(Gig of a Lifetime) Bodega, Notttingham, March 2012
published: 9 /
In 'Gig a Lifetime' Dave Goodwin recollects photographing an anarchic show from Minneapolis indie rock band Howler in Nottingham in 2012
This Gig of a Lifetime isn't about going to see a band that I had always wanted to see in an enormous venue. In fact it is quite the opposite of that. It took place in arguably the smallest venue in my hometown of Nottingham, and it also involves what happened after that gig sometime later.
I had got myself a photopass for a gig that, to be honest, I was only half tempted to go to. I had been approached by the press people for the Minneapolis indie rock band Howler about photographing them and doing a live review, and had been given said photopass and a plus one. With my usual partner in crime being otherwise engaged that night, I decided to go after all and got there quite early.
The Bodega is a small upstairs venue with a bar downstairs, and usually early in the evening it is somewhat quiet. As I trudged up the stairs just as the first support act was about to come on and wandered into the room, I was quite surprised to see it nearly full already, so I crept around the back and got myself a nice little corner just by the right hand speaker. I had just got my camera set up when the first act came out. Man Made was just this young lad on a guitar, and as he meandered on to the stage I had time to look around and noticed that everyone was in party mode and feeling the vibes. I knew already that this was no ordinary gig. There was a group of young guys right at the front all well on their way to being very drunk, and one especially had taken a shine to the Red Stripe a little too early. Feeling the effects of the many tins he had consumed, he had fallen asleep draped over the middle monitor with all the others taking the piss and writing daft shit on his forehead with lipstick.
Man Made started, and our young drunkard had by now slipped into a state of non-consciousness and was slowly pushing the monitor back into the stage and the now very annoyed artist back into the drum kit behind. Man Made managed to push the monitor back three times, all without waking our young hero up, but by the fourth time it happened he had had enough and booted the lad’s head sideways with a fine-looking crescent kick that Van Damme would have been proud of. The drunk had woken up now and had woken up angry, and it was then I realised that he wasn't from the group of others at all as they were now getting pissed off with him too. Suffice to say, he was duly ejected within seconds of waking by the young troupe at the front, and they all returned and resumed partying.
Man Made finished his set, and there was an overly long wait before the main act came on which gave me chance to drink up the strange vibe of the venue. To try and explain it, it was like everyone in the room was everyone else's best friend and they were all there for three reasons:
1. To have a good time.
2. To get as much drink in them as they could.
3. To listen to Howler.
The atmosphere was heavy with a sort of expectation that I described at the time as being like an early Sex Pistols gig. We were all there at the same time in the same room to witness something that was never to happen again. That's exactly how the room felt that night. The room wasn't just filled with kids either. There were young people there, but there were folk like me in their forties and even older still too. Students and accountants, bin men and solicitors were all there together. All shades of life were there, and they were all having fun and excited and expectant.
By the time Howler came on the room was a pulsating buzz of noise and merriment which just erupted as lead singer Jordan introduced themselves. To be totally honest with you, I can't remember what they started with or ended with or even what came in the middle. I was too busy hanging on to my camera and my life. I had never seen or witnessed the mayhem that was unfolding before my eyes. What I do recall is the monitors at the front of the stage being once again pushed back so far by the crowd that they nudged Howler further back into it. The space generated at the front then became wider still as the crowd now infiltrated the stage with the band.
Howler didn't give a damn. Halfway through their set, front-man Jordan Gatesmith and the rest of the band had to stop for a good five minutes to rectify the loud and earthy buzzing noise ringing around the stage, which I suspect was coming from the monitor to the left that was now swimming in Red Stripe. Looking around him in true rock and roll style Jordan announced to the crowd, “The stage is a mess, man! You’ve fuckin well destroyed it! Shit, man!” The sound guy worked feverishly to find the problem. It could have been the amount of beer poured into that monitor, or it could have been the many cables unplugged by the clambering crowd.
Anyhow, the problem sorted, Howler carried on to the obvious delight of the throng, who promptly ejected Gatesmith's mic and stand from the stage. Continually clicking away at the whole degenerating spectacle, I was in cameraman heaven now. The crowd were just phenomenal and the band were reciprocating in the same vein. There were lads crawling on to the stage to shake hands and hug the band, and I remember seeing the mic stand complete with cable surfing to the back with the cable still attached, closely followed by the sound guy who was trying to stop the fun-loving hoard and to tug it back. After seeing Jordan's guitar disappear across the room, it was clear the sound guy had now given up.
There was now only one thing left for Jordan to do , and he gave in and disappeared into the melee himself, closely followed by guitarist Ian Nygaard and then bassist France Camp, keybpardist Max Petrek’s undersole giving them a helping shove. Don't ask me how they managed it, but seconds later each one appeared back on stage and one after the other their instruments followed, miraculously still in one piece and even more miraculously still working. They finished their set to the obvious delight of the room and went and left the mayhem they had helped to create. As the crowd departed one by one, it had a feeling of some old black and white movie. There was sweat and beer hanging in the air and folk getting up off the floor and folk still dancing around. This was something else.
It was some months afterwards when I went to watch Howler again, this time at the bigger venue of the Rescue Rooms. It was a lot more respectable this time round, and I left feeling somewhat empty as it hadn’t had the same vibe as the Bodega. During the set Jordan had said he had been to Nottingham before and that the last time he was here that it was “Fucking mad! I thought I was going to die!”
As I was leaving, this guy came up to me and said, “Hey, were you at The Bodega?” to which I replied that I was and his face lit up and he yelled to the passers-by, “Hey, this is the guy that took the photos at the Bodega of the Howler gig! Shit man! What a fucking night! Those pictures were fucking awesome!” I left him with his arm around one of his mates, walking off into the night laughing hysterically and recalling the story I have just told you. Marvellous!