Howlin' Rain & Ulysses: The Louisiana, Bristol
This was my first time in the Louisiana and it was to see a band I've always admired but I've never seen live Californian's Howlin' Rain were the band and I took two of my oldest friends for a night out in one of my favourite cities with some great bands.
Missing the first band we went upstairs for second band Ulysses (8) who I've seen before and enjoyed immensely the band merge late 60's Sgt Pepper's with the infectiousness of pop rock superstars Roy Wood, The Sweet, T-Rex all with the sublime silliness of Cheap Trick, now this isn't to say they are throwaway far from it they have enough chunky rock riffs to keep even the biggest metalhead entertained, the garish colours of the bands outfits merged perfectly with their musical influences and they took us all away on a yellow submarine of glam rock riffs. The Bath band are one that I would love to see again although I'll bring my sunglasses next time there as there is only so much retro fashion one man's eyes can take. With Ulysses getting us all feeling groovy, especially one man down the front who was smelling colours it was time for the Californians to take the stage.
Howlin Rain (10) are a band that truly embody the spirit of California they are wild free and without boundaries, musically they walk the line between freak out jam rock, Californian soft rock, hard core blues and everything in between. Frontman Ethan Miller is part Jerry Garcia, part Bruce Springsteen part Nick Cave, with Chris Cornell's vocals. Add a dash of some well travelled bluesman thrown in he is the epitome of the wild eyed mountain man bearded and slinging a guitar like a weapon before just taking the mic and becoming the minister of a rock n roll church. He is aided in his rock and roll adventure by swaggering bassist Jeff Mcelroy who wouldn't look out of place in the Allman Brothers band all flowing hair and double neck bass/guitar, he also had boundless energy jumping and flailing like man possessed by the music Miller's six string foil is the more stationary Dan Cervantes who adds the grit to Miller's gliding guitar lines. For the most part the band played loud, very very loud indeed rumbling the walls of the room and proceeded to create a cacophony of noise with lots of jamming in between, there was few kinks here and there but they were
Meet Me In The Wheat was the first song and it set the tone it is country rock to its core with the sing along chorus of "Hallelujah" turning the small room into a revivalist sermon, then they moved into a harder edged following track that rocked things up with the a slower intro that built into a wall of sound. Slowed things down with the smoky Coliseum which had a searing reverbed guitar solo from Miller who lost himself in the moment before putting down the guitar to wrap himself in the mic on the full on blues mode of Dark Side which saw him in preacher man form shouting down the mic about losing himself to a woman, before blowing his blues harp in the end of the track, from the bayou to Paris with the stream of conciousness and dreamlike Ceiling Fan that has the lyrical dexterity not seen in your usual rock band, this is a poem set to music and kudos to Miller for remembering those lyrics an reciting them verbatim.
They rocked things up with the excellent Self Made Man, which is one of the bands showcase songs on which drummer Brian "Nucci" Cantrell shows off his chops on the trippy middle section that segues into a Latin jazz part too, while the Cervantes swelled the spiralling guitar as the song reached it impressive climax, this song was as forceful as the band and get with huge riffs and enough noise to make you deaf, after Self Made Man we were told that the drum head was broken, (on the first night of the tour no less) if you saw how hard Cantrell was hitting then it was no surprise the band had to curtail their set and we were given a choice: Roll On Rusted Days or Big Red Moon to close and the hardcore fraternity in the audience chose the former which did it in fine style Roll On... rocked, rolled and jived throwing in some The Who style wig outs at the end bringing the set to a close with a bang and showing that this band are truly fantastic. This gig is not just likely to be my gig of the year, it maybe one of my top gigs ever, magnificent, come back soon!! 10/10