(Photo of Tokyo Police Club)
Ahhhh, the pre-Outside-Lands-festival-show. Weirdest fucking crowd ever: East-Bayers taking “facebook profile shots” at the bar; frat guys trying to get into fights solely for the sake of I have no idea why; a 40-year-old “cougar” waxing philosophical on the intricacies of liking the same music as her 15-year-old daughter; juveniles getting hammered before the show, begging for tickets that no one is selling; Old Man next to me, turn off your fucking iPhone; Hipsters somehow dancing and pretending not to dance all in the same motion. All to see Tokyo Police Club, Freelance Whales, A, B and the Sea and Arkells? WTF? The latter were somewhat expected; the former not so much. I stood wondering and wandering for far longer than acceptable.
The judgmental me never prevails. While I was looking at the randomness of the situation, I completely missed the buzz abounding for Tokyo Police Club. That much was plain when they came out on stage, appearing as if the thronging group of misfits had somehow willed them to appear from thin air. This show was surely not a giveaway prize; nearly everyone in the Rickshaw Stop looked like they’d waited years to hear songs off the Canadian group’s latest record- Champ– which only came out a few months ago. I’d always thought of myself as one of their lone champions- holding on amongst a barrage of constant up-and-comers trying to replace them- but next to this crowd I looked a man without hope.
(Photo of Tokyo Police Club)
Of course, the excitement was justified. Tokyo Police Club’s set, which was just over an hour and a half, killed. The newer stuff from Champ– “Favorite Food”, “Gone”, “Wait Up” and, most notably, “Breakneck Speed”- drew arms in the air and hands on the heart; they sprinkled a bunch of older fan favorites- “Your English is Good,’ “Citizens of Tomorrow” and “In A Cave”- to swaying bodies and clapping hands; and closed with a cover of “My Name Is Jonas.” I would have been happy with half of that.
(Photo of the Arkells)
Had Tokyo Police Club been alone it would have been enough. Had the openers been left to fend for themselves I think they could have a retained 50% of the audience, a good number for a trio of relatively unknown bands. The biggest name out of the openers- Freelance Whales- played well (especially on “Ghosting”). The crowd bopped and hummed to the cheery indie pop, ebbing and flowing to melodic breakdowns led by harmonics and a glockenspiel. But the most surprising band of the night was the opener’s opener, Arkells. Out of Hamilton, Canada (“Toronto’s Oakland,” as they put it), and old touring friends with Tokyo Police Club, the band clearly have a goal of injecting themselves into the American indie-rock lexicon, much the way a couple of small Canadian bands have done before them (Tokyo Police Club, Born Ruffians, Weakerthans). Their blues-based indie rock seems streamlined for play on college radio stations and the four-piece clearly has enough energy to spread the word. I hate to say it (not because I was anti, but because I liked their other blues-based songs more) but if they forced their majority of their sound in the direction of their big single, “Oh, the Boss is Coming!” they’d be on a track reminiscent of Tokyo Police Club’s meteoric rise up the indie ladder.