With a name like Japanther, the Brooklyn-based punk duo seemed like they would shred up the stage, but their performance at Valentine’s proved otherwise. In fact, they are the ones who are about to be shredded, and the faint of heart may want to avert their eyes from the impending critical carnage.
Based on Japanther’s resume, which includes a residency at EMPAC, performing in the back of a moving truck, and integrating giant puppets and synchronized swimmers into their shows, it seems as if they strive to pull out all the creative stops. Unfortunately, the most artistic thing they did last Tuesday was use old phone receivers as microphones, which were recycled from part of their Phone Booth Project in September 2011. There was a person dressed in a cheap ghillie suit playing a toy Casio, but instead of utilizing the costume, the person crouched behind the drummer and was barely seen. It wasn’t until the second to last song that the person in the ghillie suit lazily stood up—and did nothing else.
The set started with “Another Wasted Day,” then jumped into “Echo of My Eye” with full energy. Japanther maintained a speedy pace, but the rhythms were mostly simple. Occasionally they would stop between songs and babble something meaningless and full of the word “like.” At one point, drummer Ian Vanek said, “Like life is full of stuff and like these are the things of life.”
Although it may have just been his style, Vanek was sloppy. His cymbal kept falling off his drumset, and for the majority of the act he let his bandana fall over his eyes. Maybe it was so he didn’t have to see the lack of enthusiasm in the crowd brought on by bad opening acts and a lack of performance art. Vanek also sung with his tongue hanging down to his chin and sprayed spit everywhere. He was obviously aiming for a more sloppy British punk sound, but he sounded like a drunken deaf guy.
One of the best songs of the set was “Come Back Home.” It was hard to deny their energy as bassist Matt Reilly’s long curly hair flailed about on stage. Despite their energy, the small crowd was barely moving. It was then that one of the rappers from the second act, Dezmatic & Grimace Get Vicious, came barreling through the room to start a mosh pit. Unfortunately, no one was feeling it, and he took down a girl half his size. Everyone scattered.
Japanther continued with “Selfish Kid” and “The Dirge,” but the crowd seemed to be over the show, minus two or three friends in the front. Their encore started up like an old lawn mower, pulling the string one-two-three times to start.
Dezmatic & Grimace Get Vicious started their set in a similar manner to Japanther’s encore. They just couldn’t get going and blamed it on their DJ, who was actually the best performer. He played old school hip-hop and punk between sets, which was the best music of the night. The two rappers stumbled through their act by getting their microphone wires tangled and dropping their pants. They reverted to cliché lyrics like “Wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care,” “Drop your ass to the floor,” and “representing the 518.”
In short, it was hipster amateur hour and if they continue at this rate their trust funds will be dried up before they know it.