The Howl & The Hum at The Sound House, Dublin on 8th May, 2019
When the line-up for the first-ever Eastbound Festival was announced earlier this year, the inclusion of The Howl & The Hum as one of the headline acts came somewhat as a surprise. They’re an extremely talented bunch, with all the facets needed to hit the mainstream, but it felt like too much too soon considering their distinct lack of coverage on radio or in the press on these shores so far.
Unsurprisingly, a crowd of less than 20 eased themselves up the stairs in The Wiley Fox on Wednesday evening. Unfazed, The Howl & The Hum grabbed the opportunity in front of them to provide an intimate, personal experience for those in attendance, endearingly funny throughout. The tunes weren’t half bad either.
To say The Howl & The Hum wear their influences on their sleeve is an understatement with hints of The Killers (new single Hall Of Fame) and Alt-J (Portrait 1) cropping up throughout. The latter – introduced as a ‘miserable disco’ – throws up comparisons to that viral YouTube ‘How To Make An Alt-J’ song, as if the band had studied the video and meticulously perfected it.
It’s their Yorkshire neighbours Arctic Monkeys, however, who seem to have had the biggest impact on the band’s sound with songs like Murder and Vitamins immediately reminiscent of tunes from the Sheffield lot’s ‘Humbug’. While introducing Vitamins, front man Sam Griffiths strums a chord that reverberates around the room. “Oops, that sounded really rock’n’roll, we didn’t mean to go that rock’n’roll so soon”.
It’s one of a number of occasions that Griffiths takes the opportunity to make the sparse crowd feel like they were all gathered on a single sofa in the band’s living room. He addresses crowd members individually, and even quips about allowing them to provide written feedback after each song if they felt inclined to do so. “This next song is about being drunk on the backseat of your friend’s car, not being able to remember their kid’s name, while the pink-faced Megabus man stares down at you through the window. We like to write relatable songs, you see. But seriously, if anyone relates to that, please see me afterwards, we need to talk,” he jokes while introducing Hall Of Fame, the band’s first single in 10 months.
Somewhat unexpectedly, but entirely deservedly, the closing song, the beautifully delicate Godmanchester Chinese Bridge, is met with chants for an encore. The band are evidently taken aback by the reaction and after some slightly panicked “will we, won’t we, can we?” between the four members, they return to play I Wish I Was A Shark. “We don’t usually get those, so apologies for the awkwardness just now,” quips Griffiths.
Tonight is a lesson in how to make the best of any situation, and a number of bands could learn a lot from watching Griffiths’ engagement with the crowd. It creates a connection between the band and the crowd which only serves to boost the enjoyment of the songs being played. If there’s any justice, The Howl & The Hum won’t play to a crowd this small ever again. We’ll be back anyway.