Buffalo, Cardiff, January 27th
Cardiff’s gig-goers have turned out in force tonight to eye Howler with a mix of curiosity and suspicion, keen to see how well this latest band of hyped-and-over-here Yanks measure up to the reams of glowing words that have been spun their way. Amid all this anticipation, the support act, Man Made, fails to hold the room’s attention – although your wonder if people would pay more heed if they knew a little about the tall, skinny guy up there, accompanied by just a few pedals and an electric guitar. Said skinny guy is Nile Marr, son of Smiths guitarist axeslinger-for-hire Johnny, but you’d never guess to look at him, and safe to say most don’t. With his eyes covered by fringe and chipped black nail varnish on the fingers gripping the neck of his Fender Mustang it’s more like watching Daniel Johns covering Ash songs than it is Manchester in the ’80s.
Howler take the stage looking like the American dream, all perfect dentistry and cheekbones that would leave even The Drums feeling jealous. Then they leave the stage, only to return minutes later missing their bassist. Lead singer Jordan Gatesmith grabs the mic. “Get onstage,” he yells over the crowd. “He’s such a shithead.”
After a couple of minutes – and with all members now accounted for – they crash in to ‘America’, and flood the venue with warm, Strokes-indebted guitars. If we’re talking frontmen, though, indebted is probably too shy a word, Gatesmith being more or less to Casablancas what Borrell was to Doherty. When he drops the guitar and writhes off the mic stand with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s swinging in his hand, the comparison is unavoidable.
But the Minneapolitans are an impressive live entity, with the likes of ‘Back Of Your Neck’ sounding more accomplished than on record. It’s their in-between-song banter and racily affable stage personae that truly win the crowd over. Gatesmith passes his whisky amongst the front row, cracks jokes too risque to be repeated, and quips and smiles his way through the set. It’s unpretentious, exciting, and most importantly, it’s fun.
The debut album is out there. The live show backs it up. It’s only a matter of time before we’ll be comparing the next run of boys in bands to Howler.