Detroit, Michigan (November 4, 2018) – It was pouring rain tonight when I pulled into the parking lot behind The Majestic on Woodward in Detroit, MI. As I pulled in, a tall guy in a leather jacket, with shaggy hair and a shorter guy in a sweater were walking up the drive in front of me. They turned around and looked at my headlights and continued walking. It was at that moment that I realized that the two guys that make up one of my favorite contemporary bands were walking back to their tour bus as I was driving behind them.
After a five year hiatus, Japandroids, comprised of guitarist Brian King and drummer, David Prowse, has returned to with ‘Near To The Wild Heart of Life’. It’s an older, wiser, more poetic Japandroids than the loud angsty ‘Celebration Rock’, released in 2012. It’s a bittersweet reflection of the past and the excitement of the potential future. It’s their coming of age and in my humble opinion, it’s one of the best alternative albums of 2017; it’s been on my playlist since its release in March. The vinyl copy has been in my record player since mid-April. In many ways, this album and my life currently share a weird parallel.
Their setlist was filled with new tracks like “North South East West”, “True Love and A Free Life of Free Will”, and “Near To The Wild Heart of Life” and older gems such as “Heart Sweats” and “The Nights of Wine and Roses“. Brian King had endless energy and both he and Prowse commanded the stage. At one point in between songs, King states that it’s been a long time since they’ve been back to Detroit. He asks the crowd if anyone was at their last show in town and a few hands go up. He launched into “Younger Us”; a musical toast to those that had shared time with the band years ago at their last show.
The set design, comprised of floor lighting, open softbox lighting, and a smoke machine, all from behind, play into the band’s aesthetic. You won’t ever see King wear any other colors aside from black and white. Prowse is a little more flexible with his wardrobe, but he mostly adheres to this. All of their merch is black and white. Their album covers are black and white. Their vinyl edition of “Near To The Wild Heart of Life” is full of the most amazing black and white photographs of them playing live. While seeing them live isn’t quite a black and white experience, its close; As the dimly lit King and Prowse play their loud anthems from shadows and smoke, their silhouettes telling the story of life, love and growing older. It was an experience like none other.
If Japandroids is coming to your town, go see them. They’ll live up to every expectation that the band’s carefully curated aesthetic sets.
Opening for Japandroids, Cloud Nothings rocked the stage tonight. While photographing the show, I was in awe of how amazing their drummer, Jayson Gerycz is. Gerycz easily stole the show with his incredible talent and energy.
Photojournalist: Shannon Ferguson