Review: The Growlers Brought Beach Goth Vibes to the Riviera

Earlier this month, The Growler’s brought their laid back beach goth sound to a starting to cool down Chicago. Donned in star covered overalls and suits, set up in front of a bevy of Beach Goth murals (including a Growlers-ified Selena, Virgin Mary, and more), the sunsoaked band presented a chill set that felt way more like a gathering of friends than a straight up concert.

I’ve been to my fair share of Growlers shows and each one of them seemed like a completely different band. The first time was at Lincoln Hall, where the group were laid back but delivering some rambunctious tunes that had the whole crowd dancing. The last time I had the chance to see them was during the beginning of their City Club tour, were the group was dressed to the nines in mariachi like outfits and firing on all cylinders at Thalia Hall. Their sound remained as amazing as always, but their stage presence was commanding and welcoming.

I didn’t know which version of the Growlers’ I was going to get, but once I was settled in I could see there was something a little off about the show that evening. It was unfortunate because it never truly felt like anyone’s fault, if anything the band seemed to be pushing forward with all their talent. Frontman Brooks Nielsen was battling a cold, occasionally sipping tea throughout the night. His already gruff  voice sounded a far less jovial than it usually does, just trying to get by as best it could.

The set list also felt odd. I figured with a brand new album out, Casual Acquaintances tracks would take a dominating appearance. But that wasn’t the case.  The album is a definite departure from the band’s previous two albums City Club and Chinese Fountain. While the songs come from the City Club sessions, they lack the overall polished that came with that album in favor of a more raw and early Growlers sound. The result is a much more tempered album that could have been amazing if performed live, but alas we were only supplied with “Decoy Face” and “Problems II” that evening.

The rest of the set jumped around their discography, giving each of their releases a little spotlight while maintaining a heavy preference to City Club and Chinese Fountain. The laid back mood of the night fit the whole session quite well, with Neilsen joking with the crowd throughout the night and letting everyone groove away to their favorite tracks Like “Old Cold River” and “Naked Kids” to lesser played ones like “Sea Goth Lion Blues”.

They finished off the night with “Goin Gets Tough” in a moment that seemed to reach the peak of their previous performances. Nielsen’s voice sounded as if it finally got past the cold that was holding him down and the crows burst forth enthusiastically as ever, singing along with song’s optimistic message of striving forward no matter how bad it gets. It almost mirrored the set’s atmosphere, no matter what troubles got in the way The Growlers pushed onward and delivered a satisfying show. The song has finished off a few of the Growlers’ shows I’ve been at and remains one of the best ways to cap off a night.

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