SXSW Music: Japanther at Buffalo Billiards

The garage simplistic sound of just a guitar and a drum player has been a sound seeing a pretty big resurgence in the last couple of years. The stylings vary, from well known yet still not quite mainstream acts like the Black Keys, and the now four piece Wavves. Japanther brings a similar Lo-Fi effects-heavy sound but with a decidedly more punk sound that shows in their New York roots.

In the crowded and warm Buffalo Billiards second floor, it seemed many were continuing to fill in for headliner Andrew W.K. I don’t think any one was ready for the simple but forceful sound Japanther was ready to smack the room with, and leave a mark. As the band was setting up their gear, two telephone handsets went into the mic stand, which was a bit of a hint about how lo-fi the band goes. Drummer Ian Vanek and bass player Matt Reilly make up Japanther. The two couldn’t look any different from the other with Reilly’s giant mane of hair contrasting against Vanek’s short cut and canvas of tattoos.

The duo shares vocal duty with neither really getting the title of lead. The style is frantic and quickly had the crowd worked into a bit of frenzy with a small pit forming in front of the stage. It was a lively and energetic show. Amazingly, Japanther has been around since the early 2000’s. They have a very DIY style with drummer Vanek encouraging every one in the audience to make music themselves; they did and had gotten this far. It’s a rally cry I can respect. Seems the rally cry of “create stuff” has been springing up more and more lately. Acts like Japanther are an example of grabbing the boot straps and making something of it.

While I enjoyed the show, I didn’t leave an instant convert of the band. They put on a good, lively show and I would definitely see them again. There was just something that didn’t sell me on the whole package right that evening. The show, however, was effective in getting my attention.

I give Japanther at Buffalo Billiards 3.5 “beer glasses don’t belong in the pit” out of 5

By John Coovert

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