Why I’ll never get tired of seeing The Growlers live

I always feverishly look forward to a Growlers gig. It’s like they bring the sun with them wherever they go; a bright, salty, booze-fuelled high. They’ve been on excessive rotation in my house for a long time now so the fact that they come back to Australia almost annually is just a dream come true.

The SoCal six-piece so embody the laid-back, sun-kissed vibe of their home that they’ve been able to build a small empire around it, branding it Beach Goth. Their cult following is vast, ever-growing, and packed with die-hard fanatics. Back in the States, the band has been running their annual Beach Goth festival since 2012.

the growlers enmore theatre happy mag dani hansen
Photos: Dani Hansen

This is one band whose creative output far eclipses their music. The Growlers are an institution, folks.

Fans get it. The band’s live sets go long, typically hitting the two-hour mark with absolutely zero repeats. Aside from their deep appreciation for their fans all over the world, they have a self-professed love for Australia that’s close to their hearts, which probably has a lot to do with our Cali-like sun, beer, and surf.

Their latest record Natural Affair has brought them readily back to our shores, with special guests Starcrawler – another LA institution in the making.

This band of debaucherous infidels is truly world-class. When you’ve been to countless gigs, many of them utter chaos, it’s good to know you can still be surprised. Of course, I perused the shots and watched the videos, so I knew what to expect. But this band of 20-something-year-olds blew me away with their sheer finesse. It felt like I was watching some seasoned act that had already been kicking it for a decade or so.

Frontwoman Arrow de Wilde alone is as iconic as they come. With the classic Iggy Pop antics, blood stained bridal tulle, and actual blood spilled, this is something you should see in the flesh to fully appreciate. Adding to this, flanking her right side is guitarist Henri Cash who grips the crowd with his extremely “rock god” routine and flashy maniacal smile.

Starcrawler are considerably more thrash than the mellow Growlers but it didn’t throw the vibe out in the slightest. By the time the boys take the stage, we’ve all simmered back down to sea level.

Most of the band are clad in cowboy hats this evening, who leader Brooks Nielsen categorises as trailer, tropical, fuckin’ real, and spaghetti cowboys, respectively. Then someone throws a captain’s hat on stage which Brooks fittingly adorns himself with. Guitarist Matt Taylor happily plays his role, “Howdy, my name’s Matt Trailer.”

I know we open with Someday because it’s my legitimate go-to most mornings, but beyond that it’s a blur of swinging hips and surf riffs. Banter about their extensive catalogue of love songs and shagging until you can’t shag anymore; advice direct from textbook romantic Brooks. At some point I hear a modified Billy Currington refrain: “Beer is good, God is great, and people are crazy.” I think this is secretly Brooks’ (and possibly the band’s) entire ethos.

Two hours in, paradise tears up quick. We finish on Going Gets Tough, a nod toward the bushfires and current state of the world at large, in true Beach Goth style.

Now, if The Growlers could make their trips down under a bi-annual thing, that would be great.