I went to the Fillmore, Monday night, hearkening back to my roots in a way. In my 20s I was an ardent follower of the punk rock scene. After grunge it seemed like the logical next step. I wasn’t about to become some Godsmack fan or worse a Creed fan and everything else was turning to shit. So punk, with the fast three chord anthems and the angst, was it for me. We’d hang out at places like Koo’s Café in Santa Ana, California, get drunk off Jack Daniel’s, then try and break shit. We’d go to the Foothill in Signal Hill where they never carded us for booze when we were underage, and do the same. They’re both closed now, go figure.
Punk was what kept us from going into a life of crime. It kept us just angry enough to let out our rage at a show, but not too angry in everyday life. It was our therapy, our church and our solace from the shit storm our lives were. Punk wasn’t a genre to us, it was a way of life and we lived it to the fullest.
When I heard Japandroids were going to play the Fillmore I was excited. I saw them play the Independent a few months back and it seemed just a bit too small for their style of music. When I heard that the female punk rockers Bleached were going to be opening for them I got even more excited. When we got there the place was pretty empty, even for San Francisco, where concert goers are notoriously late. The scarcity of people made me feel like this was going to be an embarrassingly low turnout. Fret not, though, when the girls from Bleached took the stage the masses magically appeared.
One minute we were drinking beer at the bar and the next minute we’re on the outskirts of a pedestrian mosh pit. Pedestrian is being nice. I watched the pit the whole night and I felt like I was watching the modern day NFL where everyone was afraid to get hit in fear of getting a concussion. I remember going to Bad Religion shows at the Santa Monica auditorium and leaving bruised and bloodied and being proud of it. It wassn’t for lack of trying on Bleached’s part, though, they absolutely destroyed the Fillmore.
Jennifer Clavin brought her band’s brand of mod 1960’s punk and held their own with a testosterone filled group of 21-25 year old’s without a clue. They played a fantastic set even covering the Ramones song, “Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World” which the fanboys were unfamiliar with even though Clavin said it was a Ramones song. I’m assuming since it wasn’t on the Greatest Hits album then they were unaware of its existence. Despite that, the circular dance continued and the band played a few more songs until they exited the stage to thunderous applause.
Next came Japandroids that brought their brand of punk to the crowd. There was far less talking from Brian King than there was last time and I think that’s a good thing. King is obviously highly intelligent and extremely affable and it’s evident that he wants to show gratitude to the audience that has finally accepted them after they thought of giving up at one point. However, at the Independent he spent half the show talking and at least half of that half could’ve been used to play a few more songs.
This time he was brilliant. They both were for that matter, the other being drummer, David Prowse (not making the Darth Vader joke again, did that last time, sorry nerds). They played almost, if not, every song in their arsenal. They even, and I think I’m breaking state secrets here, played an encore, something they never do. They brought energy, ferocity and style to a crowd that just wanted to pretend to be in a pit. There was some pushing, maybe a few shoves, but the only angst brought was the screaming from King as he tore through Japandroids discography like a man on a mission.
As they finished their set and pleaded with the crowd not to tell the internet of the encore, something I clearly am ignoring, we knew that it would be a very long time until we saw Japandroids come through San Francisco again. Years? Maybe, but seeing them twice this year has made me think longingly to those times when we were kids in Southern California. Those times when we’d pile into my van, that I’d ripped the back seats out of, so we could pile all my friends into it and just drive to wherever the music was. We drove all over the place at unsafe speeds, doing things we shouldn’t have done because we were young and we wanted to find the music. Those were great days and it was great to relive them with two fun punk rock bands at one of the greatest venues on the planet.