10 pm Thursday, Sept. 9 at the Works at Washington High School
"I can't see your faces but I can feel your energy!"
Love was in the air last night for the eighth annual TBA Festival
's kickoff battle jam: frenzied Brooklyn fun-punks Japanther faced off against local shadow-puppeteers Night Shade for an adventure worthy, in all of its sweetness and sweat, of the hallowed halls of Washington High School (site for the second year in a row of TBA's late-night party and vis arts headquarters, the Works).
An estimated 3,000 (at blog-time) crowded their way across the field and into the school's auditorium for the free show. Many of the minor variety were turned away ("I...forgot my ID!"), which was perhaps a pity considering the venue, but did help to thin the masses. The funneling of the crowd was on the anarchic side: Though we queued mid-field toward the back of the line, we somehow ended up smack in the front up against the stage, necks craned. Broad swaths of thick-ass, stage-to-ceiling butcher paper hid the band from us: lights went down and guttural, suspenseful chords cued shadows and intros to "NIGHT SHADE VS. JAPANTHER."
The duo—drummer Ian Vanek and bassist Matt Reilly (whose curly mess of hair was remarkably apt for silhouetting)—mumbled, sampled, shook and shouted its way through a set culled from 2010's release, Rock 'n' Roll Ice Cream
. All this, while being pursued by Night Shade's cornucopia of shadowy beasts: graveyard zombies, tentacled ocean nasties and fatty mutant monsters. Lyrics and song titles danced into view every once and a while, threading a loose plot of some kind that everybody was too busy dancing to acknowledge.
The realm of shadows is obviously Night Shade's forte, and they carried this show, at least visually (excepting, of course, Reilly's aforementioned bouncy 'fro). It was fitting, then, that the battle trophy goes to the puppeteers. In the penultimate song, Reilly suddenly sprouted angel wings—they're done for!
But Japanther still thanked Portland, as the shadow-credits rolled by, and played one more jam. And then it got good: a stagehand, inevitably, ripped the screen down, and the crowd rushed the stage, leaping up to dance in the paper remnants. This glory lasted about 30 seconds, until curmudgeonly security shooed the crowd off. I don't think Japanther, or Night Shade, wanted it that way.
Photo courtesy PICA.