Photo and story by Max Leach / Contributing Writer
It was a packed house at The Basement East on Friday night. The brisk autumn air welcomed fans into the venue one-by-one, as the line that wrapped around the building filed inside. Southern California natives The Growlers played a sold-out show at the intimate venue and were supported by the eclectic “no-wave” group Donzii.
Before the lights could even go down, someone walked onstage and started fiddling with one of the keyboards. Striking notes and turning knobs, it took a minute for everyone to realize the show was about to begin. Clad in white jumpsuits, each splattered with paint, the rest of the members of Donzii took the stage, greeted the crowd and got down to business. They sprung out into an upbeat homage to new wave and post-punk. Jenna Balfe, lead singer and frontwoman, danced her way around the stage and encouraged the crowd to join.
The group was a great precursor to The Growlers, as their performance was as fun as it was hypnotic. Their blend of new wave and funky bass lines carried along an energy that one could compare to early ’90s Red Hot Chili Peppers. As the bass lines kept grooving on, Balfe dressed out of her jumpsuit into a dress and brought out a giant umbrella that read, “DONZII.” “This is how you spell our name!” Balfe exclaimed. Their performance ended on a strong note, with a song that one could describe as “post-ABBA.” As they left the stage, a jolt of excitement for the headlining act rushed through the crowd.
Suddenly, floor space became much more scarce than before. As The Growlers took the stage, the screams from the audience shook the entire venue. The members one-by-one took the stage, each adding along to an instrumental jam until finally, singer and frontman Brooks Nielsen came to the stage, and the crowd roared. A clean guitar introduced the first song of the evening, “Someday,” the first track off of their 2013 album, “Hung at Heart.” The whole crowd danced, and the energy throughout was nothing but positive. The chemistry between the band was evident both audibly and with their stage presence. They laughed with each other while performing, not taking a moment too seriously. The impression created a kinship between the band and the audience.
The group continued to play older hits from their discography and reassured the crowd in doing so due to their not-too-well-received latest release, “Casual Acquaintances.” However, as their tempo slowed down for one song, which they extended, their sound started to become tiring. In an attempt to revive the fleeting excitement, the group resorted to playing three new songs from the new album, one being “Problems III.” These sounded immensely better live than they did on the record, carrying both more energy and more direction. However, they still lost some people.
The band members all looked at one another and motioned to each other, relaying some sort of information to each other. They read the crowd well, however, and, as Nielsen lit himself a cigarette, the band went into surfy, fast-paced and psychedelic deep-cuts that die-hard fans greatly appreciated. Even newer fans seemed to thoroughly enjoy the change of direction for the concert, and the vibe was restored. They went into “Salt on a Slug,” and “Badlands,” and the crowd started dancing. One girl even hopped on the stage, trying to take a selfie-video with the band.
“You’ve got too many things in your hand,” Nielsen said as he took her phone from her hand and encouraged her to embrace the moment instead.
The band’s performance and presence grew increasingly intense, and suddenly everyone was even more into it than before.
After their 19-song set, the band returned to the stage for an encore, breaking out into a jammed-out version of “Chinese Fountain,” which flowed seamlessly into “City Club.” They performed two more songs, ending with arguably their most popular song, “Going Gets Tough.” The crowd sang along, and the feeling was nostalgic for all; even the band that plays these songs tirelessly every night seemed to feel something notably remarkable. Praising the crowd at the end of the show, Nielsen grabbed the mic one last time and thanked everyone.
“We will never forget you guys,” he said.
Lead guitarist Matt Taylor approached the mic and thanked the crowd by saying, “We love you, all of you. Y’all were really something special.”
A special night it was.
The Growlers are currently promoting their newest release, “Casual Acquaintances,” and are continuing their Beach Goth 2018 tour until January 2019.
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