What to do tonight: Japanther plays in Mount Oliver

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Ian Vanek prefers an optimistic view of the future.

"You know the movie 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure'?" he asked. "They predict that two-man bands will save the world. You know, they are the Wyld Stallyns. And the more we look at that, the more it looks like 'Bill & Ted' might be a prophecy and it's coming true.

"There's tons of duos doing what a 'standard' band used to do. If friendships can equal sound and equal dancing, maybe that can sway the times and get rid of some of the negative vibrations that are on the planet."

Tonight's excellent adventure takes you to 222 Ormsby in Mount Oliver. The club -- coincidentally located at 222 Ormsby Ave. -- features a lineup heavy on duos that might not save the world, but at least are capable of saving your Monday night.

The headliner is Japanther, made up of Mr. Vanek and his longtime friend Matt Reilly, who met in 2001 while attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y. Here's how he tells Japanther's story:

"We started as an art project and went to art school together and worked on this ever since," Mr. Vanek said. "It's our way to avoid a 9-to-5. We've made a lot of great friends and it's kind of like our extended education. We meet people you wouldn't necessarily get to talk to if you were doing a 9-to-5.

"We had an idea of who we looked up to. But, at the time in New York, there was a lull in the music scene. It was before the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and a lot of other groups you might think of coming out of Brooklyn. There wasn't much going on. There were a few promoters and a few groups, but all on a really small scale.

"When we started we went out with The Blood Brothers and with Lightning Bolt. The most important thing to us was to not have expectations of what we might and might not do and kind of let things happen.

"I'd say it's been a slow kind of a building process. We've taken a lot of risks. We're very lucky to have maintained a level head throughout the whole process. A lot of groups seem to lose sight of where they are and what might happen.

"We take it slowly. We enjoy our lives and we enjoy playing together. The emphasis is on the word 'play.' The way that children go out and play. We're still going out and playing our music. Hopefully, even if we do it until we're 80 and 90 years old, we'll remain childish until our last breath.

"Longevity is an important element of any creative process, so when you get to the 10th and 15th and 20th year of a project, that's when you start to have a concept of where you want to go. We are an all-ages group. We have fans who are growing old with us and fans who are young and just getting into us. We've had a lot of teenagers and high school kids that are real excited by us.

"We've grown up with a lot of kids. We've watched them go from being high school kids to being men and women. And that's an exciting process. To think we were telling them things like the importance of play and the importance of friendship and the importance of health and nutrition while they were growing up. And it's all in a playful way. Maybe this isn't the answer but at least we're bringing up the topic."

But it's so streamlined. Two guys. Mr. Vanek, who plays drums and cassettes, and Mr. Reilly, who plays bass and a Casio SK-1. They both sing.

"We've collaborated with a lot of people and have a trio with a lot of our shows," Mr. Vanek said. "But one of the nice things about playing in a duo is you can always get on a plane and get going somewhere without having to ask too many people for permission from their husbands and wives and girlfriends. If there were five of us, it would be that much more complex."

Touring with Japanther is Unstoppable Death Machines, the two-man band of brothers Mike and Billy Tucci, who are appearing in Pittsburgh for the first time.

The Queens-based duo started playing their performance-based punk-rock in 2009.

"We feel like we vibe pretty well together," Mike Tucci said. "It seems like our brainwaves are pretty much in the same place. We're pretty happy with the way it is. We work well within the limitations of two people. We do a lot with a little."

Sharing the bill are Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt from Nashville, Tenn., and local act Nic Lawless & his Yung Criminals. DJ Shisa rounds out the evening.

The show starts at 7 p.m. Cover is $7.

music

This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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