MUSIC REVIEW | The Growlers warm up the 7th Street Entry

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I was up at 4:45 on the morning of this show. Long story short I partake in a nerd fest called Knowledge Bowl which had me up at an ungodly hour and riding to Little Falls in a bus whose interior was not more than 30 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just my transition. Plus I thought you should pity me.

Anyhow, my mother and I departed from our quiet suburban home and arrived at the 7th Street Entry just in time for Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas’ set to start. Jessica is the lead singer of a six-piece (at least in their live shows) outfit that consists of, roll call: Benjamin Sturley on bass, Gordon Smith on guitar, Taylor Pierson on keys (I think), Steve Stetson on drums (I’m pretty sure), and Jake Shadik on trombone. Sorry for the uncertainty, the bio on the bands’ website is solely a Hernandez bio…

Now to the important stuff—the music. Hernandez took a soulful stance right from the beginning of the show. Her voice was rich and brought about thoughts of female vocalists like Duffy, Amy Winehouse, and Anouk, among others. The band was extremely tight in its live performance and everyone played their respective instruments well. In fact, Shadik was one of the strongest trombone players I’ve seen in a while. Being in band for 7 years and seeing students as well as professionals perform on the trombone, I can at least say that I can somewhat judge trombone playing. Shadik had amazing control of his pitches and really incorporated a resonating brass sound into the music without overpowering everything else. The entire six-person unit was cohesive throughout the whole set; they bent and swayed at the same pace and the same time.

The crowd, too, was having some fun with it and dancing around. All of this being said, I didn’t particularly enjoy this band. Granted they were talented and put-together, but at the same time I was finding myself getting bored. I can see where people would just love them, but I personally look for an extra element of surprise. Hernandez’s bio on her website makes her music out to be this dynamic body, but I really didn’t find it that way. I mean, sure, there were some style and influence changes throughout the set, but each song didn’t have something more than the last did. My mom really wanted me to write a completely positive review about them. Do you think she’ll be satisfied with this?

Jaill, an indie-rock-pop-thing band from Milwaukee were the next to take the 7th Street Entry. Flipping through the press quotes on their blog, I don’t really see what the critics are thinking. The A.V. Club describes them as a “sleek, savvy engineer of guitar-pop…” I mean, if you say so… To me, (and to my mother by the way,) they were just underwhelming. Vincent Kircher, the lead vocalist and guitarist of the 3-piece sang wandering and off-key lyrics about some girls and some partying over a track constructed as, well, an indie rock tune. By the fourth song I found myself thinking about First Avenue’s wheelchair accessibility and where someone in a wheelchair would sit in the mainroom rather than focusing on their music. Yeah, the basslines had some nice riffs, and yeah, there were a few noodly rock-guitar parts that caught my ears now and then, but that wasn’t enough. It just came off to me and the kind of self-depreciating indie bro rock that litters the streets of the indie music world. I just really wasn’t into it. The last two songs, “Everyone’s Hip” and “a song about taking a long walk through a shitty park” were easily the best on their set, in my opinion. The one about the park also had a quasi-interesting distortion effect on the guitar that made my ears perk up just the slightest. Otherwise, meh. Overall just meh. The crowd seemed to be overall feeling the same way too.

Last up were The Growlers. This actually wasn’t my first time seeing the band, as I saw them play at Lollapalooza 2012 in Chicago. It really is interesting to see that show juxtaposed with this recent one as the conditions were so much different. In Chicago, it was steamy-hot and shaded, which is a perfect mood for The Growlers’ brand of southwest U.S. and tropical inspired music hybrid. The band was decked out in button-downs and shades and everyone was havin’ fun in the sun. That obviously was not the case in Minnesota on February 2. The high was 18 degrees. Beach party weather for sure. That being said, it was kind of odd to see the band all bundled up and playing in a style that conjures pictures of deserts and beating suns. If you were to Google pictures of Matt Taylor (guitar), Scott Montoya (other guitar), and Kyle Straka (bass), you probably wouldn’t be able to recognize them if you saw them on stage because of the cold-weather style change.

Both times, though, Brooks Nielsen warmed up the crowd with his goofy banter and honey-raw vocals. Mostly he just ended up jabbering gibberish into the mic, but it was in the endearing kind of way. I guess. A lot more people were at the show than I really expected there to be. The Entry was nearly full, so I supposed The Growlers are more popular than I’d thought. And rightly so, I think. Although their music may not be the most original, Nielsen’s sharp lyrics and the band’s overall style really ties everything together. Unfortunately, because I am yet under the jurisdiction of my mother and she had an early morning as well, we had to leave the show a bit early. I really liked what I saw though. One of the only conflicting things that I have with The Growlers is that I can’t decide for myself if their lyrics are sex-positive or sometimes misogynistic. It kind of differs from song to song and often songwriters write from a narrative point of view, but a few phrases here and there make my eyes squint.

If anyone cares, here’s an (almost) complete Jaill setlist

“Men”
“She’s My Baby”
“Change (Chain?) Reaction”
“Waste a Lot of Things”
“Perfect Ten”
“Stone Froze Mascot”
“Still Evil”
“Sweet Tooth Lovers”
“All Is Wrong”
“Goodbye Girl” (Squeeze cover)
??
“Everyone’s Hip”


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