Writer Laura Mills / Photographer Ewan Williamson
We’re back at The Sunflower Lounge again and as per it’s busy outside with the air reeking of cigarettes. Straight to the bar for a cheeky tipple because even though it’s mid week, we’re at The Sunflower Lounge right?
It does feel like a quieter night compared to the last time I was here but sometimes those gigs can be the best, so I take my leave down the sticky stairs and into a dark room with a spotlight highlighting all of tonight’s instruments waiting patiently on the stage.
First up are a band from Brum called The Masses, can’t say I’m mega familiar with the name but it’s always great to discover someone new, and God I’m blown away.
In front of my eyes are these three lads; the singer is booming his voice down the mic and it’s arguably one of the best voices I’ve heard in some time from someone in a rock band. The bassist is tackling this gritty base head-on and the riffs he’s creating with those magic fingers send a shiver down my spine… and the drummer, I mean wow.
The drummer is absolutely smashing the shit out of those drums and it’s immense to watch his facial expressions because he’s using every bit of energy he has.
All I’m thinking while watching The Masses is please don’t go and I am almost hypnotised by that voice. It’s deep, it’s husky, there’s this clear element of soul delivered with complete power.
The sound this band is creating is so hard you can feel the room vibrating and shaking.
“Next up is a song called ‘How Long’.”
And within a matter of seconds, I’m in love.
It’s a sensational mix of layering and sections. At some parts the tempo is completely slow and steady, and then it increases. The atmosphere in the crowd is immense, everyone picking up the lyrics pretty quickly and singing along.
I can hear people talking about the vocals and I’m so glad others have highlighted how good they are too.
A quick 15 minute break until band number two grace the stage, so time for another cheeky tipple and a quick trip to the smokers. We’re back down the sticky stairs and into the dark room again for set two.
I can’t really explain it but the mood around me seems to have dropped so much. It’s like everyone went for a top up from the bar and took the atmosphere with them.
It’s a slightly different vibe from the previous band, this feels more indie and less rock, more groove than grit so to speak. As I look around the crowd really has dwindled in numbers but who cares when the band is creating this amazing sound?
These are brummie lads, yet the sound their instruments are making is almost like the sound from the Madchester era with bands like The Stone Roses.
The facial expressions from this band are nowhere near as prominent as the first, but this singer has one hell of a voice too. It’s raw but it has this endearing charm too.
I can see clearly how much fun the band are having up there and this becomes even clearer as the band launches into an original called ‘Kid’. It starts with these focalised vocals with bare instrumental as we fade out of the vocal, then fade into an electric jam together.
Just before the end of this set, I see the singer from The Howlers standing by the stairs, so I check in with him to see how he’s feeling about tonight’s show.
“Anything can happen on a Tuesday.” and quite right he is too.
As Flake’s set finishes, I head off for another quick tipple and search both bands on Spotify to get them straight in a playlist.
Round three, back in the dark room and it’s time for our headliners all the way from London Town – The Howlers.
As the lads step on the stage, I look around the room and my God the crowd really has dwindled even more. The atmosphere feels particularly sombre, not what you’d expect at this point in the night, and just to add to that there’s about five different photographers standing at the front of the stage blocking the majority of the crowd’s view.
Up first is ‘The Boy I Was Before’ – there’s so much energy, it’s pure rock but with so much fun early 00’s energy.
They introduced it as a golden oldie despite it only being released last year, but no bother ‘cos I love this one anyway, and the band starts to play ‘I Don’t Love You All The Time’.
It’s quite groovy and slow for a matter of seconds, then the tempo completely changes as we hear this massive electric riff screaming through. Then, the pace changes again and we revert back to the groovy, drifting sound.
The lyrics are fun and playful delivered with unique, classic vocals.
The genre is quite hard to pin down with this band because they have some songs where it’s just a raw rock and then the sound appears as more indie, soulful with a clear melody shining through.
As a slightly slower track is played, I can’t help thinking that’s really not what this crowd needed. The vibe is completely different to any other set, it’s a bit bleak.
The shift in mood has had an effect on our singer, who’s facial expressions read like he’s had enough of playing this half empty room, and it is a shame because the sound is still so good to hear.
The band play ‘Nothing To Lose’ and even though we’ve still got far too many photographers blocking the stage, I’ve stopped caring because the sound is electric.
Each riff more electric than the other, each bang of the drum more powerful, and even more strength belting out the vocals. I’m completely in awe of this band right now.
We finish on a song that gives the biggest mid-western, Tarantino vibes ever, and it comes in the form of ‘La Dolce Vita’ which is arguably the best played song of the night.
The band leaves the stage and I can’t help sensing this air of disappointment. I’m not sure why, maybe the turn out. But hey, it is a Tuesday.
A night of mixed emotions but The Sunflower Lounge knows I’ll be back.
For more on The Howlers visit www.thehowlers.co.uk