For many rock fans, Japandroids might be one of those bands you've always sort of liked from afar, but have never quite gotten intimate with. But this week marks your chance to seal the deal: The Vancouver, B.C. duo plays a two-night stand March 9-10 at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles.
So why should you finally take the plunge on Japandroids?
1. They're glad to be back: After wrapping up their tour in support of the album Celebration Rock in 2013, the band went radio silent for nearly three years. Singer-guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse made no public appearances, and all Japandroids social media pages went dark. Fans were understandably freaked out.
But if the packed March 7 show at Denver's Gothic Theatre is any indication, King and Prowse are fully and officially back. Taking the stage with a furious version of “Near to the Wild Heart of Life,” King almost immediately remarked how long the duo had been away, thanked Denver for remembering them and promised to make up for lost time. Which he did...
2. Superior conditioning: Denver's famous mile-high elevation has claimed plenty of singers over the years. Very few visiting bands make it a whole show without at least one mention of the thin air. King was no exception: After a frankly astonishing opening vocal salvo, he became visibly exhausted during “Arc of Bar,” a song that basically requires him to scream “yeaaaahh-yeaahhh” for seven minutes and twenty-five seconds. The thing was, he actually managed to do it without missing a note, all while playing guitar. But it makes sense – this is a band with great cardio. Heck, Prowse sings backup while drumming on nearly every Japandroids song. Don't dispute the lungs on these guys.
3. Crowd participation: Like many bands that verge on post-punk, Japandroids do a brisk business in sing-alongs. One great example at the Denver show came after King's near-death experience with “Arc of Bar.” He quickly transitioned to “Nights of Wine and Roses,” which featured plenty of gang vocals. The crowd was game and a (very briefly) winded King was grateful. In conclusion, prepare to sing along, even if you don't know any Japandroids songs going in. You'll pick it up, and even if you don't, wordless exuberance is totally permitted.
4. You'll be watching a band breaking out: By any measure, Japandroids are a successful band. But there's something different about the new album Near to the Wild Heart of Life, and the band's performances right now. From the crowd's feverish participation to Prowse's somehow-better-than-ever drumming to King's shaggy swagger, this feels like a band breaking through to national fame. Catch them now, or you'll be ponying up to see them in a much bigger, more expensive venue next year.
5. Your girlfriend will dig them: King paused between songs to point out a couple rocking out up front at the Denver show.
“For nine years, I've looked out there and seen dudes just having the time of their lives, while the girlfriend just stands there,” he joked. “But this is the first time I remember the girl having a better time than the guy.”
Also worth noting at the Denver show: Craig Finn and the Uptown Controllers, the angry, dreamy side project for The Hold Steady frontman Finn, were excellent. The project, performing songs from Finn's various solo efforts, came across as a woozier version of Finn's main band with even more of his strange but engaging "the Dude abides" touch. Finn stuck with his classic flailing, rambling, talk-singing delivery throughout the set. In this case, that's high praise.
Click here to get tickets to Japandriods' March 9 show at the Fonda Theatre.