It was pub rock but not as you know it when Bad//Dreems took over Howler
Unfortunately both James Moloney and the Mad Dog Harrisons and Grenadiers fell victim to some of rock’s greatest pitfalls. Rather than ambition, it was illusion that propelled the Mad Dog Harrisons’ sound: Moloney’s voice was a contrived, punk groan, shredding solos offered no other purpose than to slap on additional rock factor, and each song ended with a crashing, epic jam when it could’ve otherwise tapered out nicely.
Grenadiers, on the other hand, were smarter. Meandering solos didn’t overpower their sound, but they were loud, very loud, and although at first it was easy to swallow, their noise snowballed to the point where the audience was seldom given breathing room. The hard and fast nature of their hardcore music felt less captivating, and more like motiveless aggression and emotionless intensity.
High hopes were whittled down significantly, but Bad//Dreems became the saving grace of the night. Pub rock carries with it the tropes of a big, macho brute, but Bad//Dreems fascinatingly transformed their own genre to sophisticated heights with an unbroken and vigorous performance. The band filled the venue with sound perfectly, pulled the mosh to the very back of the room, and didn’t require the singalong of the crowd to deliver a memorable experience (something rare for pub rock bands, which usually feed off the rallying of their audience).
Considerable credit must be given to frontman Ben Marwe, who’s mostly responsible for the band’s feverish, unforgettable live show. He was an unfazed, stoic performer, absolutely taken by the music. At times, he stared and pointed his guitar into the mosh, putting each and every person there on the spot and letting the instrument guide him, and sometimes he paced frantically back and forth on the stage like a madman. Even when a flying crowd surfer handed him a beer, Marwe took a swig and flung it back, unflinchingly.
Hit song Cuffed and Collared went from sounding like a violent encounter with the police to a pained cry for freedom from the suffocation of the everyday, all because Marwe contorted on the spot, hands writhing over his face, a live, musical exorcism. The only time the stereotypes of pub rock showed themselves was through the audience and their violent excitement at fan favourite Mob Rule, definitely one of their more anthemic songs.
Bad//Dreems may have ended the night with a sloppy cover of God’s My Pal, but for most of the night, the hunger and pain of the rough and tough working class lifestyle could be felt throughout the room.
Words by Jennifer Park
Image by Zo Damage
Highlight: Ben Marwe's magic. Lowlight: Finishing the night with a messy God cover. Crowd Favourite: Mob Rule had everyone punching the air.