Howling Bells - Jive - Sunday 4 December[/center] On a Sunday eve, Adelaide streets are quiet. While Saturday brought an epidemic of sunburnt teenagers straggling into town from Bonython Park's Stereosonic, now the only echo of drunken revellers is vomit in the gutter of Hindley St. The cold wind blows through the empty nightspot...but there's magic happening inside buzzing indie-hub Jive. Howling Bells are casting a spell on the audience.
Lead singer Juanita Stein is principal sorceress. A Snow White siren in a Nanna shirt, short black leather skirt and black stockings, this is a woman who has nailed the rock chick image. Powerhouse vocals, at ease headbanging over her guitar, and still projecting a sweet vulnerability.
Languid arms in the air, she swims across the stage, hips swaying to dark melodies, while she throws beguiling glances at the hypnotised audience, and beckons us to follow her into the dark, enchanted forest. I am thoroughly seduced by the third song.
Juanita is flanked by drummer, Glenn Moule, bass player, Brendan Picchio, who sits motionless on a chair after putting his back out (as Juanita politely explains to the crowd), and brother Joel Stein on lead guitar. Fairy lights are strewn artfully across Jive's stage, adding an ethereal ambience to the set.
Howling Bells boast a melancholic indie rock with blues influence, simultaneously embracing gothic themes. And boy, do they howl; the mournful harmonies are like a gale wailing through a window on a stormy night, summoning images of malevolent trees scratching against the glass. The songs hint at nightmarish themes, whilst still remaining indie and radio-friendly.
After supporting indie legends Elbow in a European tour, the band has returned to their home country to share their tales of woe. Their most recent LP, 'The Loudest Engine', was released in September, and they have been touring mercilessly since.
Songs from Howling Bells' second album 'Radio Wars' are best received - the dark rhythm of Into The Chaos gets the crowd moving, while Cities Burning Down masterfully builds tension, until it spills over in an emotion-fuelled instrumental section, flowing onto punters below.
Joel's stylish quiff flies back and forth as he throws his body about to the heavy rhythm. The band members lose themselves in the heaviness of the songs, with thrashing drums and menacing, wailing guitars.
Dirty bass-driven Ballad For The Bleeding Heart highlighted the band's bluesy undertones. With lyrics like, "I'll scream just to get you to hold me down," Juanita reveals a hidden dark side that bursts through her sweet, country-girl demeanour.
Just as a band that has mastered live gigs should, 'Howling Bells' effectively mix up the pace between songs - slow, lonely ballads are followed by energetic indie beats. The crowd is always appreciative between songs, yelling beer-soaked cheers and wolf-whistling at the leading lady.
Juanita belts out Into The Sky from 'The Loudest Engine', exposing the dreamy vocals and psychedelic riffs of their vaguely sixties style (seen explicitly in the band's film clips).
Gigwise named Juanita "the sexiest woman in rock" in 2009. Her enchanting, sultry command over the audience is half the fun of watching Howling Bells live. But more than that, this is a band that you must see perform on a stage to truly understand the music - songs are heavier, emotions are raw, and the ethereal dark spirit of the melodies engulfs all who stand before them.