I’m not gonna lie, I never imagined that “beach goth” could be a thing, let alone two words put together to describe a sound or a look. What initially comes to mind from the term is a sad, watered down version of today’s goth teen donning all black and tacky chokers melting into quicksand surrounded by bikini-clad girls frolicking on the beach. None of this imagery is what I think of when I listen to the sun-soaked garage group The Growlers, who have coined the term as a description of their sound, but that’s probably just because I’m so fond of them. So fond, in fact, that I saw them twice in one day.
I already felt as if I were late on The Growlers when they first bleeped on my radar at a Sailor Jerry sponsored summer bash, mainly because they had already put out almost four albums by that time. The truth is, the California natives have consistently put out music since 2009 on Everloving Records, including Hung at Heart and Gilded Pleasures both popular indie albums that debuted in 2013. Their carefree west coast attitude paired with their somewhat melancholic broken-hearted lyrics create a blissful balance to agree with any mood of the moment.
Their latest effort, Chinese Fountain, is a slightly more mature, honed-in sound yet still drips with the same boozy vocals by lead singer Brooks Nielsen and psychedelic strings. The 11 track album includes Nielsen singing the laments of living in LA all to the beat of a hazy day on a beach in La La Land–and it works. But never fear, my landlocked dears, on Tuesday I was reaffirmed that beach goth music is not exclusive to either coasts.
My first stop was at Grimey’s, where the beach boy Growlers played a free 30 minute set to everyone who was able to cram in around the racks and stacks of records. And I feel as if I should mention that there were no such tacky chokers worn amidst the crowd of beach goth lovers. With PBRs on hand, the guys performed several new songs from Chinese Fountain as well as a few old favorites–including my own (“Someday”)–and stuck around to sign some newly purchased vinyl before rushing off to their headlining show at Exit/In only a few hours later.
Upon arrival to the venue, I was immediately (drunkenly) greeted by a couple who recognized me as, “the cute girl with the head scarf who was in front at Grimey’s” before they swayed their way back into the crowd for one of the opening bands. Beach goths? They were more bohemian, but still, I was getting closer. Still fascinated by this concept, I surveyed the room and was unable to find a specific person who seemed to embody this mythical “beach goth.” I meandered over to the merch table where I was hoping to buy a shirt I admired online when I noticed a makeshift sign that said, “Be Back in a Jiffy!” and in smaller print, “No stealing we have a camera on.” This guy did not return for 2 hours.
I made my way closer to the stage when the lights were dimmed and dramatic music began to play and emerged from behind the curtains was DMTina–a drag queen that bore a ridiculous resemblance to Chris Kattan’s infamous character “Mango.” This was definitely unexpected, but once DMTina performed Divine’s 1980s club hit, “You Think You’re a Man,” I was all smiles. From here, the night got much rowdier than I could have anticipated. After the first couple songs of The Growlers set, some people began a sort of non-aggressive moshing, bouncing against one another unsure of what to do with their built up energies. Next thing you know a very drunk DMTina runs out with a couch cushion and plunges into the crowd starting an entire frenzy of crowd surfing, losing a high heel in the process. Nielsen laughs and warns the crowd, “Hey all you guys out there be gentlemen and protect the ladies from DMTina.”
Nielsen and the crew carried on in his charming manner with a setlist that was diverse, and although I had just heard several of the songs only a few hours earlier, it did not feel the least bit repetitive. The crowd was ecstatic and responsive to every song that spanned the band’s six year history swaying and dancing, some with eyes closed as if to soak up the invisible rays that seemed to come from the speakers. One girl ran up on stage and planted a kiss on Nielsen’s cheek which he returned with a twirl and a hug. Another guy jumped up and grabbed the Chinese dragon head that was propped up on stage and put it on. As the night winded down, they played a favorite from the new album called “Good Advice” that caught my ears at the end, “There’s nothing as depressing as good advice / Nobody wants to hear how to live their life.” Maybe this whole beach goth thing isn’t a look at all, just an attitude that I’m looking too far into. Whatever it is, I’m in for another day with The Growlers.