Music transcends when it has the ability to evoke vivid feelings, whether through lyrics or sound. For the former, it is relatively easy to convey feelings — words are an effective tool for describing how you feel. For example, Al Green plainly declared his amorous intentions when he told his love interest, “Let’s stay together.” But how do you channel those same feelings through sound? It becomes much more abstract. Somehow Al Green was able to create an atmosphere of intimacy that matched the lyrics due to the horns, guitar and his silky voice.
Japandroids, a hard-rocking punk duo from Vancouver, Canada, occupy the opposite end of the musical spectrum from Green and his classic soul. But Japandroids are no less effective in conjuring feelings through both lyrics and sound. Whereas Green was in tune with the channels of love, Japandroids summon the triumph, anxiety and inhibitions of youth. The duo, made of guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse, delighted a jam-packed crowd at the Independent last week, bringing their sounds of adolescence with them.
The night kicked off with the Montreal rapper Rollie Pemberton, going by his stage name of Cadence Weapon. Pemberton displayed apt lyrical command as he enthusiastically rapped over ’80s-inspired beats. He exuded energy from the beginning, even causing King and Prowse of Japandroids to hang out next to the stage, mouthing the lyrics and loudly complimenting Pemberton’s wardrobe. Even though most of the crowd didn’t come to see a hip-hop set, Cadence Weapon’s fiery flow gained appreciation and head-bobbing from the bearded and flanneled crowd.
As Japandroids took the stage and tuned up, the eagerness of the crowd was evident and the air thick with the smell of beer and nostalgia. King messed around and played the opening riff to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” as Prowse disapprovingly, but jokingly shook his head from his drum set. After humbly thanking the crowd, King announced, “Let’s not waste the night” and plowed into the feverish opening chords of “The Boys are Leaving Town.”
It didn’t take long for the crowd to get caught up in the excitement. Once the invigorating riff of “Younger Us” began, a raucous mosh pit formed, chock-full of flailing dudes and the occasional courageous girlfriend. It was largely contained though as both moshers and non-moshers had a good time, joyously echoing the band with lyrics like “give me that naked new skin rush, give me younger us!”
The boys of Japandroids were completely locked-in musically. “Rockers East Vancouver” featured an energizing juxtaposition of frenetic guitar riffs with very short, but striking periods of silence. And while the majority of “Crazy/Forever” provoked ferocious head-banging, it was the calmer interludes that displayed Japandroids’ musical command. King sang, “We’ll stick together forever” and inspired the audience members to grab the bro next to them and sway in blissful agreement.
Despite the humility and working-class aura of the band, you couldn’t help but view them as bonafide rock stars on the stage. An electric fan blew wind through Brian King’s hair as he boldly strummed his guitar in front of the Marshall stacks of amps. It was as if the guitar was simply his third arm, a natural extension of his being. And David Prowse absolutely obliterated his drums, expertly keeping time and thumping away.
It was a night to both create and relive memories — that’s the nature of Japandroids’ music. Towards the end of the set, King wistfully sang, “We used to dream, now we worry about dying” on “Young Hearts Spark Fire.” But for a glorious couple of hours, “dreaming” was the order of the day. “Dying” was nowhere to be found.
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