New York retro-rock outfit The Walkmen headlined an eclectic, sometimes idiosyncratic show at The Fillmore in San Francisco last Tuesday night (September 14th), a show that ran the gamut from The Walkmen’s 1950’s-inspired rock to the garage rock of Japandroids to the Canadian folk rock of Dan Mangan. Though each band was talented, it was a night that lacked cohesion, and one was left wondering why these three bands were put on the same bill in the first place.
Its not that any of these bands were bad. In fact, the audience (to their credit!) paid rapt attention to all of the performances, in spite of what often felt like an odd mixing of genres.
First up was Vancouverite Dan Mangan and his band, who sounded like the incredibly fascinating love child of The Decemberists and fellow Canadians Barenaked Ladies (plus something all its own, something so very, very catchy). Mangan & co. put on a performance full of beautiful music with clever lyrics, much of it coming from sophomore release Nice, Nice, Very Nice. The infectious closing song, “Robots” even succeeded in getting the still mostly-sober Fillmore crowd to participate eagerly in the refrain–and it sounded beautiful!
Next up, and also hailing from Vancouver, Canada, was garage rock duo Japandroids. Though they could have not been more different from Dan Mangan, the hard-rocking twosome had a throng of eager fans waiting to get their headbang on. The sheer joy of noise was on display from the moment Japandroids took the stage, and to be honest, it didn’t matter if, like Your Examiner, forgot your earplugs, because this was a wall of sound that was sloppy, gorgeous and cleared the senses like so many jalapeno peppers. The sound was almost too much at times, especially for those more used to the Dan Mangan side of things, but sliding sonically down the knife’s edge can be so much fun sometimes (especially with the light show that accompanied this set–see slideshow for examples).
Finally, after one of those slightly too-long intermissions, The Walkmen took the stage for their headlining set. Currently promoting their latest LP Lisbon, the group emerged from the fog to raucous applause from a noticably larger crowd (which presumably had gathered during and after Japandroids). A fascinating combination of rock subgenres, and with a penchant for using vintage equipment and with a distinctive 1950’s-era cowboy-inssound somewhere in the background, it was too bad they followed so closely after the energy of Japandroids, because it sort of felt like a letdown–in energy level, in melt-your-face sound level, and in the emotion portrayed on stage It looked beautiful, and sounded beautiful, for sure–and it wasn’t lifeless by any stretch–but something was lacking, maybe just a lilttle bit, in raw passion.