Kicking off the ghoulish month of October, The Growlers brought their signature Beach Goth attitude to Sacramento’s Ace of Spades on Tuesday. Before a sold-out crowd, “Los Growlers” welcomed Davis’ Hot Flash Heat Wave to open the show for an unscheduled appearance that proved to be a first-rate introduction to the night.
As is common when it comes to The Growlers, the unexpected is sure to materialize with a questionable gravitational pull of its own. When Hot Flash Heat Wave was introduced, few in the crowd knew of them, but all were sure to remember lead singer Adam Abildgaard’s slithering tenor of a voice by the end of their set.
Similarly, the voice of Growlers’ frontman Brooks Nielsen typically leads Matt Taylor (guitar), Kyle Straka (guitar), Brwd Bowers (bass), Adam Wolcott-Smith (keys) and Richard Gowen (drums) into an unforgettable showing of their trademark sound. Somewhere between pop, beat, future classic and surf rock, Nielsen and the band have created a cult-like following that only grows more true as years go by.
On Tuesday, Nielsen projected a paranoid presence that seemed to ease with sips from his drink, drags from the cigarettes and cheers from the crowd—though even cheers seemed too loud at times. The show started a little rough in the sound department as well. Nielsen would ask the engineer to turn his vox up a few times and by the third song of the night, 2013’s “One Million Lovers,” it seemed to find the groove he was looking for—noisy but warm.
People have compared Nielsen’s vocal personality to Bob Dylan’s, which beckons merit when his biographical storytelling strings you along until the picture is complete and you are left with a new flavor of consciousness. It’s moody. It’s sticky. It draws you in to concern, but pushes you away with consideration.
Hidden underneath the grunge-ridden tones and familiar pockets of discovery, The Growlers have composed songs and offered an industrial work ethic that will sooner or later put the group in the halls of fame from several music homes. Songs like “When You Were Made” and the recent “Natural Affair” touch on the family dynamics that affect just about anyone and everyone.
“The good is not so hard to forget/Though it seems far away/Don’t worry babe, don’t get too down on yourself/They were in love when you were made,” sings Nielsen on “When You Were Made.”
Since 2012, the group’s annual Beach Goth Party, which has welcomed the likes of Bon Iver, Chicano Batman, RuPaul, TLC, GWAR, The B-52s and many more, serves as a compass towards the group’s vast influence and appeal. You could see it in the crowd at Ace of Spades as well, with all ages and backgrounds brought together by The Growlers’ sheer lust for life—the bold, the beautiful, forgotten, ugly, true and lovely.
As if on purpose, Los Growlers have moments reminiscent of other groups prefixed by “the,” such as The Smiths, The Beatles and The Eagles. While their name references a surfer’s innuendo for defecating and their attitude is many times self-depreciating, their California legend is rising to be among the greats of rock and roll, similar to the aforementioned.
With the live energy of their songs, such as: “Someday,” a promising love letter to the one; “Monotonia,” the Spanish-chorused warning to live your life free; or the quintessential “Going Gets Tough,” which punctuated Tuesday’s culminating encore, the band shines like a California sunrise at the end of a long night.
For all the years The Growlers have put every muscle into their body of work, which may be why they appear restless at times, their sound has not been compromised, but rather stretched and refined to make the most out of their time in and out of the spotlight.
The Growlers’ latest album, ‘Natural Affair,’ is set to be released on October 25th.
For more information on Goth Beach Party and everything Growlers, visit TheGrowlers.com.
Photos by Cesar Alexander