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30th January 2019

Live Review: The Howl & The Hum

The Howl and the Hum return to Manchester once more to grace a sold-out Soup Kitchen with an intoxicating performance
Live Review: The Howl & The Hum
Photo: Olivia White @ Mancunion

Seeing The Howl & The Hum perform is like returning to your favourite book – the one that reminds you of a specific time in your life you can’t quite put your finger on; a type of magic nostalgia that comes from those who possess the art of words. After playing Jimmy’s and Neighbourhood Festival last year, the four-piece band return to Manchester, blessing their fans with a truly exhilarating performance.

The York-formed band played to the Northern Quarter’s sold-out Soup Kitchen which marked the halfway point of their UK tour. The oddly charming compact, stripped-back venue space seemed apt for the band whose sound is reminiscent of an era passed. Those from their diverse and growing fanbase were captivated from the outset as the band opened with the surprisingly slow yet utterly spine-tingling rendition of ‘Terrorforming’. The clarity of sound was stunning and allowed the space to be filled with the slightly unnerving but strangely reassuring sound of frontman’s Griffith’s soul-searching vocals.

The Howl & The Hum are true performers. If Talking Head’s and Future Islands’ frontmen had a love-child he would dance like Griffiths. He embodies the same sense of the everyday man possessed by something frantic, urgent, and utterly beautiful, putting every ounce of his being into the performance of each song. He is truly the definition of captivating, yet unassumingly so.

Their songs, while bewitching recorded, take on a life of their own when performed live. The use of subterranean sounds and an eery submarine siren submerges the audience in an audio ocean for ‘I Wish I Was a Shark’. Wherein we follow Griffith’s strange train of thought through this world of his own creation. Many of their songs explore this same sense of strangeness, with an emphasis on scene-setting and intricate detailing echoing the lyrics of the folk and rock masters of the past.

The band play on the almost comical specificity of their music with each song following a drawn-out and poetic introduction. This was certainly met with a warm reception, in fact, it gave us a clue about what on earth they were singing about. However, it soon became clear that each track is simultaneously relatable, in some instances, heartbreakingly so. Their latest song, ‘Hostages’, not yet released, follows a couple after a breakup, who, similarly to war-time enemies meet on a bridge to exchange ‘Hostages’ or in this case each others’ belongings. Another un-released beauty, ‘Sweet Fading Silver’ will leave you teary-eyed and longing for some past time, another life almost. The songs are bittersweet, they’re emotive and they’re crowd pleasers. The band are able to move seamlessly through genres retaining this same passion through their wilder and more frenzied, ‘Don’t Shoot the Storm’ and ‘Murder’.

Every song is a gem and it’s a testament to the band’s integrity, in only releasing songs that they believe are truly ready. As the gig culminated in the band’s most famous ‘Godmanchester Chinese Bridge’ — an ode to the simple and seemingly unassuming life story of architect James Gallier — we’re reminded of the only band who could take such a menial motive and transform it into an anthem, to be joyously echoed by their crowd. A crowd who are eager to see what will come of this band in the next few years.


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