The Music Beat

The Music Beat: The Growlers and 1,000 of Your Closest Friends at the Metro

I’m so glad I have friends with such good music taste. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have known about The Growlers. It can take me a minute to warm up to new artists, so I didn’t go into the psychedelic rock band’s show at the Metro (3730 N. Clark St.) Sept. 7 knowing every word. But now I’ve found a new band to add to my ever-growing list of “artists Mary Grace cares about.”

Everything about the concert felt welcoming — like a bunch of friends hanging out and enjoying the music.

I arrived at the Metro not 100 percent sure they would let me in — my spot on the list wasn’t officially confirmed. Luckily, the man working the list was helpful. He got in touch with the proper people to ensure I was able to cover the show.

The welcoming energy continued as I got into the venue. Everyone politely scooted aside as I weaved my way up to the photo pit. The security guard who let me into the pit asked me how I was and the fellow photographers smiled as I entered. These small moments set the tone for the whole show.

The Growlers’ brand of rock evoked nostalgia with its lo-fi vocals reminiscent of old-timey singers, reverb-ridden guitars of ‘60s surf rock and groovy bass lines.

The opening track “Big Toe,” off the band’s 2014 album “Chinese Fountain,” pulled these elements together playfully. The track reminded me of “Sweet Tangerine” by The Hush Sound — a song I’ve loved for years.

The common thread of both songs is the sense of movement — consistent percussion and rhythm guitar meshed with spirited strumming of the lead and bass. It left me bouncing around in the photo pit. Who says you can’t have fun on the job?

Lead singer Brooks Nielsen matched that movement as he waltzed across the stage in his red collared shirt and floor-length navy coat.

“Big Toe” subverted this lively energy with the bitter lyrics, “She’s a lost cause so cut your losses.”

The Growlers shifted the tone with the love song “Someday.” The couple next to me in the crowd started dancing and twirling each other as Nielsen sang, “One day you’re gonna be my wife / You’ll never have to worry again / I’m gonna be your man.” If that doesn’t give you hope for love I’m not sure what will.

Pure moments like that warmed up the chill in the air outside. It got so warm in the venue I started to regret my long-sleeve-shirt choice. As soon as I began to break a sweat, someone turned on the industrial-sized fan to my right. It was The Growlers’ biggest fan.

In all seriousness, it felt like everything occurred to make me comfortable and relaxed, leaving me free to fully appreciate every guitar solo and catch the small interactions on stage.

There was clear bromance between guitarist Kyle Straka and bassist Brad Bowers. The two occupying the right side of the stage together intertwined their arms as they played their respective instruments. Straka even gifted Bowers a flower from the crowd. Bowers graciously accepted and held the flower in his mouth as he continued to play.

Bowers got his time in the spotlight with the track “Beach Rats,” which began with just the bass. One of the best but most underappreciated elements of a song is a snazzy bass line, so hearing one build off the bass made me happy — total mysterious vibes like a Scooby-Doo mystery.

Closing track “Going Gets Tough” left the show off on a positive note. It was the seaside-carefree anthem I needed. The reminder, “When the going gets tuff / That the labor of our love / Will reward us soon enough,” was just the right reassurance.

The Growlers is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music.

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