“Was that the loudest show you’ve ever been to?” I asked. “What?” my friend Aaron responded. I’ll take that as a yes.
Fresh off reviewing the new Japandroids album, Celebration Rock, for LxL , I was all about loud tunes. Right after submitting the review, I bought two tickets to catch them at Larimer Lounge and began the difficult task of convincing someone to go with me. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough people who listen to awesome tunes, or maybe I just don’t have enough friends. Fortunately I have gained the power of coercion over the years and easily convinced my friend Aaron to join me. All I had to say was, “I’ll buy your ticket.” One and done.
The next order of business was homework, which meant a strict diet of Japandroids cranked to 11. My collection of Lionel Richie had to be set aside for the week while I immersed myself in loud rock only. This only heightened my excitement, and when the day finally arrived, I was pumped for a great show.
I picked up Aaron, and drove down to the Larimer Lounge which is in a pretty seedy part of town. I tried to park in one spot, but someone was lighting fireworks in the street. I tried another spot, and someone was sleeping in their car. I finally found a good spot and proceeded to embark on my favorite pre-concert ritual: drinking in the car.
After we’d tossed a few back, we headed into the venue and were greeted by manic yelling. It turned out to be the opening act, Cadence Weapon, who was to put it lightly: terrible. The frontman couldn’t sing in tune, couldn’t stop yelling, and couldn’t lock into a rhythm with the backing beats. We decided almost immediately to head back to the car to continue drinking and play iPhone Jeopardy. Don’t judge.
We made our way back into the venue right as Japandroids were grabbing audio levels. They ran outside for a smoke and then took the stage, to which Aaron replied, “Oh, that’s the band? I was thinking that roadie was really good at guitar.” After a gracious welcome from Brian King, the duo launched into “The Boys Are Leaving Town,” which kicked the show into high gear. It wasn’t until “Younger Us” when the venue really got going, and a set list of Post-Nothing and Celebration Rock faves continued at full octane.
I hadn’t seen such manic drumming live since The Black Keys were still in their infancy, and the legendary Patrick Carney would beat the drums like they were an enemy, only he beat up his enemy with a perfect back beat. David Prowse was no different, and every time you looked at him, his drum sticks were a complete blur. There was no back beat in his drumming; it was always a driving rhythm that continually pushed the music forward.
Brian King cranked his Strat, danced around like he was being attacked by a swarm of killer bees, and strummed the guitar at the same frantic pace as Prowse. His guitar style is partially based on a technique developed by the early 20’s Bluesmen. Essentially, the guitarist continually plays a low note, i.e. the bass, and formulates chords and riffs on the upper five strings. King did this to full effect, but played hard rock riffs and punk chords on the upper register, allowing him to fill the dual roles of bassist and guitarist.
The show continued in full force as the boys ripped through nearly every song on Post-Nothing and most of the tracks on Celebration Rock. This was my main gripe about the show, because I felt that leaving out tracks from their first two EP’s was a huge oversight. The rough and raw sound from their early days would have translated perfectly to the stage. The polished songs on the two LP’s still kicked out of the speakers at a monster register, especially “Crazy/Forever,” and the new single, “The House That Heaven Built.” The only respite to the onslaught was when King ran backstage to grab a bottle of Jim Beam, to which Aaron asked, “Don’t they know it’s a Tuesday?”
The show rounded out with the surprising “Continuous Thunder,” introduced as their only slow song, but at such a blistering volume, it was anything but quiet. Not surprisingly, it was followed by their best known song, “Young Hearts Sparked Fire,” which got the crowd singing, moshing, jumping, and throwing cans of the official hipster drink, PBR. King closed the show by saying they would finish without an encore, but instead their best song. The launched into the cover “For the Love of Ivy,” and with the dynamic of the starts and stops, it was as loud as they got all night. They reached the crescendo as King jumped on top of bass drum, strumming as fast as his arm could go, while Prowse attacked the drums like a lunatic. The song came to a crashing halt, King tossed his guitar on the stage, and in a swirl of feedback, they bid the audience a good night.
As we tripped over the mass of PBR cans on our way out, I wondered if I permanent ear damage. Maybe it was because I placed myself next to the giant Marshall stack. Maybe it was because I usually listen to my prized Lionel Richie collection at a low and reasonable volume. No, it was because the Japandroids know how to put on a killer show.