A light pre-summer rain set the scene outside of Propaganda, Lake Worth, last night for the Growlers show, presented by TheHoneyComb and PureHoney. Though the cards were stacked against the "beach goth" quintet, with the show being booked late in the game and on a Monday night, the turnout developed nicely for an evening of twangy guitars, spooky Farfisa organ, crashing reverb, and dancing ladies.
Upon entering the recently de-muralled Lake Worth club, the young men of Drippy Eye Projections were prepping their equipment for the night, which included a bulky, older analog projector -- like teachers use with transparency paper -- and several bowls of alcohol, mineral oils, and food coloring. Drippy Eye takes its work seriously and it shows in the result, which harkens back to the golden era of psychedelia, and made the perfect backdrop to the night's three bands.
Local trio Honey Train climbed up to Propaganda's not-too-tall stage at around 10 o'clock and proceeded to drop a sonic acid hit of classic '60s psych in everyone's ears.
Honey Train's lead singing guitarist shouted and sneered his way through the jangling and jagged chords he was pounding out of his kitschy vintage hollow-bodied guitar. The more upbeat numbers even solicited some dancing -- not an easy task for an opening band. This younger group has done its homework, and between its authentic take on the early years of psych-rock and the backdrop of coalescing and bending colors provided by Drippy Eye, the room was transported back to another time. This was before Roky Erickson had lost his mind entirely, and your mom was still smoking pot on a very regular basis.
The only thing missing from Honey Train's sound was a meandering instrumental freakout; however, the second band of the evening, Jane Jane Pollock, made sure to satisfy a jonesin' for a trip into the nether-bits of sound. (Full disclosure: I am always skeptical of any band that sets up music stands with toys, and has extra drums floating about, and was ready to be bummed out by what I expected to be something a bit half-baked. This is an opinion born of experience with other bands that set up a ton of weird stuff onstage. Jane Jane Pollock, however, was a welcome surprise in the exact opposite direction.)
Jane Jane Pollock is a quintet from the bit of Florida that meets Georgia. Jane Jane Pollock is named after a Japanese dessert made from dried and candied pollack fish. The group travels to shows in a modified school bus, and managed to make everything from vintage organs to dog toys sound immense and musical last night. The band's set started with what sounded like steam escaping from a machine, mixing with the whimsical twinkling of an electric mandolin. Soon it shared sonic territory with more drums than you could shake a dehydrated fish at.
The sounds created by Jane Jane Pollock's two ladies and three men ranged from ethereal and dream-like lullabies to cacophonous drum circles. This was rounded out by members of the band utilizing things like metal mixing bowls and other "found" percussion instruments in a way that was at times overwhelming, but always extremely musical and dynamic. The members of JJP switched between instruments frequently, and did so with ease. The sense of dynamics and composition the band displayed was absolutely beyond the standard set by most "experimental" bands, and made for a completely refreshing musical experience. The huge response the crowd at Propaganda offered JJP at the end of their set confirmed that we were not alone in our newfound adoration for this band.
After Jane Jane Pollock's set was over, we caught up with the Growler's frontman, Brooks Neilsen, about life on the road, the highly anticipated record they tracked with Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach, and how difficult it is to obtain a surfboard in a Brazilian ghetto. Unfortunately, the Auerbach record is on the shelf for the time being, thanks largely to industry politics and unreasonable wait times for release.
However, Brooks seemed excited about what the band tracked at the Distillery with Mike Mchugh, and was adamant about how much fun the experience with Auerbach was. After a few cigarettes and an excellent story about the band's run-in with the law while seeking out a surf club to bum boards from in the favelas
of Brazil, it was time for some more music.
Between Brooks' pale blue prison-yard shirt -- secured only by the top button -- and the fishhook worn in guitarist Matt Taylor's ear, the band looks like everything you'd expect from the records: the forgotten sons of California's beaches. Maybe Tom Waits' kid nephews?
The Growlers' set began with a slow march. The guitars were drenched in echo and have the Morricone aesthetic down pat. Almost immediately, the ladies of Lake Worth found themselves swaying to the band's musty sounds. A guitar solo crashed through the waves of reverb as an eerie organ screeched beneath the crooning Neilsen's tales of a haunted beach life and dead dogs in the streets of Mexico.
During one of the slower songs, the crowd writhed and swayed beneath the hypnotic sounds. The Growlers would be the perfect band for a pool party on downers. The second to last song of the set, "Sea Lion Goth Blues," brought the best response of the night by far for the band, however. The highlight for us was "Hashima," with its awesome guitar breaks and rollicking rhythms. The set was a fantastic chance to enjoy an exceptionally good group before they inevitably blow up.
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