Review & Photos: Howler @ Oslo, Hackney – 3/4/2014 [Live]

By ajcolores

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Minneapolis’ current favourite exports, Howler, hit Hackney with their own personal brand of everything-to-everyone rock ‘n’ roll. It wasn’t a sold out show, but in the crowd, we managed to spot (with the help of a friend) Geoff Travis from Rough Trade, who famously signed The Smiths. He also signed Howler, so probably checking out where his money is going.

Before we get onto Howler, the support bands deserve a mention, both for very different reasons. Opening up were Quango. Without digging them out too much, Quango were the worst thing about my trip to Hackney. I absolutely hate going to East London, Hackney especially, but Quango made the initial part of my evening that little bit worse. A dreadful confusing mix of Sex Pistols wannabes, with the cringe-worthy guitarist trying to stagger (he clearly wasn’t drunk) into the vocalist (not a singer) for that extra bit of rock n roll credibility. It failed, as did his appalling guitar work and between song banter. Sack him, Quango. You’ll be a quarter of the way to splitting up the band, which to be honest, can’t come soon enough. JUST. STOP.

After a quick trip outside for some fresh air and to decide if I want to put myself through the next support, I was very surprised and glad I did. Broken Hands ambled onto the stage, and unwittingly blew the arse end out of Oslo. The crowd that were previously talking amongst themselves and fairly dispersed became a bounding unit, moving at the hips to the hypnotic Incubus meets BRMC shoegaze come balls out rock these boys put together. I’ve seen some support acts steal the show in my time, but they’ve usually been known upfront. Broken Hands were an unknown entity, but basically won everyone over. They were humble, but if you’re shit-hot, it’s fairly crass to tell everyone you are. They let the music do the talking, and the music didn’t shut up. I’d seriously get on these guys now whilst you can see them in tiny bars and for a fraction of the cost of what this show is worth. Stealing the show doesn’t even come close to what they pulled off. On record, they sound good. Live, they’re in a different atmosphere. My new favourite band by miles!

As Broken Hands were playing, and as the stage was getting set up, Howler’s frontman, Jordan Gatesmith, would continually walk through the crowd, passing me about four or five times, not once I noticed getting spotted by the crowd or being stopped for a photo. Was he pacing up and down out of nerves, or waiting to be noticed? He may just really have needed the toilet. Either way, I found it a bit odd that nobody stopped him, he’s quite recognisable. Unfortunately, the rest of Howler seemed to blur into the background. No matter how they tried to move onstage, it all looked a bit unrehearsed (it sounded tight), and the rest of the band seemed a bit uncomfortable in their own skin. Gatesmith seemed at home, and despite the fact that Oslo was tiny and not sold out, he was in a party mood.

WATCH | Howler - 'Indictment'


Opening with ‘Drip’ from new LP World Of Joy, the instant buzz from their punk track set the crowd alight, with Gatesmith commanding them without even looking. He has the ingredients of a great frontman, although not really sure he’s got the backing from the rest of the band. A band exhausted from the road, or a band that just couldn’t care less? That’s how it came across anyway. Drawing fairly heavily from their new record, Howler rattled through ‘Al’s Corral’, ‘Yacht Boys’, ‘Don’t Wanna’, ‘Louise’ and ‘Indictment’ all from World Of Joy. A fairly ballsy move, bearing in mind it’s only been out a week or so.

Taking to addressing the crowd quite frequently, Gatesmith was charming and funny. “Let’s hear it for the other bands…how about Quango?! I know most of you weren’t here for them, but whatever…QUANGO!”. A few songs later, when responding to what I presume was a heckler; “what am I doing?! What are YOU doing?! You’re wearing a leather coat dude, but whatever…”. Again, the rest of Howler seemed to look like they had just been handed their instruments, and were working out the best way to hold them. This could easily be an interchangeable line-up, a bit like Hole and Courtney Love. There’s only one draw and one constant here.

Listening back to World Of Joy over the days after the show, I had to have a think about the difficulties of recording a record and then trying to recreate that excitement on a stage. It must be tough. For Howler, they seemed to be having the opposite night to Broken Hands. However, both bands triumphed against the absolutely dreadful Quango. Hopefully, whichever Government is actually running our country right now, they will set up a quango to monitor and ultimately destroy Quango.

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