Sound on Sound Review: Japandroids

Anthem after anthem after anthem

Rock & roll conviction lives and dies onstage, something Japandroids proved during a Sound on Sound makeup show Saturday night at Emo’s that was the duo’s first Austin appearance since a sold-out benefit at Mohawk in February.

Japandroids’ Brian King (l) and David Prowse (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Fueled by the belief that the world can be saved by a “whoa-oh” chorus, the Vancouver twosome builds towering rock edifices with the simplest of tools. Though guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse favor big hooks, hyperactive rhythms, and ragged vocals longer on feel than finesse, their strongest weapon remains a complete lack of irony. The pair writes songs with lyrics that may mean nothing, but they’re delivered like they mean everything.

Before lighter-waving fantasies were fulfilled, Cleveland quartet Cloud Nothings opened with alternative rock that stepped off a 1990 college rock playlist. Echoes of Dinosaur Jr., Hüsker Dü, and the Homestead Records catalog flavored leader Dylan Baldi’s sturdy melodies on “Fall In” and “Wasted Days.”

Japandroids kicked off with “Near to the Wild Heart of Life,” the high-energy title track of their third LP. Unless he was singing, King spent time anywhere but the mic, his constant movement scanning boisterous rather than restless. Prowse covered his kit like Keith Moon’s cousin, keeping the 4/4 beat roiling while also serving as cheerleader.

Before the first song was complete, pumping fists, crowdsurfing, and unprompted sing-alongs from the 500-strong throng created a joyous feedback loop.

From “North East South West” to “The Nights of Wine & Roses” and “No Known Drink or Drug,” the set consisted of anthem after anthem after anthem. Baldi reappeared to sing and play bass on a fierce cover of Dead Moon’s “Dead Moon Night” in tribute late DM leader Fred Cole, with King acknowledging a heavy debt to the Pacific Northwestern legend. Set-closing explosion “The House That Heaven Built” blasted in communion with a frenzied audience as eager to rise to spirit level as the band.

No encore, but after 70 minutes of celebration rock, a second round would have been superfluous.

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Japandroids, Sound on Sound Fest 2017, Brian King, David Prowse, Cloud Nothings, Dylan Baldi, Dinosaur Jr, Hüsker Dü, Homestead Records, Dead Moon, Fred Cole, Keith Moon

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