Two of 2012’s hottest tipped bands shared the same stage last night at East London’s trendy XOYO venue. Both Howler and Zulu Winter have been billed by those in the know as two of the bands who will shape the sound of the coming year so LondOnTheInside shook off the January blues to see what all the fuss was about.
Following an opening set from Sheffield new boy Man Made Zulu Winter took to the stage to rapturous applause – Having only released one double A side single (Never Leave/Lets Move Back To Front) and a hand full of online tracks the half hour set was relatively unknown by the audience but that didn’t stop them dancing non the less, especially to the aforementioned single. Singer Will Daunt has a very strong voice with amazing range, which blends perfectly with the bands souring synths. He Comes across as confident but not cocky as the band stride through their take on the chill wave sound. Sadly they are troubled by the notoriously bad XOYO sound, the levels are all wrong and feedback rings through the speakers as the sound engineers battle to keep it from deafening the audience. Technical difficulties aside it’s obvious that they are a band with great talent and more importantly great songs. They’ve still got a few things to work on but with a few tours under their belt that will come and having only been together a year they have already come so far.
Zulu Winter are followed by tonight’s headliners and other ‘quick rise to fame buzz band’ Howler. Their blend of early 2000’s circa garage rock and beach boys surf harmonies is a thing of beauty on record but tonight they just don’t convey the same energy live. They have a high octane set but for some reason the connection between artist and audience just isn’t there. The band has little to no banter on stage and there presence isn’t anything to write home about. They have been compared the indies gods The Strokes and last years ‘new boys’ The Vaccines – and similar to both they have a set of great pop songs but where as all three ‘talk the talk’ only the latter two ‘walk the walk’.
This changes however halfway through the set when there is a line up change. Singer Jordan Gatesmith gives his guitar to the bass player who gives his bass to the keyboard player (keys are dormant) and the next four or five songs take on a whole new energy. Starting with slightly heavier album track ‘Pythagorean Fearem’ Gatesmith is now free to move about the stage and command it in the way a front man should – Casablancas esc. They sound edgier and more raw, taking on an early Kings Of Leon vibe, this is a tactic that suits them and in our opinion should be focused on for the live set. They finish on fan favourite ‘Back Of Your Neck’ before leaving and returning for a one song encore which for a band of their size seems a bit out of place and isn’t really demanded by the crowd, people are already leaving when they play the opening chords. High points of the evening include a couple of crowd surfers making it on stage (one of which grabs the mic and sings all the words not only in time but in key!) before being quickly ejected by security!
All in all what we have here is two bands who will do very well this year, they both have a collection of fantastic songs, the advantage Howler currently have is that they have released an album where as Zulu Winters tracks remain relatively unknown. They will both undoubtedly be big parts of the summers festival scene off the back of which will see them playing venues two and three times this size by the end of the year, and deservedly so. They both have room for improvement but so early in their careers it won’t be anything they can’t overcome. For the time being go and buy Howlers album, its better than the live show but hopefully that wont be the case in a few months and keep an eye out for an album release date from Zulu Winter – we’ve got a feeling that’s going to be epic.