After a handful of glowing reviews of their full-length debut Post-Nothing unleashed a wave of hype, Japandroids found their name on the lips of critics and music fans everywhere, which is why, after singer/guitarist Brian King healed up from an unfortunate illness, they spent the early part of the summer hitting as many places as they could. So, after going from coast to coast and as many places in between as possible, this was their big homecoming.
The night started off with Twin Crystals, who tore through a short but typically intense set of noisy punk. Just six months ago, if they’d shared a bill with these headliners, they’d be playing to a group made up mostly of their friends, but with Japandroids attracting so many new fans, the bulk of the crowd seemed unfamiliar with one of Vancouver’s best acts. Still, while they weren’t on stage for long, their performance was good enough to convert more than a few new fans before they called it a night.
Shawnigan Lake’s Listening Party was up next. The band’s inventive percussion and tight harmonies lent a refreshing air to their summery pop. But, as Party lead singer Lindy Gerard noted when he jokingly quipped something about being the stuffing in a “pussy sandwich,” they sounded a bit awkward, being the calm both before and after a storm.
This is certainly not a criticism of crowds at local shows, but when you’re familiar with a band and they’re familiar with you, a lot of the theatre of rock ‘n’ roll gets thrown out the window. So usually when a Vancouver act takes the stage at home, people hold their applause until they’ve played a song or two, or at least a few notes. But when Japandroids hit the stage, I was surprised to find that the crowd, who now filled the entire lower half of the rather cavernous Rickshaw Theatre, roared to life like Pitchfork’s next big thing was rolling through town. Noticeably tighter since their last local show, the duo rewarded the hungry crowd with the longest set I’ve ever seen them play (and I’ve seen them more times than I can remember), running through almost all of the LP, as well as a handful of songs from their two self-released EPs and a cover of Big Black’s “Racer X” that saw drummer Dave Prowse take lead vocals for the second time in the evening (he’s also the main crooner on “Rockers East Vancouver”).
Old numbers like “Darkness on the Edge of Gastown” rocked hard, but, in a testament to the band’s growth, it was the songs from their much lauded full-length that really shone. “Crazy/Forever” (introduced as a “slow jam” for “the ladies”) built slowly to an extended, beautiful outro; a chorus of voices joined King and Prowse on the gleeful “whoa-oh-ohs” on “The Boys Are Leaving Town”; and when they launched into the sublime “Young Hearts Spark Fire,” any doubters that were left in the room immediately found out what all the fuss was about.