The Growlers: A Live Review

On Oct. 12-13, The Growlers performed at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz for a sold-out two-night residency toward the conclusion of their Beach Goth 2018 tour. Following the release of their latest album “Casual Acquaintances” and their seventh annual Beach Goth festival, held in Los Angeles over the summer, the Southern California surf-rockers found themselves in Northern California before heading back home to conclude their tour with Pomona, San Diego and Hollywood.

Both nights began with The Jack Moves, a duo from New Jersey that reinvent the sound of soul in the modern age. Lead singer, Zee Desmondes, was especially embraced by the female fans in the crowd, as he sang songs about love and danced suavely underneath the colored lights; the first night’s performance even ended with him entering his phone number into an eager fan’s phone.

The next act to take the stage was Enjoy, the solo project of Wyatt Shears from The Garden, accompanied by his twin brother, Fletcher, on drums and girlfriend who makes music under the name, “Cowgirl Clue,” on keyboard. The band’s self-described genre of “Vada Vada” translated extremely well live, as their music defies boundaries and leaves an audience pondering what they just experienced. Their most recent album, “Small Car Big Wheels,” was released this June through Burger Records, a label that also supports The Growlers.

Kirin J Callinan was the last of the three opening acts, an Australian singer-songwriter with an extensive musical history that went viral last year for his music video for “Big Enough” which features Alex Cameron, Molly Lewis and Jimmy Barnes. Callinan has been frequently described as an exhibitionist, as he is known for his captivating stage presence and acts that consistently shock the public.

After hours of anticipation, The Growlers made their grand arrival around 10:30 p.m. both nights in matching versions of black and white overalls, adorned with inverted crosses and stars. The stage was elaborately decorated with cutouts from their Beach Goth festival performance which included flames, ghouls and a discreetly positioned portrait of the lead singer, Brooks Nielsen.

Each night’s setlist differed greatly, with only a handful of fan favorites being repeated both nights. Though touring in promotion of their most recent album, the band made sure to cover a decent amount of 2016’s “City Club,” as well as 2014’s “Chinese Fountain,” 2013’s “Hung at Heart” and material dating back to 2009. Their music is just as contagious live, with a constant mosh pit formed and the crowd’s energy at a consistent high despite the two hour-long show.

Nielsen is known for his uniquely raspy voice and way of performing that appears as though he’s lurking around on stage, accumulating a type of devotion among fans that has been compared to only that of Jim Morrison and Morrissey, myself included. Having seen The Growlers live eight times in the past two years, I have been extremely fortunate to have developed a mutual respect with the band through my frequency of attendance and delivery of roses.

Saturday night’s performance ended with Nielsen holding my hand during “Going Gets Tough,” a song that Nielsen and I share memories of dancing to on stage together last December. After giving him another bouquet of roses, Nielsen introduced me to the rest of the venue as the band’s “biggest fan” and gifted me with a setlist and roses of my own.

With all of their recent success and rumor of hitting the recording studio again soon, there’s no doubt that The Growlers will become more than just “Casual Acquaintances” with Northern California.

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