On Saturday night at 9:30 Club in D.C., The Growlers delivered exactly what the rowdy crowd was hoping for a set list packed with classic fan favorites and seven songs off their new album, City Club.
With the City Club album art hanging in the background, purple and orange lights peaked through the eery cloud of smoke that hung over the stage as the six-piece band appeared in front of the crowd. Dressed in white suits accented with flowery lapels, The Growlers exuded a funky disco vibe that is reflected in the music of their new album.
Opening with “Big Toe,” lead vocalist Brooks Nielsen and company dove straight into their classic beach goth sound, which gained them notoriety in their early albums. This mishmash of country, psychedelic rock, surf and pop sounds perfectly complimented the hauntingly raspy, yet soulfully hypnotic voice of Brooks Nielsen.
Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas put it best, declaring in an interview, “Nor gypsy, nor skater, nor goth, nor hobo, nor surfer, nor punk, yet somehow all of these things. The Growlers just might be the most interesting band in the world, certainly one of the coolest.”
Casablancas’ infatuation with The Growlers led him to sign them to his record company, Cult Records, earlier this year and take a hands-on approach as he helped The Growlers produce their newest record.
The Strokesian influences were on full display early in the night as they played “Night Ride” and “Dope on a Rope” back to back. The crisper melodies and heavier synthesizers evident in these songs mark a transition into a newer, slightly more accessible sound that could be just what The Growlers need to expand their music into a wider market.
Nonetheless, 9:30 Club was packed with passionate fans who longed for the classic gritty sounds of Nielsen, who gave them just that. Weaving through hits like “Black Memories,” “Dull Boy,” and “Tell It How It Is,” Nielsen had the crowd singing and swaying as one.
After finishing “Dull Boy,” Nielsen played to the crowd, reassuring them that, “I know this ain’t no small town. This a big city.” With that, he dove straight into the infectious new song “Too Many Times,” which gave way to crowd favorites “City Club” and “Chinese Fountain.”
Playfully beatboxing while the band members removed their white jackets, Nielsen danced freely about the stage, as he did throughout the entirety of the night.
“You could really tell [Brooks Nielsen} was vibing to his own music, which got the whole crowd going,” said animal science and pre-vet freshman Maiah Xayavong after the show.
The crowd showed they were ready to dance, as well, when Nielsen exited the stage and the band launched into a rowdy instrumental rendition of “People Don’t Change Blues.”
“It was like someone injected everyone with Red Bull all of a sudden,” said letters and science freshman Greg Amaral. “People were jamming out like crazy.”
Asking for the lights to be turned down in order to set the mood, Nielsen proceeded to tame the rambunctious crowd with the emotional whirlwind of “Magnificent Sadness.” Like the flip of a switch, The Growlers got the crowd going again with two of their biggest hits, “One Million Lovers” and “Someday,” before exiting the stage only to return again for a rousing three song encore.
Returning to chants of “Ten more songs,” The Growlers responded with “I’ll Be Around,” featuring an extended instrumental interlude that highlighted the band’s transition from their original lo-fi heavy, beach goth style to a funkier sound with clearer and catchier melodies.
The show concluded with the emotionally raw “Going Gets Tough,” as Nielsen reminded us even when life gets difficult, you can’t let yourself get discouraged. With that, The Growlers left the stage to thunderous applause, refusing to be defined.
Featured Photo Credit: The Growlers’ keyboardist and guitarist, Kyle Straka, accentuates the chill atmosphere in front of an excited crowd at 9:30 Club Saturday Oct. 1, 2016. (Jordan Stovka/Bloc Reporter)
Tommy Diehl is a freshman architecture major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.