Gig Review: The Growlers + Starcrawler | Melbourne | 16.1.20

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Growlers might have only been in town just over a year ago, but fans of the iconic band from California would gladly welcome them back again soon in a heartbeat. Their East Coast tour has also included stops in places where mega international bands wouldn’t typically travel to, like Torquay (where they’re finishing up the tour tonight), San Remo, and Frankson. As the tour winds down, they last night made an appearance at Croxton Bandroom in Melbourne.

Accompanying The Growlers on the road were American rock band Starcrawler. The band drew an impressive crowd despite playing at 8:30 pm — many, just like myself, intrigued and curious about the stories that they’ve heard about their shows.

Featuring a performance style that’s a fusion of Iggy Pop and a crawling slasher film, it’s hard to take your eyes off of Arrow de Wilde — the performance art was so good that there were many moments where the crowd were left bewildered or startled from the on-stage happenings. Particularly at the end when she dived into the crowd and dropped lifeless to the floor and proceeded to be carried off by who presumed to be the band’s tour manager — all of which is part of the enigma of Starcrawler.

Along with the heartstopping ending of the show, she also dropped to the floor numerous times, convulsed, simulated oral sex with her microphone and spat out blood. In between his invigorating and furious guitar playing, the band’s guitarist Henri Cash grinned widely, almost in a way that felt theatrical and part of the show.

Though it’s easy to become captivated and entranced by the theatrics of Starcrawler, they also impress sonically, unleashing a brand of rock and roll that’s pure and spirited. The fusion of performance art and unfiltered rock and roll is a combination that works undeniably well.

Spanning approximately two hours, The Growlers played a marathon set that never felt lengthy or overcooked. When you’ve got as many hits as they do, you can be excused for playing a long set. Though they were in town celebrating their new album Natural Affair, their set featured an exciting mix of tracks across their extensive catalogue of material.

The Growlers kicked off festivities with their 2013-released track ‘Someday’, which is a jangly and dreamy number that transported everyone to the beach. This enchanting start to their performance set the tone for the rest of the night. The early portion of their show also included the hazy and swirling ‘Night Ride’, with frontman Brooks Nielsen, who was donning a red beret, luring in the audience with his signature vocals, which appear smooth as velvet in a live setting.

As the show progressed, there was no slowing down for The Growlers or the crowd. The crowd were roaring and lively across the entire duration of the show and it’s hard to pick a single moment that had the largest sing-a-long — the whole two hours was jam-packed with sloppy singing from the loose and untamed members of the audience (and superb vocals from Nielsen).

Towards the middle of the show, someone in the crowd threw feather boas onto the stage, with Nielsen grabbing hold of one and wearing it for the next couple of songs, including the vibrant and warm sounds of ‘Natural Affair’. The midway point also included their bouncy track ‘Social Man’, which features on their most recent album — arguably providing one of the more sweatier moments of the night.

Before departing the stage for the first time, they left the crowd desperately wanting more with ‘Chinese Fountain’. After a much-deserved encore, they returned to treat the crowd to a final serving of ‘beach goth’ goodness with ‘I’ll Be Around’ and ‘Going Gets Tough’.

Even after six studio albums and years of touring, The Growlers are as polished and sharp as they’ve ever been and their enthralling live shows are a testament to this.

Written by Amy Smolcic 
Photos by Kristy Smolcic 

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