Concert Review: Howler, Zulu Winter @ XOYO, London, England

Last night, PeteHatesMusic was fortunate enough to take in a concert of 2 indie bands that are tipped to have a breakthrough in 2012. This review will be the deciding factor on whether or not it happens for the lads. Playing at the XOYO in London as part of the Q Now: The Sessions series of concerts, both Howler and Zulu Winter seemed liked they were on a mission from the start.

Zulu Winter were the openers and – terrible segue alert – speaking of open, keep your eyes open for an upcoming PeteHatesMusic interview with Zulu Winter. They have been tipped by Q Magazine, amongst others, to be one of the acts to see this year, and based on the strength of debut single Never Leave / Let’s Move Back to Front, I can see why. These guys only formed a year ago and are already getting praise for their music – with no album yet to speak of. The five piece London band are touring and getting some gigs under their belt ahead of their debut album, to be released this Spring. PeteHatesMusic threw a few beer bottles on stage to prep them for the rigors of touring.

Well, how did Zulu Winter do? They dodged my beer bottles, so good on them. The 5 guys were a touch crowded on the stage, and literature fans might take that for a metaphor that they are too big for the stage and venue, and bound for bigger things. They played 7 songs over the course of 30 minutes. They played both Never Leave and Let’s Move Back to Front, of course, as well as Silver Tongue and We Should Be Swimming. We Should Be Swimming was recognized by the crowd, with its pulsating drums and dance-rock keyboard rhythms, and a dance party broke out on the floor. Maybe “We Should Be Dancing?”

Lead singer Will Daunt is an apt front man, with strong live vocals matching that of the singles. When he’s not playing his guitar, he gets restless and points and pecks a little too much with his right hand, trying to stress his lyrics. However, he exuded confidence, along with the rest of the band – confident, not cockiness, almost as if they are aware of their stature – on the cusp of a breakthrough, but needing to put in some legwork to get to their destiny.

The crowd reacted very well to Let’s Move Back to Front, which pleased Will. He didn’t have much in the way of stage banter, but enjoyed the reception to the song.

The set was a solid, 30 minute set, true to the studio versions of the songs that I have heard. The other songs, presumably off of their forthcoming album, were also very strong, and featured some slower songs to contrast their usual driving rock / dance rock motif. The set definitely has me looking forward to their debut album.

Zulu Winter have a few more dates scattered across the globe, before heading back to London to play at the end of February, as well as the June 2 Field Day festival in London. Check out their website to listen to a few songs and see all of the tour dates. For the Canadian / Americans readers, no tour dates on that side of the pond have been announced just yet, but keep reading PHM to find out when they do get announced.

Headlining the event were Minneapolis, Minnesota band, Howler. The four man band have been compared to a variety of bands (The Strokes, The Vaccines, etc), and although comparisons to successful bands must be nice, it must also be bloody annoying, and they likely want carve out an identity and sound of their own – so no comparisons here (although they do sound like The Vines mixed with The Beach Boys mixed with…..). Ironically, the Vaccines were played during the set change between Zulu Winter and Howler – now who did that?! Howler released a five-song EP last year, This One’s Different, and more recently (as in – one and a half weeks ago) released their debut album, America Give Up.

I had run out of money by the time the band came onstage, so no beer bottles were thrown at Howler. The band was so focused on playing their driving, loud, garage rock, that I had a high chance of actually hitting them, so good thing I’m skint. The band have a tidy collection of rock songs, led by Jordan Gatesmith’s sometimes throat-shredding vocals. The songs are quick, to the point, and leave an impact (is it appropriate to make a “That’s What She Said” joke in a concert review?).

Howler had the advantage over Zulu Winter of a recently released an album, so there was song-recognition amongst the crowd. The band had a high energy set that the crowd was enjoying on the dance floor. Howler had a relaxed look – lead singer Jordan Gatesmith wore a simple plain white t-shirt, while the bassist was wearing a white tank top with thin blue stripes. Jordan seemed non-chalant as he went about his business of leading the band through the songs.

Jordan’s banter was limited, but he did comment that they had “2 more songs and then you can go to bed, ’cause its Thursday.” Rock star bonus points for knowing the day of the week! During their 2nd last song, the first crowd surfer of the night made it onto the stage. Jordan didn’t mind as the fan went to the mic and sang the chorus – and he fuckin’ nailed it to be honest, both on key and in time. Sign him up!

Howler left the stage after 30 minutes, and returned for a one-song encore. Another crowd surfer, lost in the high-energy indie rock set, made it up on stage. Like a virgin at an orgy, he seemed completely lost, didn’t attempt to sing or do anything, and was led off stage by a bouncer.

For those readers in Toronto – Howler will be swinging by The Drake Underground on April 5, so be sure to see them – by paying to go inside, not by stalking them on the Queen West sidewalks. Montreal readers can see them the next day (April 6, in case your calendar is broken) at Le Divan Orange. Everyone else, hit up “Google” or the band’s website to see their tour dates.

So did Zulu Winter and Howler live up to the pre-show hype? I say yes on both accounts. With a sound from both bands that deserves a larger venue, their music will soon command an audience that will too require a larger venue. 2012 is theirs for the taking, and it will be fun to see what Zulu Winter and Howler do with it.

(Note: don’t ever throw beer bottles at a band, unless it is Nickelback)

PHM Rating for Zulu Winter: 8.0 out of 10
PHM Rating for Howler: 8.5 out of 10

Zulu Winter – Never Leave
[youtube UAZvI2uFLJg]

Howler – Back of Your Neck
[youtube swg9X1LcXm8]

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4 Responses

  1. charlie says:

    Hey, “like a virigin at an orgy” uncalled for! although that was me losing my crowd surfing virginity. aaha was a fucking good gig.

  2. pete says:

    Ha – amazing stuff! Congrats on losing the crowd surfing virginity – that’s a big step in a man’s life. Hopefully you do it again. And if you do, and if you’re lucky enough to get on stage again – plan ahead! Or exit the stage immediately.

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