Last Night at 35 Conferette: Japanther's Fiery Set Proved More Life-Affirming Than Scary

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1 a.m. at Hailey's Club

Dr. Dog may hold the distinction of drawing the biggest crowd at this year's Conferette thus far, but Japanther's was by far the rowdiest bunch the still young festival has seen.

Only seconds into their opening number, the duo managed to ignite copious amounts of slam-dancing, as well as several stage-diving attempts by Leg Sweeper guitarist Justin Gomez, who had drunkenly performed earlier this night on the same stage.

Beers were spilled, toes were stepped on, and bodies were left bruised, and yet no one seemed to mind.

Instead, the crowd's overall aggressiveness somehow managed to come off more as life-affirming than violent, going hand-in-hand with one of the group's lyrics, "the human spirit is still alive".

Indeed, at the mostly-full Hailey's last night, Denton's spirit and energy were both alive and well.

Onstage, the duo sang through pay-phone handsets, which helped their distorted voices blend with the analog hiss from their tape deck as well as added to the overall lo-fi vibe they brought. What the band lacks in fidelity it more than makes up for in speed, volume, and intensity.

Being so deeply rooted in the art-rock scene, it was obvious how seriously the band took their visual aesthetic; amps were placed just so, and a giant Japanther banner was hung between them with pride. Never was this more obvious than when a Conferette photographer accidentally knocked it down mid-set, causing bassist Matt Reilly to become markedly perturbed and even insisting that the guy re-hang it.

But on the whole, nobody seemed to mind minor gaffes such as that, or on "Stars and Bars" when the cassette deck Reilly uses during the set to fill out the band's sound screwed up mid-song.

"Nobody's perfect," drummer Ian Vanek stalled while Reilly was busy rewinding tapes, "but we do the best that we can."

The crowd size seemed to dwindle slightly as the set wore on, which was perhaps due in equal parts to folks getting to exhausted from Japanther's pit and word spreading that actor Michael Cera was down the street catching Beans at Rubber Gloves.

Oh well. Their loss.

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