01.18.2012 Howler at Piano’s, Manhattan

howler, pianos, back of your neckPete Doherty once quipped, “If you’ve lost your faith and love of music, the end won’t be long.” Truer lyrics were never written, and I confess that I come close from time to time of losing it, of flat out forsaking rock n roll. All these white dudes with guitars singing sad songs becomes too much after awhile, and like many people I get tired of analyzing the music I listen to. Wasn’t it supposed to be fun? Wasn’t rock n roll supposed to be edgy and dangerous, weren’t we supposed to dance and sing along, fall in love and fist fight to four/four time?
Musicians lose sight of this, and then, when you least expect it, a band comes onto the rock scene like a breath of fresh air blowing away the dust that’s collected and dragging you kicking and screaming into the pure sonic joy that is Rock and Roll.
Enter Howler. Much like Napoleon, this bright eyed Midwestern five piece is trying to conquer the world. They are touring everywhere. That’s right, everywhere. Their schedule is exhausting to even look at, for instance, in the next month they’re playing three continents. But I guess them’s the dues, and bless them for it because I had the good fortune to catch them at Piano’s in Manhattan.
Piano’s is about the size of the Anne Frank room, and last night it was populated with cross armed disinterested hipster types in expensive shoes. This was not lost on Howler. Between mocking the audience and insulting the other bands, they delivered the crashing, tight fisted singles from America Give Up, their debut album on Rough Trade.
Now, when playing to this sort of crowd, a lot of band’s performance tends to suffer. There exists an exchange between musicians and the audience, when the crowd’s excited the band feeds of the energy, but when the crowd’s subdued the performers can fall into this open mic night type of riff.
Not Howler. They turned the equation on its head, pulling in the audience and playing to spite the very lack of energy. With clever lyrics like “You like white girls/I like cigarettes,” sung over heavy, soft, heavy fuzz rock rhythm, it was hard not to like the band for poking fun at you. By the end of their short set, heads began nodding, and feet tapping, shaking them kids loose from their painful self awareness, seducing them into enjoying the shit out of rock n roll as they rightfully should.
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