Japanther at the Hemlock Tavern 5/25/08
Brooklyn's Japanther played a late show at the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco on Sunday night. Emerging from the Brooklyn underground club scene (The Silent Barn/Death by Audio/Roof in Bed Sty) with a decidedly artistic lean, Japanther has a budding following nationwide. Tour mates The Pharmacy, from Seattle WA, got things going. The show was running a good hour behind schedule but the trio's high energy fuzz pop quickly got the small room going. Both bands were coming off a Saturday night gig at LA's art punk warehouse The Smell. The Smell is rapidly becoming the West Coast's answer to the Williamsburg art punk movement.
There was another lengthy delay in between bands, that found the audience vocally agitated and on the verge of turning on the Brooklyn duo. Japanther worked out their technical kinks and quickly won over the crowd. Their high energy, drum, bass, and tape loop constructions, have a crystallized focus that bound the room together. Free of the guitar, Japanther uses the bass to drive the melodies. The live drums augment and infuse the taped beats with added punch. Tandem vocals are shouted through amped up telephone receivers. This lo-fi, albeit slightly gimmicky approach, is what gives this band their unique sound. Japanther has a surprisingly crafted pop sensibility. The songs generally maintain a thunderous squall with arty deconstructions, unloading into a revved-up Ramones meets Suicide stomp.
Time will tell if Japanther is able to expand the songwriting beyond their minimalist, rave Rock. Bands like Britain's Klaxons, have borrowed from the community driven, intensity inherent in the Nu Rave movement. This scene captures Punk's attitude and simplicity while also drawing on the Rave culture's tribal mindset. If the sold-out crowd of barely twenty-somethings gathered at the Hemlock is an indication, Japanther is tapping into a mercury laced mother lode. The audience bounced in joyous unison the entire evening.
The Hemlock Tavern