Japandroids at the Bluebird Theater
The notion that we should party hard only from Friday night through Saturday, perhaps nursing a hangover well into Sunday is a bit ridiculous. This isn’t an indicator of poor character on anyone’s part, the author included, but why not party on Sunday as well? That’s exactly what the Vancouver, BC duo of Brian King and David Prowse, Japandroids, aimed to do at their show last Sunday night.
Sunday Slowdown was playing on the radio station in my car on the way to the show. It’s a focused attempt to get people into bed with soulful jams, and to take deep breaths before the depressing plunge into the five day workweek. In contrast to this, Japandroids promised to play a long party set, no doubt consisting of a majority of their recorded output, and managed to keep the energy up until they left the stage.
A mere four years ago, as the band was preparing to self-release their debut full length, they were convinced that their motivation had dried up and the fan base they hoped for wasn’t going to materialized. They resolved to quit dreaming of an endless weekend on the road, preaching the gospel of fun and Canuck hockey. Pitchfork changed that for them and released their message to the world outside of the local Vancouver scene.
From their consistent branding featuring black and white candid photos and monochromatic layouts, I wasn’t sure how to approach their live show. A stack of Orange and Fender amps, along with Hiwatt headers led me to believe they were well funded in their venture. At some time during their set, Brian pointed to his guitar with the audio cable taped in place to avoid it shaking loose and said “If we can make it this far with crappy equipment, anyone can do it.”
Truly, it’s incredible that a two person band can make 5 minute songs with such intricacy and from such basic ingredients. I could tell that Brian had some of the backing tracks looping behind him, yet the band opening for Japandroids this night, Swearin’, just couldn’t compare even with four members. Cutting the fat and sharing vocal duties brings only the essential elements.
It’s obvious from the knowing glances they were giving each other that Brian and David work tirelessly to make their seemingly simple songs into an oscillating force of youthful yelps and fuzzed-out chords. Listening to some of the opening sections of certain Japandroids songs brings me to chills even though I’ve heard them dozens of times. They’ve certainly unlocked some cerebral passageway, likely connected to the one that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck when alarmed.
Brian started off the set mentioning how big of a drag Sunday evening can be, but more than that, their show was literally dragging me back into my youth when music didn’t need to be complex to be valued. Its simplicity is what made it relatable and repeatable. Sure some of their lyrics are trite and don’t give great insight into life and death, yet their message of becoming lost, of not caring if you understand what’s coming tomorrow is contained in their simmering, listful, joyous noise.