There was a fleeting moment Thursday night — about two songs into Japandroid’s sold-out set — when I began to worry that the cavernous belly of the Independent might prove too big and distant for the band’s intimate, exuberant call-and-response rock music. We were packed to capacity and yet a very real stiffness hung in the air. I couldn’t help but think of the recent controversy-stoking New York Times article warning that tech yuppies might destroy the middle class in San Francisco. Where was the hop-and-shoulder bumping mosh pit? Are there no fucking kids left in this city?
And then Japandroids launched into “Younger Us,” a smoldering anthem for the memories of youth from their newest LP, Celebration Rock, that the kids absolutely ate up, their bobbing heads, jumping feet, pumping fists all drawn to the stage as if by youthful osmosis. The lyrics, which read, “remember that night you were already in bed / said fuck it / got up and drank with me instead” could just as easily, at that moment, be about San Francisco. Remember that time we were feeling old and stressed, said fuck it (and the NYT), and got wild instead?
And so went the night as Japandroids carried the energy through the rest of their hour-long set, playing through every track from the new album and well-selected hits from the debut. Their performance of “The House That Heaven Built” — the first single from Celebration Rock and probably the best song Japandroids have ever written — was spine-tinglingly good, King’s guitar tone a crunchy piece of perfection and the radio-worthy oh oh oh ohs of the chorus fostering the kind of audience fist-pumping sing-alongs usually reserved for your little brother’s pop-punk shows.
Nice guys don’t always finish last and Japandroids are proof enough of that. The band thanked the audience continuously between songs, even apologizing for playing a “slow song” (Brian King: “We just really want to play this song and we hope that’s ok with you guys, we promise to play some fucking rock songs after this”) and inviting the whole audience to visit Canada (King: “Don’t go to Vegas, come to East Vancouver instead, you can sleep on