There are moments in your life when things seem to fall exactly into place, when it feels like you’re in exactly the right place at the right time. My skin sticky from the heat wave in Minneapolis, a beer in my hand, in a crowded 7th St. Entry, the night before we celebrated the Fourth of July, and the Japandroids on the last night of their world tour embodied that feeling.
The titles of the Japandroids first two albums, Post-Nothing (2009) and Celebration Rock (2012), tell you everything you need to know about the band. Post-Nothing is a wink at music critics endlessly creating and naming new genres of music. The Japandroids aren’t post-punk, they aren’t post-hardcore, they are just two dudes (a guitar player and a drummer) rocking the fuck out song after song, album after album.
The Canadian duo brand of rock is a straight-ahead blitzkrieg of sweat and adolescent exuberance. With just one guitar and one drum set, their riffs aren’t looped, and the beats aren’t sampled. The result? A performance that grips you with an immediacy and excitement that washes away everything from your mind, creating a space where you can only live in that moment.
Guitarist Brian King welcomed the sold-out crowd by saying “This place is starting to feel like home” before launching into “The Boys Are Leaving Town,” a song he dubbed their “warm-up song.” The vocals were a little off but the song to proved to truly be just the jumping off point for the band’s performance.
“Hitch hiked to hell and back/ Riding the wind/ Waiting for a generations bonfire to begin” screamed King as the duo launched into Adrenaline Nightshift, a standout from their new album Celebration Rock. King’s guitar roared with a thunderous swirl engulfing the crowd as David Prowse’s drums blistered into a roll that propelled the concert into an evening with an excitement of two teenagers out for a joyride on a warm summer’s night tearing donuts through a remote field.
Before playing “Younger Us” King noted, “It’s simple, the more fun you have the more fun we’re going to have.” A statement that was absolutely true as the night continued the crowd jumped and pushed against one another. The band, like a seasoned heavy weight, swung back with everything they had, growing stronger and more intense with each chord played, spitting on the stage in between words sung, sweat dripping from each members curled hair.
Stopping between songs to banter with the crowd, King proved more than affable as he joked about a disastrous 2009 performance at the Turf Club, swearing to one day return to the Turf Club to play a free show. His memory was impressive, often noting before if each song had been played at the Entry before. He even barbed with his bandmate before they played “Evil’s Sway” saying that the song included “our generations defining drum solo.”
Midway through the performance Japandroids had made the Entry uncomfortably hot and sweaty, it seemed as if the temperature has risen five degrees with each song. Then came, what some have dubbed the “song of the summer,” “The House That Heaven Built.” The crowd howling along echoing the syncopated “oh’s” and singing along to King’s call-and-response chorus.
Toward the end of the song King howled into a slightly distorting microphone, “But your not mine to die for anymore / So I must live.” It was sung with a Springsteen-like conviction and urgency that you seek from a performance but rarely are you able to find it. It’s a rare quality that can’t be mimicked, though many try. When you see it, it rings through true and authentic, lifting you out of you shoes. It is an almost indiscernible quality or swagger, but the Japandriods have it.
The Japandroids play straight ahead rock music with an unflinching purpose, capturing the internal struggle that many people live with but are unable to articulate. A struggle of longing, hoping to find a purpose or a passion that will set them free. The duo making up the Japandroids understand that struggle, they may not have the answer but they write and perform music that makes you forget about everything troubling, to get drunk, run into the sweaty night and enjoy every last second of it.
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