The band walks onto the stage, humble and focused. They plug in and tune their instruments amid the murmurs of the crowd before them. There is a momentary stillness before the onslaught of sound, a calm before the storm as we say. And then the first chords are stuck, the first bass line released and the drumbeat leads in with its steady throb and pulse. Then it begins, a tsunami wave of sonic madness is brought forth, and Howlin’ Rain thunders and shakes within the power of their music.
Oakland’s Howlin’ Rain is pure SOUND! Big sound, loud and all encompassing sound, an epic presence of sound. They walk the line of psychedelic rock, Americana, blues and “thrasher” rock, keeping a balance within the mash-up of genres to produce some of the best current music ever to be smashed into your brain. The band is musically and professionally tight, and there is such an extraordinary dynamic between the players that can only be seen as prodigious. Front man, vocalist and guitarist Ethan Miller led the way at Howlin’ Rain’s recent show at Petaluma’s Mystic Theater, making space for bassist Jeff McElroy, guitarist Dan Cervantes and drummer Justin Smith to follow along with their own bionic powers to create music that flows smoothly yet rips you up on the inside in a good way.
The band tore through songs that were mighty and soulful, including the boisterous “Missouri”, the bluesy “Alligator Bride”, with those searing guitar licks, “Phantom Of The Valley” with it’s haunting lyrics and beautiful harmonies and the crunchy yet gentle groove of “Coming Down”.
I speak often of the gifts we acquire from hearing live music, on how the musicians we witness give us more than just songs. With Howlin’ Rain, they give us huge parts of themselves, they give us all they’ve got. The band makes no sacrifices with what they put forth, and that can be felt and heard with the immense sound that they produce.