Four songs into Japandroids’ Thanksgiving Eve set at Exit/In, guitarist and main screamer Brian King shut down the show and made a declaration that would set the tone for the rest of the evening. King, it seems, was fed up with the crowd of perhaps a couple hundred, which had been at turns unenthusiastic, lame, sedentary, lethargic, unimpressed — you know, the usual. At one point, a would-be detractor shouted out, “Belle & Sebastian!”
It was that kind of group. And King was taking no shit.
The night had begun with a set from Brooklyn's Swearin', whom we'd heard one of our rock 'n' roll comrades describe as pop-punk for grown-ups. The Spin was mad skeptical. What the hell is pop-punk good for if it's not silly nonsense music played by chronically immature manchildren? Well, consider us schooled. Swearin's hyper-melodic punk didn't quite win over the small crowd of Japandroids fans — we overheard one dude refer to them as “clown asses,” whatever that means — but we were totally charmed by their semisweet post-college punk tunes and the That Dog sticker on singer Allison Crutchfield's guitar.
“All right, Nashville, I see we‘re going to have to try harder,” King later said during the Droids' set. “I don’t mind. There’s going to be a battle for Nashville between you and us, and I plan on fucking kicking your ass.”
King, keeping the playfully adversarial tone going, even offered a beer for the night’s best heckle — though when you think about it, shouting “Belle & Sebastian” at a Japandroids show is questioning the band’s ass-kicking abilities, if not manhood. And the Vancouver, British Columbia, resident became especially vicious when a few hockey-loving fans tried to rile him.
“OK, this next song is off our new album called Celebration Rock," King shouted. “It’s called ‘Predators Suck, Canucks Rule.’”
The mood matched the set list as King and drummer David Prowse powered their way through pleasingly face-pummeling versions of “The Boys Are Leaving Town,” “Fire’s Highway,“ “Days of Wine and Roses,“ “Heart Sweats” and “Wet Hair.” Even so, King admitted he might be losing the fight as he neared the midway point of the meaty 17-song set. Then he changed tactics, going for the heart with a sentimental story about the band‘s time in Nashville last year (recounted in excruciating detail in last week’s Scene, if you’re interested).
Then Japandroids launched into “The House That Heaven Built,” the first song they wrote while living in a house just off Gallatin Pike. And that shit totally worked. A few guys in the crowd tried to get a mosh pit going for a minute, the hecklers finally laid off, and things were a little festive even.
And in Nashville, that’s something to be thankful for.