The charismatic Jack Ladder and his eclectic backing band left Howler in a sweat-soaked state of rapture last night.
Alex Cameron comes on stage and starts singing. His consciously awkward persona, paired with retro synths and a deep baritone, make us feel like we have stumbled into a David Lynch film. He sings about failure and showbiz. He has long, slicked-back hair. Cameron is refreshingly different.
Howler’s band room fills up, there isn’t much space to move and the carpet is sticky. Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders come out and we all quickly forget about our lack of personal space. They play Come On Back This Way and the boppy synth is a total contrast to Ladder’s lothario vocals. We all move with the beat as Ladder sings and shows off his signature pout. Ladder’s wearing a thick, salmon coloured tie and grey suit. The '80s look is very in keeping with the bands latest LP, Playmates, which sounds like it should be the soundtrack to a Bret Easton Ellis novel.
Kirin J Callinan is on guitar, sporting a rat’s tail and pencil moustache. He has a hypnotising stage presence, which at times outshines that of the charismatic frontman. Ladder and his crew look like a kitsch lounge band that plays in seedy bars. This vibe is enhanced by the lighting, which alternates between neon reds and yellows as it jumps around with the beat.
The band plays Reputation Amputation; the song has a Marilyn Manson-like bass line and twisted synths. Again it’s the contrast between the music and Ladder’s vocals that is most interesting. The song is textured and distorted. Each member of the bands individual component seamlessly intertwines. A mini-mosh forms in front of the stage. Callinan stares us down as Ladder sings, “Dear Doc, can you cut this thing off?” For the first half of the set you could be forgiven for not noticing there was a drummer on stage, but during Reputation Amputation Lawrence Pike shines as he pounds on his kit. Donny Benet plays bass and sways with a coy smile - he looks like he belongs on a cruise ship.
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The band leaves the stage. Everyone cheers and they come back out. Ladder takes off his jacket and his shirt is soaked with sweat. The encore starts with Cold Feet - an obvious crowd favourite. Ladder’s vocal delivery is intense as he sputters out the melancholic lyrics. The band plays Hurtsville before leaving the stage.