From the first time I saw the name of the duo, I envisioned Japandroids as something closer to the hulking, giant mechanoids from late ‘70s Japanimation than a couple of garage-born auteurs from British Columbia. Now that I’ve seen them, I feel the image is accurate, at least in sound and fury, though the actual visage may not be.
Their short but incendiary set at the Larimer Lounge last Sunday night couldn’t have done more to solidify their incongruous largeness, as the smallish crowd found themselves awash in waves of noisy reverb, distortion and unadulterated passion.
Two-member bands seem to be the lineup of choice lately. It may stem from the White Stripes, or may lead back to the Delta blues history, but there’s no doubt that the formation works. In the case of Japandroids last Sunday night, the combination of guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse created a sound that could have easily matched a sextet or more in terms of both intensity and volume (though the Larimer’s sound solid system can claim some of that responsibility).
To say that King is a wild thing on the guitar is an understatement. To say that he has a penchant for wild abandon, ripsaw axe-crashing and feral gesticulation is more accurate. And Prowse and he were always on the same page — a dead solid, perfect tsunami with every tune.
White Stripes notwithstanding, it’s still hard to imagine filling a space even as intimate as the Larimer Lounge with merely two musicians. But Japandroids had no trouble at all, and all the while played with the audience as comfortably as they might with a basement house party. Most of the crowd seemed to be familiar with their set list, and when the duo swooped into “Heart Sweats,” the whole front pit became liquid, at least for about 30 seconds. When they poured into a cover of Big Black’s “Racer X,” we were all smitten — whether or not we knew the original.
Surfer Blood, a band rapidly climbing in indie popularity, played a solid set before Japandroids, and more than pleased a growing crowd in the process. Their music has a strong melodic grab that bathes in the surfier side of Pixies, but remains endearing and addictive nonetheless. The fact that all of the members seem to be on spring break from high school only seems to help with their mythos as well.
Their set showed off a youthful fierceness, sort of like the first few hours of a house party, but quickly snowballed into their signature, noisy and danceable pop. Their occasional journey into Weezer (listen to “Floating Vibes” for example) did more to endear them to the bouncing crowd than drive it back to the bar. In the end, the crowd was unanimous in approval, and the band looked more than willing to oblige.
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Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.