I first stumbled across Japandroids while waiting to see No Age at SXSW in 2010. These were a bunch of noisey rock duos playing a venue that was normally set aside for DJ dancing. The sound guy had no idea as to how to deal with a band. As Japandroids were doing their line check, the sound guy yelled into the PA, seemingly frustrated to no end:
“That’s Loud As Shit!”
The singer / guitarist responded, even more upset, “IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE LOUD AS SHIT!!!”
That’s when I knew that this band was going to be great. And they killed it. And, finally, three years later, they are playing the legendary Fillmore Auditorium. Few bands deserve this honor as much as these guys do.
Bleached are two sisters from LA, Jennifer and Jessica Clavin on vocals & guitar, both from the dearly missed Mika Miko. They were the perfect warm up for the sensory assault that was waiting for us with our headliners. In their far too brief 30 minute set, we were treated to 10 glorious, reverb soaked tracks of pop punk. At first listen, one would immediately want to file this group with their peers Dum Dum Girls, Best Coast, and Vivian Girls, who also blend power pop, 60’s girl groups, and a touch of punk rock. My problem with those bands is that they seem to place style over songwriting. Bleached definitely know how to compose and arrange a song. The Clavin sisters also know how to use their influences to their benefit. They are very “Ramones” heavy, but they understand The Ramones well enough to know that there was more to them than witty lyrics and quick power chords. Clavin’s voice is warm and smooth like Joey Ramones’, and rhythm section Jonathan Safley and Alex Ghosn kept chugging with a near robot like precision, like a punk rock machine that is only capable of keeping a beat. The crowd, which was awfully meager at first, filled out nicely by the end of the set, and even prompted a small pit to form, which is no mean feat for a San Francisco crowd. (Seriously guys, stop being so polite! Rumor has it San Francisco invented the mosh!)
Think Of You
Searching Through The Past
Waiting For The Tele
Looking For A Fight
Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World (Ramones Cover)
No Friend Of Mine
The night felt near complete after Bleached were done with their set. The crowd, which was about 80% male, seemed like a tough one to convert to the sound of jangly pop punk. But, alas, they won everyone over. By the end of the night, there were plenty of “bros” wearing Bleached t-shirts. Thankfully, due to the simplicity of both band’s set ups, We didn’t have the usual 30-40 minutes that we usually get at The Fillmore. In fact, things were so well sorted that the band actually went on five minutes ahead of schedule.
The band opened up with Celebration Rock‘s side B opener, “Adrenaline Nightshift.” Only, they took the song’s slightly mellower beginning, and they slowed it down and stretched it out even more that it did on record. When the song actually kicked on, it kicked in with the power of 1,000 canons. This was not going to be a calm evening by any measure. The second track, “Fire’s Highway,” sparked mass sing along, but, somehow, the crowd still hadn’t started dancing. Singer/ guitarist Brian King could see this, and he felt that there was something wrong. So, in his own polite way, he is from Vancouver, after all, he told the crowd that they needed to go crazy, because, despite it being a school or work night, we still needed to dance. It seems that all we needed was the permission to move, because once the permission was granted, there was no turning back.
For song three, “Art Czars,” King and drummer drummer David Prowse kicked the song off as if they were a hardcore band, only letting the track grow into the sarcastic, biting punk rock anthem it was. This turned the crowd into a full on mass of bodies, flailing about. This wasn’t a “mosh pit” at this point. It was simply a large, out of control, spastic dance party unlike The Fillmore has seen in years. Unlike most “heavy” shows here, there was no barrier. The crowd went straight to the stage, only adding to the danger of the evening.
That’s how it was for 100 minutes straight. A massive group of sweaty dancing people. Japandroids’ energy was unrelenting, and their attitude was unwaveringly positive. They played nearly every track off their two full length records, Post-Nothing and Celebration Rock. Despite these two records sounding very different. it was impossible to tell the difference between which songs were from which records live. The crowd seemed to know both albums just as well. Sadly, they only track they played off the underrated No Singles was a cover of McLusky’s “To Hell With Good Intentions.”
The energy was infectious amazing. With every song, it felt like the crowd was trying to out adrenaline the band. And the band, in return, tried to out adrenaline the audience. The energy apex was when they played the glorious chant along single “The House That Heaven Built.” In addition to being one of the best pieces of lyric about teen angst and romance since “Born To Run,” it has the type of chorus that you know all the words to before the song is over. This meant that the volume in the room turned to deafening with earplugs once it got to the chorus, with a joyful, unision scream of “oh oh oh oh ohohoh.”
Early in the set, the King said they were playing about an hour. They almost doubled that by the time they finished the set. As the final notes of “For The Love Of Ivy” faded out, the house lights went up and both Prowse and King immediately started disassembling their equipment. This prompted the crowd to chant “We Want More! We Want More!” King then told the crowd that they simply don’t do encores. This did not stop us. He then told the crowd that they will do one more song, but to keep it quiet. They don’t want the world knowing they did an encore. I hope that Brian King accepts my apology for revealing this secret. I couldn’t resist, though. He actually taught himself how to play one of the bands few ballads, the beautiful and “so honest, it’s practically naked” track that closed up their debut, “I Quit Girls.” It was the perfect way to end the show: with a cool down.
A lot of bands have been given the role of “saving rock.” Now, I don’t really know if rock actually needs saving. But, tonight, at The Fillmore, Japandroids more than saved rock. They rebirthed it and made it stronger than ever.