Howler w/ Teenage Moods and Jack Campbell @ The Varsity Theatre 4/19/12
Total gig rating: 7/10
God forbid Jordan Gatesmith should have an opinion… Yes, that’s how I’m starting this review. I figure since it’s the hot talk in the music scene lately, I might as well address it. What I think about the whole thing is that people were initially way too butthurt about it. He wasn’t downright bashing on the Minneapolis music scene. He has some reason behind his statements and he has every right to say what he thinks. It’s not like Minneapolis loved and raised Howler to fame. They don’t owe our scene much. That being said, I get the impression that Jordan and the whole band appreciate certain aspects of the music scene in our city. I mean, Jordan agreed to play at Electric Fetus on Record Store Day (which I’ll talk about later on). Basically, I know we’re cute and proud little Minnesotans trying to make our stand in the country as a hip and musically-awesome place, but don’t bring out the guns every time a local musician decides not to passively dislike some things about the music scene here.
Anyways, now to talk about the fun(ish) stuff. The first band to grace the stage of The Varsity Theatre with their presence was Jack Campbell. Well, the singer/lead guitarist’s name is Jack Campbell. They said that they were in the process of deciding band names. Throughout the night they were Jack Campbell and the Chocolate Car Parts, Jack Campbell and the People, Jack Campbell and the Glens, etc. The first impression I got from this Duluth-based band was that their music was fairly basic. It had the usual garage-band-indie-rock sound to it but thankfully it didn’t bore me entirely. Although it was basic, behind that there was a sort of straightforwardness and driving style which held me on. Their character also helped to brighten their show up a bit and make it worthwhile to watch. Jack was a noodly energy rod that jerked and jangled. He’d do a little jump step and then rock back and forth on his feet, sometimes dropping down onto his knees– the way guitarists do in the intense parts– and leaning over the guitar. Jimmy (bass) had his own kind of stage character too, which was more laid back and smooth. He kind of sway-grooved through the show, but remained pretty much in the same spot. Something that struck me about them was that they actually seemed like they were having fun on stage. This quality often seems missing from bands’ shows of late. They all smiled and just looked like they were having a good time. The stage banter wasn’t witty and confident, but it was pretty endearing. I give them credit for their sound quality in correlation to their age. Nate Rendulich (drums) turned 21 on the night of the show, and Jack is only a junior in high school. I cried a little when I found that out. Not really, but it makes me happy when I find young’ns that actually do cool shit and get somewhere. I’m always surrounded by twenty-something college attendees at shows, and it makes me feel happy that I’m not alone in a sea of people who can drink and go to shows without their parents and buy dry ice and adopt children. In general, Jack Campbell weren’t terribly impressing or unique, but I do say that they have potential and hope to see them grow in the years to come.
So generally when I see shows, I tweet about the happenings and my thoughts at @MMIMCB and @NoBoldVillain and this show was no different. I saw Clara Salyer and Howard Hamilton from Prissy Clerks come in and stand in front of me, so naturally I tweeted about my feelings of awkwardness about them being there and so close to me considering I gave them a bad review from the SXSW send-off. (P.S. Clara was in Total Babe with Jordan). Lucky me, they ended up seeing my tweet after the show and replied with “Haha! This is too funny. Don’t worry about it at all, just come see us again sometime and see if we can change your mind!”. I think that I should just never again tweet about “smaller” bands unless it’s 100% positive. Steffaloo also once bashed me in the past, and her and some other band had a conversation about how I was “irrelevant”. Not to mention Sleep Study read my (bad) review of them too and tweeted about it. YOU GUYS STOP. YOU’RE MAKING ME FEEL BAD. DON’T READ YOUR REVIEWS UNLESS THEY’RE REALLY PRAISING. And still be my friend, because even if I don’t love your music you still could be cool people. And hey, maybe I can come to a jam session and change your whole soun– I mean… give you a few suggestions. Also speaking of friends, if anyone ever sees me at a show and recognizes me, feel 100% free to come say “hi”. I’m not very good at being the first to talk to people, so let’s be friends if you’re cool with that. Well, enough about me and my feelings of awkwardness. Teenage Moods were the second band on the bill. Local shmocal night as it usually is with a local headliner. This band, eh, this band was preeety boring. I was unimpressed by the music which had that same kind of basic-indie-rock feel. The only little bit that I was grasping for was the keyboard/synth riffs that peeked out from behind the fuzzy-buzzy guitar now and then. I just wanted to be all “GOOD, BRING THAT OUT”. That being said about their music, it was damn entertaining to be watching the left side of the stage. Jillian (bass) and Taylor Motari (vox, lead guitar) didn’t seem like they were having fun at all, but Elliott Kozel (keyboard) and Kyle Sobczak (guitar) were fantastically bouncy. They smiled and laughed about did little jumps, which made Teenage Moods’ show not be a total letdown. I think that the band has talent but it’s not being put to good use with their current music, in my opinion. They gotta mix it up a bit more and pump some inventiveness into their stuff or they’re never going to impress me. Weh, they get a low score on my scale. (And again, if you are in Teenage Moods and are reading this, don’t take it personally.)
Howler’s position in the music scene here in Minneapolis is definitely a strange one. Usually we love a band or ignore them, but Howler are rather in between. The show at the Varsity wasn’t close to being sold out (as far as I could tell) and there was scant attendance of photographers, but at the same time they’ve been booked for Rock the Garden this summer and have recently graced the cover of Citypages. Surprisingly though, I didn’t see as many college-age kids at this show. The crowd seemed to me to be dominated by 35+ adults. Maybe the uni people are all mad at Jordan for totes hatin’ on our bitchin’ music scene or something. I dunno. But in any case the show was fun fun fun ‘til the crew member took the guitars away, regardless whether or not the regular concert-going crowd was there. The show took off with a song. I’m not certain what that song was but I do know that it was from America Give Up and was entitled “Big ol’ Black Booty” on the setlist. In fact, the entire setlist was written in a lewd code. I thought it was damn hilarious. You can check it out here (I’ve decoded most of it), but don’t let your kids see. Howler have sound foundations which can easily be taking in a snoring boring direction, but they avoid that route and take the fun way. I mean sure, the lyrics aren’t deep and greatly poetic, but we don’t want that all of the time. I myself am a huge fan of vocals and lyrics (which is why I get so frustrated that I can never hear the singers at concerts), but I think that Howler can pull of the love-probs stuff in an honest way. Honest in that they’re not trying to make the love-probs flowery and beautiful. Because to them they’re not. Howler’s lyrics are just like, “Well, girls are confusing and I need someone and alcohol!” without pretense. It’s a nice perspective contrast. Yes, some love and life situations are as deep as the Marianas Trench, but some are not. And Howler help us to realize and come to terms with that. Yes’m they seemed like they were enjoying themselves by being on stage, which again is hugely important to make a connection with the audience. To be honest, I’m not totally impressed with the technical musical talent of the band as a whole, but Brent Mayes definitely stands out. That boy works up a storm back there on the drums. It was kind of fascinating to watch the drumsticks appear almost out of thin air to strike a sharp beat onto the snare and then swiftly make its way to the cymbal. The crowd reaction to the band seemed to me a bit chilly. There were the two or three superfans rocking out, but most everyone I saw was doing vague head-bobs or not moving at all. I think that Howler do a lot better in England because the teens there actually like them. I gotta say, Howler are a teen band. A cool-teen-who-likes-cool-stuff band, but still a teen band. Maybe next time they play ‘round here it should be a 16+ or AA show. Perhaps the crowd won’t be quite as chilly then. And if you’re reading this and you’re one of the people who think that they’re all meanie-butts, some of my British-twitter-friends have met them and say there were fine young gentlemen. Give ‘em a chance, won’t ya?
BONUS PARAGRAPH, JUST FOR YOU: I attended Record Store Day on 4/21 (whoo yeah) at Electric Fetus, and Jordan was there at 3 to play a 20ish minute acoustic set. This reception too was rather chilly. Chillier than the Varsity show. I saw like, two guys head bobbing and that was it. And then there was me over on the side head-nodding and mouthing the lyrics. Later when Jordan asked what people had bought in order to encourage some banter, one of the head-nodders held up his new copy of America Give Up, and everyone else just stared at Jordan. I mean, I totes would have said something, but at this point I hadn’t bought anything yet. Plus I have problems with talking to musicians that I like. Whaddyagonnado? The set was really good though even in acoustic form. Most of the songs held up in that style. CRAZY HIGHLIGHT OF THE CONCERT, one of the Fetus employees went up on stage after (half-joking) requests from Jordan for a bucket-player (there was an empty gear bucket on the side of the stage). The cashier pulled up a drum stool and added a nice beat compliment for “Back of your Neck”. But seriously, even during “BoyN” the people in the crowd didn’t seem vaguely excited. WHERE IS THE CROWD SINGING OF THE “Oooh wooo oooh ooooooooh oooooooh” PART? I WANTED IT. I had fun. Haters gonna hate, potaters gonna potate. BONUS BLURB ABOUT MY FUN RSD TIMES: I won an American Buffalo vinyl, bought the Sufjan Stevens/Rosie Thomas split 7”, and got called in the raffle today. I chose a “Mystery 5-pack of Rock CDs” which after listening to them found out that I didn’t like any of them. But hey, I can sell them at Half-Priced Books and get something out of them, right? I also canoodled on over to Yeti Records. I wanted to see who was playing but couldn’t find the bands. Dude, nobody told me that they were in the basement. Oh well, next year. I saw lots of babe guys though too, so making the trip to Yeti Recs was worth it.
LIKE FREE TICKETS? So I sometimes win concert tickets, and sometimes those tickets are for shows that I’ve already bought tickets for. When this happens, I’m often fond of finding someone to give these tickets to. Sometimes I can’t find anyone and the tickets go to waste. If you want to be on the “Hey, tell me when you’re giving away tickets” list, leave a message in my ask box with your cell phone number. I’ll do the order of informing in the order that y’all message me, so get on it! And sorry to break it to you, y’all are a few steps behind my friends and family in the line, but it does often happen where none of them can go, as this happened with Howler.
TELL ME I’M PRETTY: I like feedback. And messages. And little red numbers telling me that someone sent me a message. No you don’t really have to tell me that I’m pretty, but if you ever feel like asking a question (personal, general, curious, whatever) I am open to answering it. You can even tell me that I’m wrong (in a well-mannered way please), and argue that a band is better than I say they are. Discussion is great.