I strongly believe that rock’n'roll will never die.
It could happen only the day young people will stop walking this planet.
Until then, until there are youngsters, there will be rock’n'roll.
Any time I saw Japandroids live they reinforce my conviction.
I strongly believe that I will never grow old.
It could happen only the day young people will stop playing guitars.
Until then, until there is someone sweating on a drumkit, I will pretend to be younger than I am.
Any time I saw Japandroids live I am more convinced about this.
I know a good psychologist could help me, at least to save the costs of ears impairment that I will face in the upcoming third age.
So far I can’t help evading my routine with some recharging live music. The alternative is travelling to obscure regions of the world that is pretty much the same thing.
Japandroids had yet to release their sophomore album, Celebration Rock, when they did this UK tour. They have been playing smaller venues than the ones they had played the previous time over a year ago, it isn’t surprise that it sold out instantly.
Due to an evergrowing busy diary, against my will, I almost missed it but in the end I managed to get to the closing date, ‘Upstairs at the Garage’. About five times smaller than the main Garage venue, here on the ground floor, where I saw them last time.
I’ve been upstairs only once, for a Future of The Left gig that stormed the place pretty much the same way it is going to happen tonight. It’s a nice coincidence. Future of the Left are a Welsh band that was born from McLusky ashes.
McLusky is a band that has always been a strong influence to Japandroids who covered McLusky To Hell With Good Intentions at umpteenth shows.
When I arrive the cosy hall is pretty empty. There’s no pit as well, but I’m expecting it. The girl at the box office tells me that is a sold-out show but there are more than 50 people in the guestlist out of a 200 capacity so she can’t predict how busy it will be.
I can. And I think they all arrived maybe along with some more friends. It’s packed. Temperature rises over UK standard. Good thing.
Before the gig starts I have already bought the new CD Celebration Rock, not yet officially on sale but available at the desk, and a new T-Shirt with a copy of Post-Nothing, their first incredible album, in flames. Is that a statement?
Now that I played (and I am playing) Celebration Rock for the millionth time, now that Pitchfork gave it an 8.8 versus the 8.3 of Post-Nothing, now that every other magazine reviewed it positively, including the Quietus which is more a “death to garage rock” kind of magazine than a punk-garage fanzine, I am convinced that Celebration Rock is not better than Post-Nothing.
I may look like the indie snob guy that goes the opposite direction of the crowd because it feels betrayed by ‘his boys’ once they got popular. The one who saw them at the Barfly 3 years ago. But no, I only believe Post-Nothing is a 10/10 album a gem of perfection. It was put together almost as a swan song by a band that was failing to make it and on the verge of giving up. Those songs were played so many times they are perfect.
Celebration Rock is amazing, but is not perfect. It could not be. It is not the album that you want to do regardless the world cares, is the album you must do because the world cares. A significant difference between the two. Pressure.
Japandroids, I say it since 2009, are not just another garage duo of yet another garage revival. They are not No Age, they are not Wavves, Crocodiles or whatever. Japandroids have the gift of songwriting that put them in a different league.
Post-Nothing has the songs, the band hides them under the punk hardcore energy of their twenties. Then they let them arise at any gig. Is a ritual.
Celebration Rock doesn’t have the same strength in the songs. Apart from a couple of gems as the opener and Younger Us, which was already released as a single in 2010, they are not at the level of the debut.
And here is the greatness of these two guys.
They know. And adapted. And transformed the album in something else. Without losing a inch of the energy they simply got the power from somewhere else. It’s a difference balance and it still works great.
David (Prowse) supply a thunderous work at the drums through the entire album. The opening song is an amazing example. Go to minute 2.30 and listen. The more time you spend on it the more details you’ll discover.
Brian (King) mantains his landmark guitar sound with his instrument output onto two channels.
The Night of Wine and Roses has the melodic strength of U2 circa Boy, (it is a compliment, the riff has a lot to share with I Will Follow) with the punk rebellion of they beloved McLusky.
Celebration Rock has also more attention to the lyrics. I read somewhere they put attention on those and are more than just words to singalong with the music. There is a booklet on the CD.
There’s also more attention to the atmosphere. Songs for different moments. There are many (too many) ‘oh oh oh oh’ choruses that alternate with less impulsive songs, more spoken verses (Evil’s sway), excited riffs (Younger Us) and even a thoughtful moment with the closing Continuous Thunder.
There are fireworks from start to end. Literally and truly.
Fireworks tonight too. And this gig was like exploding fireworks in your living room.
With the band inciting the fans to make a mess, a relentless mosh pit goes on from start to end. Fans come on and off stage. Brian jumps on and off David drums. A Japandroids concert isn’t something you forget easily.
For everyone. Me, the fan. The superfan who came on stage to sing every single word of Darkness on the Edge of Gastown from that collection of their early material called No Singles. The ones trying to stand. The guy and his girlfriend that hated me taking pictures. The guy I hated taking iPhone snaps and video throughout. He appears in 80% of my photos.
Japandroids are the quintessential live band. The only live band I can see nowadays that at the same time makes me enjoy the music, singalong the songs, dance to the show, have fun and even taking photos despite the poor light they use.
They’re touring the world, they will not go away for a while you better catch them if you haven’t yet.
Despite the most radical part of the Music Photographers community would (and did) disagree with me, I am quite proud of what I achieved here. It costed me time, some diplomacy (a thing I am very bad at) and patience. It is something I would do only for a band I love.
I shot Japandroids 3 or 4 times before this night and Polivinyl wrote to me in the past to say
Thanks so much for sending these! I’ve been getting a lot of photos from this Japandroids tour sent to me and yours are by-far the best. Thanks again for covering the show”
Polyvinyl Record Co.
Can you imagine how I felt when, asking for a pass, they came back asking to sign the nasty, usual madness of a contract going …
“[...] 2. I hereby acknowledge that you shall own all rights in the Photos, including the copyrights therein and thereto, and accordingly, I hereby grant, transfer, convey and assign to you all right, title and interest throughout the universe in perpetuity, including, without limitation, the copyright (and all renewals and extensions thereof), in and to the Photos. I agree that you shall have the right to exploit all or a part of the Photos in any and all media, now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, in all configurations as you determine, without obtaining my consent and without any payment or consideration therefore..”
I said I was wretched but I was never going to sign something with the sentence “in the universe in perpetuity” until I am sane.
Asked about the reason, explained my position, and few days later, Polyvinyl came back with a revised edition of the contract. The point 2, was changed to…
first condition for me to photograph is that the photos stay mine. There will never be something or someone I will shoot if I don’t retain the rights to my photos. I may be naive but I am not available to give away all the rights of my images.
Then the contract had two controversial points I don’t really agree…
“USE OF PHOTOS FOR THE PURPOSES OF PROMOTION: I agree that you shall have the right to exploit all or a part of the Photos, for the purpose of artist promotion (detached from any for-sale product), [...] without any payment”
“USE OF PHOTOS ATTACHED TO A FOR-PROFIT PRODUCT: In the event that you shall request the further right to exploit all or part of the Photos for use in, or with, a Product (made with the intention of sale), I will receive a one-time payment from you of $100 US Dollars per Photo …”
I was criticised on Music Photographers Facebook page by other photographers saying that 100$ for a “for profit” image is a ridiculous sum. And I would agree if it ever happened to me once that a band I shot live came back to me offering to pay for one of my images. It never happened, not 100$ not even 1$. I shoot over 500 bands and I am pretentious enough to think it is not they suck. It is the way this world is, today.
Bands protect themselves for exploitation by hypothetical photographers exploiting them and to do that, end up exploiting all the others.
In reality the chance of making money from a band are rare. The chances I had to shoot Japandroids in such a place were even more rare.
I signed. Just because it is them.
I would not do for many more, probably for no one else.
The most stupid of all these things is that if you buy a ticket and bring a camera at such a show you can take all the photos you want retaining all the rights (including the chance to sell them for a large profit… good luck) without bothering of any contract.
It is silly.
There will come the day wisdom will rise in the world of concert promoters to realize we are not parasite millionaire thanks to the bands we shot but simply music and photography lovers who like to keep the best moment of the artist they are promoting.