintances.
By the third track Night Ride – with its dreamy glockenspiel sounding synths the whole venue is singing rapturously along. There is even some fans at the front waving a poster that they had made requesting their favourite track – Tell It Like It Is (see photo) and this is exactly the kind of following that The Growlers have. They have become big enough to fill a venue like SWG3 with 2000 fans, that can chant back the choruses even to that previously unrealised B-side, but also they are still relatively unknown, so it’s still cool enough to like their 6th studio album, without losing that DIY ethos.
Brooks Neilsen has a sultry, raspy falsetto (aided no doubt by the copious amounts of cigarettes he’s trying to discreetly huff in-between songs) that is both unique and unusual yet reminiscent of a young Bob Dylan. He has just the right amount of swagger and an impressive bouffant that makes him look like a young George Best. He seems like a wayward preacher, that’s perhaps a little too fond of bourbon, preaching from the pulpit about the doldrums of everyday life.
Try Hard Fools is an impressive, dreamy ballad with the easy to sing chorus of, “Nobody said it would be easy and if it was you wouldn’t want it”
“I think this song has a really good Scottish vibe to it” announces Neilsen before the band launch into Black Memories, an moving ditty interlaced with calypso guitars and castanets, singing about a long lost love; “Where are you going, Come back with my heart, Sure as the wind keeps blowing, Nothings gonna heal these scars” maybe Scotland is what he was alluding to? Either way the crowd are lapping it up.
This is followed swiftly by Love Test a firm fan favourite from the crowd’s reaction, which sees Neilson standing stage left with the same hands behind back pose made famous by the Mancunian Ghallagher brothers. It’s a crooning, melancholy ode to finding love that perfectly encapsulates the hazy riffs and unabashed optimism that encapsulates The Growlers sound.
Other stand out tracks from a set list that has been curated with scattered gems from the bands full back catalogue include; Empty Bones, Dope on a Rope and Who Loves the Scum?
There is an amusing moment when Nielsen, mistakes the “Here we F*£$ing go” chant that is synonymous with Glaswegian music fans for “Every F*£$ing ho?” that the crowd find highly amusing, before they play City Club which has Daft Punk guitar riffs and laid back high hats, by this point everyone on the room is dancing.
They end the set with Chinese Fountain, only to be brought back on stage moments later by a crowed hungrily shouting for more. The band play a short encore consisting of Shadow Woman, I’ll Be Around and finish with Going Gets Tough – a reggae infused sonnet about a fire that destroyed their recording studio a few years back, it’s a perfect way to finish a behemoth set, prompting the crowd to remember how important it is to band together during these uncertain times.
And just like that the massive congregation disperses off out into the wintery night, perhaps managing to take with them a small ray of Californian sunshine.