The BURGERAMA Caravan of Stars Tour pulled up to The Electric Owl on Thursday night featuring a long list of slack rockers: The Courtneys, Nü Sensae, together Pangea, Gap Dream, Cosmonauts and The Growlers.
For me, the show began when together Pangea bassist Danny Bengston began to lick the neck of his bass up, down and slide to slime. Unfortunately for me, this was the end of their set. The last song grabbed my curiosity and the onstage antics stole my full, undivided attention. But, alas, I had arrived too late and had been teased with an outrageous finale as punishment.
Next up was Gap Dream, a California-based trio with a Weird Al Yankovic lookalike as their synth player and lead vocalist. Their brand of music is spacey. Gap Dream’s songs don’t hesitate to hold off on the laser sounds and a soft, distorted disco guitar; the result is a foggy soundscape that slowly sneaks its way into your bones and puts you in a trance. Frontman Gabriel Fulvimar is extremely awkward on stage. His dancing was rigid and are an exact representation of why white guys around the world are shamed for busting a move… but it was strangely charming.
Gap Dream was followed by Cosmonauts (another California trio) and their feedback-induced psychedelic lullabies. Immediately after their opening song, the band was faced with an extended stoppage due to a malfunctioning bass. Yet, the guitar and drummer kept the crowd warm with some impromptu jamming. After about ten minutes or so, the bass was switched for another and the show continued as scheduled. They played a set that could be best defined by the title of their debut EP – New Psychic Denim – released in March 2011. These guys are for those who enjoy echo-soaked vocals paired with fuzzy, abrasive instrumentals. Plug it in, press play, let Cosmonauts take you up, up and away.
Now, the main attraction, another California act – The Growlers – performing songs from their album, Greatest sHits, and Couples Vol. 1-8 series. The hour-long set featured a mixed bag from both albums and were highlighted by popular tracks “One Million Lovers”, “Gay Thoughts”, and “Someday”. Upon arrival, at the strike of midnight, a disco ball illuminated the crowd as frontman Brooks Nielsen crooned to the crowd with his signature frog-throated vocals. The Growlers put forth a self-titled style dubbed “beach goth”. The band’s Facebook page describes their music as “a psychedelic circus of surf, sex, and hobo trance, boom boom twang that makes for one hell of a high!” Well said. This new brand of surf rock, contrary to the traditional (i.e., the Beach Boys), has been swelling in popularity, with The Growlers being at the forefront.
Brooks carries a great stage presence; cracking jokes and looking like he doesn’t give a damn. Maybe it was his drunken state. He was definitely the focal point of the band, walking around in a bowling tee-shirt, slinking around with one hand on his chest and the other in the air as he hopped from left to right. The bassist was on crutches, thus unable to mimic Brooks. Yet, he still did a fine job and earned a cheer from the crowd after the set.
The only problem with the show, for me, was the crowd. Some wanted to stir it up, while others felt more comfortable swaying gently in place. The result was an aggressive mass or sways in the middle surrounded by the rest. The pool would move from one side to the other without warning and caught many people off guard. Not uncommon to see someone fall to the ground followed by the kiss of glass hitting the floor. By the end, the floor had become crunchy with beer memories. My condolences to those wearing open-toed shoes.
Musically, the show was a hit. People came for The Growlers, but were presented with a smorgasbord of slack-rockery. Fuzz, buzz, lasers, distortion, echoes, feedback and all those swell things that make this type of music so appealing. It’s different and it’s only improving with age.