Music Hall of Williamsburg
Thursday, June 28
Better than: Getting rejected at the door.
Entering a borough known for its hostility—”Brooklyn has a bad rep in the rest of the continent,” frontman Brian King explained, then crossed his arms over his guitar as he continued, “You’re known for the kind of crowd that stands like this”—Japandroids started not slow, exactly, but restrained. After opening with Post-Nothing side one/track one “The Boys are Leaving Town,” King addressed the crowd again, admitting that it takes a room one song to warm up. Still, Brooklyn demanded another, and after he and drummer David Prowse finished “Adrenaline Nightshift,” he offered something to the effect of “OK, this is the song that really kicks things up a notch.” You’ll have to excuse my paraphase, because as the chords that begin “Younger Us” rang out, and I ditched the transcription, stuffed my notebook into my pants, and pushed my way to the front of the venue. Sorry.
For many not just in Brooklyn or Vancouver but across the continent, the band’s recently released Celebration Rock will be the album of the season, if not the year. Beginning and ending with the sound of fireworks cracking, it explodes with summertime energy, memorializing the past for a generation of indie rockers turned creative professionals and the present for generation of kids who swear they’ll never do the same. Besides being the catchiest of the record’s eight tracks, “Younger Us” is their thematic center, a sweaty anthem about not sleeping ’til you’re dead and “that night”—as if there had only been one—”you were already in bed” but got up to drink instead. “We Are Young” has sold a million digital downloads, this song’s “We were young” might be the more universal sentiment, and when Japandroids sing it, it makes you fall in love with the present moment as much as those past. In a way, it’s the antithesis to something like “Losing My Edge,” but where LCD Soundsystem there faced the fact of aging with knowing wit, “Younger Us” does it by remembering, romanticizing, and embracing youthful spontaneity and freedom.
But before we get into whatever stupid things I did to my body and the bodies around me in the name of dancing to this song, let’s back up.
Knowing in advance that Japandroids weren’t going on until 10:00, I arrived at the Music Hall of Williamsburg around 9:45 and found a line extending about as far as Public Assembly next door. Not too long, all things considered, but being a bit spoiled I gave one of the bouncers my ID (not that I was drinking) and began to ask if I could skip to the front. At this point, two kids around my age interrupted to complain about something presumably much less pressing. “Now, these dudes are spoiled,” I thought.
In fact, they were a bit younger than me and had been refused entrance when someone saw past their fake IDs. Immediately, memories of actual younger me flashed before my eyes, specifically of that time when actual younger me tried to go see Japandroids but couldn’t because he wasn’t 21 and his fake was probably even worse than the ones these guys were holding. So, I can’t help but ask, why are Japandroids singing songs that glorify—even fetishize—youth in venues (yesterday Bowery Ballroom, today Music Hall of Williamsburg) that don’t let in actual young people? I know that everyone has to eat and that there’s no selling out anymore, but with this band, playing these songs, it couldn’t help but feel a little false.
For those that got in, the show was great. The duo played a wonderful, well-paced, and well-organized set, “saving the best for last” by finishing with Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy;” King was charming throughout, and “Younger Us” did kick things up a notch. But if Japandroids want more dancing at their next Brooklyn show, then perhaps they should play a venue that welcomes those most likely to do it.
Critical bias: See above.
Overheard: See above.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 29, 2012