Williamsburg’s favorite noise-rock band Japanther (Ian Vanek and Matt Reily) unveils a new comedic rock-opera of unpredictable scale, repercussions, and decibel levels. Using a high-energy multi-media format – their tool kit integrates live music, dance, an interactive set, video projections plus an animatronic robot dinosaur – the band and their collaborators create a full-immersion theatrical concert experience that sports a a sharp political edge and an equally edgy heart.
What starts as a post-modern funeral becomes an uplifting and entertaining ceremony. The set, designed by conceptual artist Dan Graham, becomes a canvas for simultaneous stimuli: a large optical glass wall not unlike his “pavilions” is situated next to a circular band stage, a la the Rolling Stones on Ed Sullivan, where Japanther works their musical magic. While Sonya Robbins and Layla Childs dance up a storm, an animatronic dinosaur narrator, designed and built by industrial artist Doyle, inhabited by the text and voice of peace-punk Penny Rimbaud (spoken word artist and the co-founder of anarchist punk band Crass) lies on his deathbed recanting his belief systems. Darkly humorous intersticial commercials advertise the sunny plight of the American Indian and advocate arresting those who feed the homeless. By daring the audience to laugh at sad truths, Japanther opens up a door to hope and makes it cool again.
A PERFORMA Commission, produced by PERFORMA in cooperation with P.S.122 for PERFORMA07.
Approximate running time: 45 minutes
About Japanther: Japanther was formed in 2001 by Ian Vanek (drums, cassettes, vocals), Matt Reily (bass, Casio SK-1, vocals). They have recorded with Plan It X Records, Tapes Records, and the Menlo Park label. The band appears in the indie documentary film B.I.K.E, which premiered at the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival; they created and performed Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30; they teamed with Dan Graham, Rodney Graham, Laurent P. Berger, and Tony Oursler to create an abstract video installation for the 2006 Whitney Biennial.
Listen to an interview about New York’s underground clubs with Japanther’s Ian Vanek on WNYC’s Sound Check.