Hell, it’s only performance art, but I like it

Vortex Rex / Japanther at West Germany 16th February 2008

Februar 16th, 2008 | 0 Kommentare ...  

Hell, it’s only performance art, but I like it
Ian Vanek, Japanther Photos by Tanja Krokos © Dorfdisco 2008


Vortex Rex are a three piece from Austria who’s “action oriented”, lo-fi sound is comprised of a bass, snare and cymbal, some industrial grade analogue electronics that look like they have been bought at a Turkish catering supplier, a Fender Jazzmaster and a toy xylophone.

The result is a kind of DIY space rock, spiked with new wave guitar and played with more enthusiasm than competence. So much enthusiasm and charm in fact that the limitations of their sound quickly became its strength. Ilias’ ‘short attention span’ lasted long enough to sustain a choppy riff but (though the genesis of the sound clearly comes out of jamming) faded before their short sharp songs risked outstaying their welcome.

Their new album, Powermess, is out now on Fettkakao and after hearing them I speculated that the headline act would have to be either very brave, or very good to follow them onto the stage.

– Thankfully Japanther are that good and then some.

Stripped to the waist and imploring the already overheated crowd to move a little closer, The Brooklyn two piece Japanther, were back at West Germany for a second sold out show. They promised to be back again next year but if they aren’t at the ColumbiaHalle then Berlin and the world are deaf.

Actually chances are they won’t be. Japanther are committed to keeping it underground but like the best secrets, sooner or later word gets out.

Japanther are Ian Vanek, on drums and Matt Reilly, bass. They are stars. Vanek, tattooed, primal and singing into the band’s trademark telephones, Reilly throwing voodoo/hypno looks at the crowd, looking like the gonzo guitar hero busdriver in the Simpsons. Japanther have come to incite a riot. C’mon.

The sound is made up of samples, badly lip synched by Reilly then launching into disco freakouts that spilled into hardcore anthems. The crowd, seizing its opportunity, carried a body overhead during a Misfits cover. I briefly lost my glasses and did my best to command some defensible space in the erupting wall of bodies.

“Hate the Haters, Hate the Haters, Hate the Haters,” they chanted, “……..Love the Lovers.”

These skate kids rocked out, then snapped to disco discipline like they were riding a rail. As if this wasn’t enough, their main claim to fame, so far, has been to star in Dan Graham’s multimedia extravaganza, Don’t trust anyone over thirty. They also do life sized puppet shows – Dump the body in Rikki Lake (and if the title alone doesn’t make you curious you are not a cat).

“Get some mustard, get some peanut butter rub it all over your body, start a Rock & Roll band,” advised Vanek and it felt like half the crowd went home and complied.

Hell it’s only performance art, but I like it.

Vortex Rex


Japanther by Tanja Krokos © Dorfdisco 2008

Japanther by Tanja Krokos © Dorfdisco 2008

Vortex Rex. Photo by Tanja Krokos © Dorfdisco 2008

Vortex Rex. Photo by Tanja Krokos © Dorfdisco 2008

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