Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
Japandroids and Cadence Weapon at Lee’s Palace in Toronto
Frank YangThere’s a point in the arc of the breakout band where long-time fans who’ve supported and encouraged the artist through those early days find themselves in the odd position of rubbing elbows not with the faithful but newbs and tourists, interested not in hearing the songs that soundtracked crucial points in their life but that one tune they heard on the radio. For fans of Vancouver duo Japandroids, that time has come and for those in Toronto, that specific moment was Saturday night where on the strength of their second album Celebration Rock, they not only proved they could play clubs the size of Lee’s Palace, but jam it to the gills. And I report on this not as one of those die-hards but one of the newbs.
It wasn’t quite the top-40 scenario sketched out above, but it is true that while I didn’t care for the duo’s 2009 debut Post-Nothing, I was wholly and unexpectedly taken with Celebration Rock and its righteous classic rockism. And I was hardly the only one as the band’s story has turned from having almost called it quits prior to making this record into being one of the most talked-about rock bands of the moment, to say nothing of a spot on the 2012 Polaris Prize longlist with more than reasonable chances of making the short. Yeah, they’re having a pretty good year.
And if they needed someone to discuss the spotlight with, then they could do worse than their tourmate Rollie Pemberton, aka Cadence Weapon, who had himself made the Polaris long list with his third album Hope In Dirt City and who had previously shortlisted with his 2005 debut Breaking Kayfabe. The bill had just completed tours together in the UK and US and as Japandroids guitarist explained as he took the mic before their set, he’d taken to introducing Cadence Weapon to their audience as a way of explaining why a crowd who’d come to see a white noise rock band was about to be warmed up by a hip-hop artist. He did, however, also acknowledge that this was their first show together in Canada and that Cadence Weapon probably didn’t need any hype man in his home country; indeed, to hear Pemberton tell it on Dirt City, he “don’t need a fuckin’ hype man” at all.
In any case, Pemberton performed as though he was thrilled to be playing to audiences where he didn’t necessarily have to justify his presence. His set was part performance, part conversation where he would offer some backstory, some anecdote or otherwise just chat between songs – good for engagement, not so great for pacing or keeping the momentum going. It did get going though, thanks to the crowd getting more and more into it as the show progressed, and while the spartan beats that work well on the Dirt City recordings sounded a bit thin in the live setting, that was more than offset by the amount of energy and expression that Pemberton threw into the performance.
Building momentum wasn’t any kind of problem for Japandroids’ set. Though some have cited Celebration Rock‘s unrelenting pace as a shortcoming – not unreasonably – it was nothing but a positive for their live show, as after another short introduction by King, he and drummer David Prowse – not David Prowse – burst out of the gates with “The Boys Are Leaving Town” and basically didn’t let up with the fist pumping adrenaline or hand clapping anthemicism for the next 80 minutes or so. This was my first Japandroids show ever – see above about newbiness – and even though I’d seen two-piece acts before, the massiveness of their sound was really impressive. The dual Fender Twins/Marshall full stack/Ampeg SVT backline that King plugs his Telecaster into sound massive and also looks it – perfect for doing guitar hero poses in front of, particularly when you’ve got a fan situated sidestage providing windswept hair effects (and cooling things off, of course) to go with the Springsteen-approved white button-down and blue jeans look.
You couldn’t escape the Springsteen-ness of the music, either. Though the older material still sounded a bit generic to my ears, the Celebration Rock stuff translated as well from record to stage as impressively as you could hope, particularly with hundreds of fans singing along. Sweaty and rank fans, certainly – I had to flee their churning mosh pit after four songs – but absolutely devout and unquestionably enthusiastic. And young. Their new record may be a celebration of rock but it’s also a celebration of youth, and I can appreciate how while it just sounds like a great rock record to me, it can connect on a much deeper level to their demographic. It was quite something see; I just didn’t need to be in the middle of it anymore.
If his emcee role earlier in the evening wasn’t a hint, Brian King made it clear pretty quickly he liked to talk to the audience when he wasn’t rocking their faces off, explaining the songs, recounting tour stories, and thanking the fans. You definitely got the sense that he wasn’t taking their recent successes for granted and was genuinely grateful for it all; I’ve little doubt that this is going to be a momentous couple years for the duo as the record propels them forward – it’s good to see that they’re going into this with the right attitude.
It was amusing to hear him call album closer, “Continuous Thunder” a “slow jam” but I suppose that relative to most everything else in their repertoire, it was the thoughtful, contemplative mid-tempo number. They closed with their cover of The Gun Club’s “For The Love Of Ivy”, warning in advance that there would be no encore as they intended to give it their all. The same could have been said about their entire show and no, they weren’t kidding. Intense.
The National Post was also on hand for a review. The double bill has rightfully been leaving quite a trail of press clippings in their wake. There’s Japandroids features at The Phoenix, Denver Westword, Post City, Vulture, The Montreal Mirror, Cleveland.com, and The New York Times while Pemberton talks to The AV Club, The Grid, The Winnipeg Free Press, The National Post (who also take him shopping in Toronto), The Montreal Gazette, and The Edmonton Journal.
Photos: Japandroids, Cadence Weapon @ Lee’s Palace – June 23, 2012
MP3: Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built”
MP3: Japandroids – “Young Hearts Spark Fire”
MP3: Japandroids – “Wet Hair”
MP3: Japandroids – “Heavenward Grand Prix”
MP3: Cadence Weapon – “Conditioning”
MP3: Cadence Weapon – “Real Estate”
Video: Cadence Weapon – “Get On Down”
Video: Cadence Weapon – “Conditioning”
Video: Cadence Weapon – “Real Estate”
Video: Cadence Weapon – “Sharks”
And just announced as openers for that Neil Young show and others on the tour – ladies and gentlemen, The Sadies.
Over at The National Post, Nils Edenloff of The Rural Alberta Advantage explains why opening up for The Tragically Hip at Burl’s Creek on Canada Day next weekend is such a big deal for him. He also talks to The Barrie Advance about the show.
Ragged Gold, the debut album from Guelph disco-pop brother act The Magic is out this week and available to stream in its entirety, along with track-by-track band annotations at DIY. They’re opening up for Hot Chip at The Sound Academy on July 15 and will play their own show at The Theatre Centre on August 10 as part of Summerworks.
Edmonton’s Purity Ring have released another taste of their forthcoming debut Shrines. They’re at The Music Hall on July 6 supporting Dirty Projectors and are featured by The National Post and Spinner.
Macleans has posted the full Q&A of their interview with Don Pyle of Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet, whose reunion hits Lee’s Palace on July 14, and Exclaim has a video of one of their comeback gigs at St. Alban’s Boys and Girls Club.
Opening up that show is Snowblink and they’ll be previewing material from their just-confirmed new album Inner Classics. It’s due out September 11 and details on the release can be found at Exclaim, and a first track can be downloaded below.
Stars have revealed details of their next album – it will be called The North, be out September 4, and at least one song will sound like this. As for details of their next tour…
…They will be hooking up with Metric for a cross-Canada tour that brings them to the Air Canada Centre on November 24. Not quite stadium love, but arena ain’t bad. The Globe & Mail and eMusic have feature pieces on the band and DIY and The Line Of Best Fit chip in video sessions. And another track from Synthetica has been made available to download.
Chains Of Love have released a new video from Strange Grey Days and if you head over to Nylon, you can grab another track from the album to download. Note that it’s uncompressed so have some disk space open…