I wish I was 21 or 22 again, in a band like Japanther or Ninjasonik, or at least friends with them, or a huge fan who went to all of their shows and jumped up on stage and sang with them, then dove off the stage, crowd surfed my way back up on stage, or hit the mosh pit and then climbed back up after a while.
But I’m 32, so I just hung around the edges of the madness and watched it with a massive smile on my face. It reminded me a lot of the 90s, at least the stage diving, mosh pits and crowdsurfing – but different. This wasn’t about angst. This was about fun. It looked like a huge group of friends playing a show at a venue, but acting like it’s their basement.
When I arrived Ninjasonik was on stage – along with about 30 of their closest friends from the audience. It was amazing. They would sing their songs while the “audience” danced on stage, then dove off it, grabbed the mics from them, sang along, and pretty much became part of the the whole show. A bunch of times throughout their set, Ninjasonik would yell out “We are Ninja-fucking-sonik…!” and then the crwod would yell, “We are sonik…fucking…Ninja!” And that’s what this was all about: having a great time as a group.
When they were done, Japanther set up their gear toward the front of the stage, making it smaller so they could be closer to the crowd. They put up a handmade “Japanther” backdrop, set up their telephone receiver microphones (a bit much), and then took their time, dancing to whatever the DJ was spinning while getting their shit ready to play.
After awhile I was getting a bit anxious. I was flying solo tonight, it was Friday night – and yes, I was probably one of the oldest people in the place. So needless to say, I was thinking, “Get on with it, you art school punk ass kids.” (in my best Clint Eastwood voice)
And that’s the thing. As fun as it was, I can’t completely kiss Japanther’s ass. There was definitely a heavy dose of pretentiousness going on. From the singer’s ironic fanny pack and tank-top, to the guy who introduced the band dressed as an ’80s Gold’s Gym wrestler (complete with Zubaz and mustache, and yes, another fanny pack) to again, them using old payphone receivers as microphones, and the hand painted sign backdrop – it definitely felt like an art school project on stage. Which makes sense since that’s where they formed. But the pretentiousness didn’t feel contrived in a way an uber cool hipster band would. It just felt like young art kids doing it because why the fuck not – and not taking themselves too serious.
This was Japanther’s first show back in NYC after coming off tour. But they didn’t seem tired out from touring. And how could you I guess, when it’s more of a party than a performance. At one point you couldn’t even see the band buried behind the audience dancing on stage. It just seemed like a dance party with music cranking from the speakers.
It was over around 1am and while I was yawning every five seconds, I was happy I ventured all the way out here. Before I left, I let the singer of Japanther know about the project. Telling him I’m going to see 100 days of consecutive music and I was on day 15. To which he said, “Keep the streak alive.”
I’m trying, man. I’m trying.