Japanther had a show last night at Europa, a rock venue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn – a heavily Polish neighborhood reminiscent of Minneapolis’ Northeast (home to the ultimate Nye’s Polonaise). I’ve seen Japanther several times before, once at the Walker as they performed in Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty, a collaboration with Dan Graham and Tony Oursler. The performance was an interpretation of the cult-classic 1968 film Wild in the Streets, starring the late-great Shelley Winters. The puppet/rock show/installation/video piece was visually stunning, and a big to-do as Walker re-configured the Cinema to fit the needs of the Out There 18 performance.
Maybe it was the age-centric material I’ve previously seen them in, but last night all I could think was “Don’t Trust Anyone Under Twenty.” I stood in the back, occasionally sitting down (my back was hurting), I wore a bike helmet on my ride over, and I snickered to myself that the kids are still body-surfing. Long story short: I felt old and tired. And sadly, Japanther’s set kinda did too. This was the same show they’ve been playing for years. Loop a line from a vintage stoner-flick and mouth the words, sing distorted vocals into pay-phones receivers, have technical problems and stop mid-song. I’m all for a rough-and-tumble, but if Cat Power learned to pull herself together for a live show and I think it’s high time these guys do the same. It doesn’t take long for quirky to morph into gimicky.
I don’t want to be a total hater, though. There were shimmering moments that did remind me of the importance of releasing adult inhibitions. They opened the set by drumming along to Bel Biv Devoe’s Poison. The slam-dancers wearing gorilla and wrestling masks were going CRAZY. And the high-schooler yelling along to every word lost his mind, like, at least three times. All those crazy kids seemed like they were having a good time, even though it was past midnight on a school night. Inspired, I went helmet-less on the ride home – wild in the streets.