October 9, 2010 – It was a drizzly night as we arrived at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The weather had only just turned sour, but Vancouverites seemed to have already resigned themselves to their rain-filled fate for the next several months. I for one was okay with that, because the change in the weather signalled a move from backyards, BBQs, and beaches into the indoor spaces of the city. The bill for the evening captured this sentiment pretty well, a kind of anger-tinged celebration of fall’s arrival. Or was it a celebratory-tinged protest of fall’s arrival? Either way this three-way between acts on the avant-garde of Canadian (post-)rock – Japandroids, Ladyhawk and PS I Love You – gave us good reason to let off a little steam, even if it was just the moisture in our damp clothes evaporating.
The Rickshaw Theatre really was a theatre at one point, although unfortunately not in any grand sense of the word, a more recent victim of the rise of the cineplex, or perhaps the unfortunate circumstances of its infamous environs. The seats at the front of the theatre have been removed, making room for both a large stage and a decently-sized standing area which was not even half full when PS I Love You took the stage. The set seemed like the perfect prelude to Vancouver-natives, Japandroids. Both acts rock a similar brand of loud, yet thoughtfully soundscaped rock. Both acts are meat and potatoes combinations of drums and distorted guitar that manage to sound like so much more. And both acts are relatively recent additions to the Canadian musical landscape, with Japandroids debut album being a little over a year old, and PS I Love You dropping theirs earlier this month.
Ladyhawk was actually the question mark for me in this line-up. I had their latest album, 2008’s Shots, on heavy rotation when it came out, but with no records released since, and the bulk of their catalogue leaning a lot more towards a Dinosaur Jr. sound than the two edgier acts they were sandwiched between, I was not sure how it would turn out. In the end, they used their two-man advantage so that their set packed a lot more punch than I expected. They rose to the occasion, but despite being one of two local acts on stage that night, it never really seemed like this was their audience.
Japandroids frontman, Brian King, seemed like he could not have been happier to be there that night. Banter in between songs was limited almost exclusively to thanks to the audience, especially those who had been at their shows since the beginning. They played a long set in lieu of an encore, but their energy never seemed to waiver. If the arrival of fall is a metaphor for death, then the mood of the night was best captured by Post-Nothing standout ‘Young Hearts Spark Fire’, in which drummer David Prowse brings cymbal crash after cymbal crash, faster and faster, until they plateau into a wave of noise that breaks just in time for King to deliver the closing line: “I don’t wanna worry about dying. I just wanna worry about those sunshine girls.”