Bakubeni/Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re/The Notorious MSG/Echostream/Quaff/Minirex/Falsies
On Heat--Knitting Factory--9/27/08
FETES (Far East To East Showcase), put on by KarateRice in association with The New York Animation Festival was a big night for us fans of Japanese rock. There was a good crowd, including lots of folks from the animation festival. The biggest negative was the guy running the lighting. Whenever a band got the slightest bit intense, his response was to turn off all the stage lights, except for the lights which shined on the band from behind, leaving the bands backlit, and regularly blinding the audience. As fans, we often say were going to see a band, but with that kind of lighting, most of the time we couldnt see them at all. It got worse as the evening went on. The other noticeable negative was that the evening ran late, and after midnight and THE NOTORIOUS MSGs set many people went home, leaving TSU SHI MA MI RE and BAKUBENI to play to a much smaller crowd. Throughout the night, the show was hosted by the silliness of Kaiju Big Battel.
BAKUBENI closed the show. In some ways they had similarities with QUAFF, and QUAFF were out in the audience to cheer them on. Jesus had told me earlier that both these bands were visual-kei bands. The female lead singer has red hair. Two of the other members have yellow and green hair. Their style, however, is much more punk than QUAFFs. Their music is, too. They play hard rock with a punk edge. Still, they share many things with QUAFFs presentation, interacting a good deal with the audience, teaching us Japanese words and phrases, and turning slogans into chants. They also have a sincere joy of performance and rocking out, as did QUAFF. At one point the singer had us all repeat the Japanese word, souchou. She then commanded us all to call her souchou. When we did, she seemed delighted, and explained that it meant boss. Again, in spite of the smaller crowd, only slightly smaller than the crowd TSU SHI MA MI RE had played to, BAKUBENI put on an enthusiastic show, and it was a good way to close the night.
Peelander-Z/Zazen Boys/Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re/Quaff/Bakubeni--Music
Hall Of Williamsburg--9/28/08
Wow! Two nights in a row! It was my first night in the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and its a nice place. People had told me that it had been redesigned from when it was North Six, and that now it resembles a smaller Bowery Ballroom, and that the pillars that used to block the view are gone. Theyre pretty much right, too. What was especially nice was that tonight all of the bands were Japanese except for New Yorks premier J-rock band, PEELANDER-Z, who closed the night with a set that was basically a crazy party playtime! Fun was had by all, and again Kaiju Big Battel played MC for the show.
BAKUBENI started off the night. Like last night they opened and closed their set with a theme song that basically repeats their name over and over. Repetition is a powerful programming tool. Before the show I was talking with Takuya, guitarist for UZUHI, a local J-rock band, most of whose members were there tonight. One of the people he was most interested in seeing tonight was BAKUBENIs guitarist, who he thought was something special. Takuya was right, and the rest of the band is quite good, as well. Of course, though, the one you watch is Rayla, the lead singer, who prefers to be known as Souchou. Tonight BAKUBENI were introduced as a motorcycle gang, and Rayla was introduced as their leader. She wore a red Japanese robe, which matched her hair. They rocked it hard again, and tonight their metal roots were showing a bit more than their punk roots. Rayla introduces most of the punk to their sound and their performance. She announced last night, and again tonight, Our song is rock and explosion! Our sound is rock and explosion! Our style is rock and explosion! The punchline? Our face is rock and explosion! Shes an accomplished front person, and leads them with a spirited party attitude. I wasnt sure I wanted to see them again so soon, but it was good rockin fun, and a fine way to start off this evening.
Rayla/Souchou, the singer of BAKUBENI was enjoying the chaos on the PEELANDER-Z stage along with the other guest stars.
Wharton Tiers Ensemble/Balloons--Lit Lounge--5/14/05
When I arrived, it looked promising. On the stage were two Marshall amps, and an Ampeg bass amp on top of a two fifteen-inch speaker cabinet. BALLOONS soon took the stage, and were two guitars, a bass, and drums. The entire band were technically very good, and though their songs often included intricate progressions and chord patterns, they were tight and on top of every change. The two guitars gently intertwined, their runs twisting together, and bouncing off each other as if in conversation. Jam band warning signals were going off in my head, but even the longer songs had such intricate progressions, there was little room for improvisation. Unfortunately, even with the well developed structures of the songs, their were few dynamics, and the mellow performance of the band, which consisted almost solely of rocking back and forth on their heels and avoiding eye-contact with the audience, added almost nothing. In their defense, the intricate constructions of the songs needed their attention, and the singer, who sang in English, had an individuality that kept me intrigued. When they announced that there were only two more songs, it seemed a bit premature, but both songs were expansive, and filled with enough twists and turns to impress anyone still paying attention.
Bathtub Shitter/Id/Navicon Torture Technologies/Defeatist
BATHTUB SHITTER were four young men. The guitarists came out, got their sound right, and then left the stage. The drummer was out there on his own, still setting up his kit, when a group of guys wearing Cripple Bastards jackets started up a chant, accompanied by clapping, that went, B-A T-H T-U-B Shitter! They repeated it a number of times, and the drummer smiled, but it didnt really catch on. It wasnt long before the bassist, guitarist, and singer came out and joined the drummer. The singer pulled off his wool cap, let down his long black hair, and the band started into their set. Many of the songs rocked at a frantic pace, at other times they pounded on a slow pulse. I was told before the set that what they play is Grindcore. There was obviously a lot of punk influence, and some hard-core. Whatever you call it, though, they rocked, and they rocked hard. The guitar often sounded like it was scraping against steel. The bassist would emphasize moments by raising his guitar, sometimes above his head, or twisting it around in the air, as if trying to squeeze a new sound out of it. The drummer pounded away, often with a big smile on his face. The singer paced back and forth across the stage in front of the band, sometimes strutting, sometimes dancing, kicking his legs up into the air, and often throwing his head and his hair back when he sang. His singing was sometimes very low and commanding, and at other times his screaming drifted into squeeling. He wore black, knee-length, sweat pants, and moved about the stage, and out onto and around the dancefloor with an authentic grace. Some of the audience seemed to be mimicking him, pacing back and forth in front of the stage, but not banging into each other as much as they had during IDs set. The band stopped and left the stage. There was a sprinkling of applause, a couple of shouts, a call for an encore, another call for an encore, and a shout of You came all the way from Japan, and thats all youve got?. By then the applause had completely stopped, but the drummer headed back to the stage, and began banging out the rhythm of the chant, which the crowd took up, B-A T-H T-U-B Shitter! and soon the rest of the band were back. They triumphantly played two more songs, and left the stage to warm applause.
photo by John Li
Japan Nite: The Beaches/Detroit7/Ketchup Mania/Petty Booka/The
It was another great night of Japanese rock n roll brought to us by Audrey Kimura and Benten/Sister Records. They sold out and Knitting Factory was jam-packed with smiling, happy people who knew they werent gonna get another onslaught of Japanese rock like this until Japan Nite rolls around again next year. Oh yes, and, of course, all the bands told us they loved New York.
THE BEACHES opened up with a song that repeated the lyrics, Come on, Beaches! Come on, Beaches! They closed out with a song that repeated the lyrics, Goodbye, Beaches! Goodbye Beaches! In between they played a kind of world/dance/trance music whose tempo almost didnt change, and yet had most of the people in front of the stage dancing around joyfully. About half the crowd seemed to have gone home after being rocked so hard by DETROIT7, but those who remained used the extra space available to shake their booty. It was fun! It was a party, and even though we were exhausted by then, the ones who had stayed to check THE BEACHES out, stayed to enjoy their set to the end. THE BEACHES contain at least some members of a past band called JERRY LEE PHANTOM. Theyre made up of a drummer, a bassist, a guitarist, and a woman on keyboards. The guitarist generally played a simple rhythm to emphasize the beat, and his effects boxes tended to up the treble and emphasize the percussiveness of his sound. The keyboardist, meanwhile, kept a good chunk of the rhythm going, while using her obvious technical skills to work some beauty into the worldly dance grooves, and add a good number of special effects including outer-spacey wailing and other exotic additions to the sound. It was good fun, and an enjoyable way to close down a wonderful evening.
Gary joined me on this outing, and I was happy to have him along, as hes an aficionado of jam bands, and Im not. BIG FROG are a five-piece band made up of guitar, drums, bass, a bare-footed keyboardist, and a female singer who also played percussion, kazoo, and a talking toy. They did two sets, which Gary informed me is standard for jam bands. The musicians were all technically adept, and the singer had a wonderfully bluesy voice, but tended to approach the songs from a jazzy perspective. The long instrumental breaks rarely had much in the way of real surprises, but the band almost always had a good groove going, and regularly reached joyful peaks. The fair-sized crowd was enthusiastic, and during the second set made good use of the available space by dancing happily. I was a bit disappointed that the womans vocals only occasionally were mixed above the band, because when they did rise up, most notably on their cover of Fever, they were stunning. A wide range of material was covered. Besides Fever, they did at least two GRATEFUL DEAD songs, BLUE OYSTER CULTs Godzilla, Maria Muldaurs Midnight At The Oasis, and almost assuredly others Im not familiar with. The most interesting moments for me were the second set opener, which approached free-form jazz, and some true improvisation they did while the guitarist changed a broken string. The band concentrated earnestly on the music, but the singers smiles, and the audiences warmth easily made up for the rest of the bands self-absorption. It was an enjoyable evening. Oh yes, and Gary gave them a thumbs up.
Japunks Panic Jamboree 5: The Spunks/Blue III/Gelatine/Peelander-Z/Wussy/Dynamite
After GELATINEs magnificent performance, I wasnt expecting BLUE III to amount to much, but I knew nothing about them. Theyre a standard rock trio, and when the guitarist finally put down his nunchucks, he showed us that hes a hot-shot guitarist. as well as a rather tall, handsome guy. The rhythm section are no slouches either. The band is tight, and if they had presented themselves on their technique alone, they probably would have done fine. Their material may be a bit limited, as far as originality, relying heavily on 70s-style boogie-rock, but they kept it jumping through hoops, adding reggae, samba, and other variations to their repertoire of styles. I just wanted to get that out of the way before venturing into a discussion of their showmanship, the constant variety of which left their style variations pale by comparison. This trio puts on a show that doesnt stop! Im sure I cant even recall all their stunts and props, but here goes... Ive mentioned the nunchucks demonstration. That happened several times, along with demonstrations of karate kicks, and countless jumps off the stage after paths through the crowd were cleared. A horse head was worn for a short time early in the show. Apparently, singing into the microphone through it proved difficult, so it was quickly discarded. There were Jedi lightsabers for each member of the band, used for a mock duel amongst them, and then for a quick attack on the guitar. Then there were the countless forays into the crowd. Usually it was just the guitarist. I believe both he and the bassist must have had transmitters on their guitars, because at one point the trio, with the drummer carrying his snare, danced up to the very front of CBGBs, and then back down the aisle again to the stage, playing the entire time. Another time the guitarist dragged a microphone out into the center of the audience and sang an entire song. Frequently he would jump out into the audience to display his pyrotechnic guitar attacks in a wide array of positions, at one point simulating a machine gun, which would have mowed down most of us. Another time he formed a line dance with about seven audience members, and they danced around in the crowd. During the reggae sequence he wandered through the club, sitting down with people at the bar and at tables to play intimate passages for them. He invited people up on stage to dance, and once climbed up on the bass guitarists shoulders. Ive seen wild shows before. This one approached a circus atmosphere, and fun was had by all.
Peelander-Z/Blue III/The Spunks/Gaijin A Go-Go--Luxx--10/12/03
Wow! What a night!
BLUE III were out next, and in the very first song the guitarist ran out into the crowd and all the way to the back of the club. On his way back he managed to do some spins on the floor, all the while rolling off very hot lead guitar lines. The band is hot. Their technique seems even more impressive now than last time I saw them. Their high-powered blues rock doesnt have a lot of range, but when you put on a show like they do, who could possibly care? There was a song early in the show when, again, the guitarist came out into the audience and played some very subtle and beautiful guitar directly to various members of the audience as he wandered about through the crowd, and then sat up on the bar with a few of the patrons. It was back to rocking very soon, though, and the rocking lasted through the rest of their set. It was still in the first half of the set when the drummer, Blue I, picked up his snare with a cymbal attached, and the bassist, Blue II, and guitarist, Blue III, all came out into the center of the audience and never stopped playing. The guitarist then began encouraging audience members to dance with him. Later on, the guitarist jumped out into the crowd while Blue I and Blue II kept rocking. He picked out about five members of the audience and formed a line dance to the driving beat of the rhythm section. He then took over for the drummer, allowing him to jump into the audience and start his own line dance. The bassist got his chance too. When a band can break down the separation between it and the audience as thoroughly as BLUE III do as a matter of course, its a wonderful thing! They continued the set with nunchuck demonstrations, Blue III playing the guitar on nearly every surface of his body, frequent twirling of the guitar as if it was a rifle in an army drill, and a leap out into a path cleared in the audience that at first appeared to have gone badly. No harm was done, though, and the guitarist had quite a few jumps left in him before the entire band collapsed on the stage floor with a resounding final chord. They were up again soon, though, taking their bows and smiling broadly, giving the impression that they had enjoyed it as much as we had!
Japunks #7: The Spunks/Gito Gito Hustler/Peelander-Z/54 Nude
Honeys/Blue III/ Techma--CBGB--5/22/04
Japunks once more treated us to a wonderful evening of rock n roll. Ive actually seen all of these bands before, and yet there is no way I would have missed this. It was a great collection of bands, and the largely white audience got more than they ever could have wished for. The women carrying the cards with the round numbers on one side (each set was a round), and each bands name on the other, were dressed tonight in black vinyl nurses outfits, with black crosses rather than red ones. Again, the result was a knockout show!
BLUE III took the stage next. They are a technically impressive blues rock trio, and tonight were dressed in matching outfits, including yellow shoes, yellow shirts, and the guitarists both had flying-V guitars. The guitarist, who bears a strong resemblance to Bruce Lee, is especially gifted, but the rhythm section are always right there behind him, and never let him down. In spite of their excellent musicianship, what they are most well known for is their showmanship. The performance is front and center and often overshadows the music itself. It wasnt long before the guitarist motioned the audience to clear a path, and took a giant leap out into the crowd, playing a soaring lead as he made his way through the slowly increasing audience, as if to get a good look at exactly who he was playing to. A song or two later, the drummer pulled out a one-piece trap set, and all three of the band members came out and joined us. They played a full song in the center of the audience, and the guitarist intermittently took audience members by the hand and twirled them around as if ballroom dancing. Later the guitarist replaced the drummer, allowing him to move center stage and lead the crowd in a few cheers before making his way out into the audience and leading a line dance. Then it was the bassists turn. He immediately launched himself off the stage and crowd-surfed his way deep into the audience before leading his own line dance. At some point, which I dont remember--there was just so much going on--the guitarist also did some crowd-surfing. Toward the end of the set the guitarist did a lead while flipping his guitar around his body, like a member of an army drill team might flip his rifle through various positions in a routine drill. In each position he would let fly a series of notes before flipping the guitar into a new position. At another time he finished up a searing lead and layed his guitar down on the stage, allowing it to feedback. As the rhythm section kept the song pounding on, he pulled out two sets of nunchucks and demonstrated his prowess with those instruments, climaxing that by banging them against the neck of his now squealing guitar. It was a joyous performance and elicited several outbreaks of slam-dancing. BLUE III left the stage at the end of their set, but soon returned for bows, and followed that by joining the audience one last time to hug as many people as they could. The audience was obviously delighted.
Japan Nite 2002: Bleachmobile/The Salinger/ Understatements/Bonkin
Again Supervoid.com sponsored Japan Nite, and like last year, as we left we were given a various artists CD with two songs each by ten Japanese bands, five of whom had performed for us that night.
BONKIN CLAPPER were the next up, and they came out in war-paint, but they didnt wage war. They waged party. Theyre a powerful trio, with a spunky young woman on vocals. All four of them are top-notch. They were all over the stage, and all over the map as far as musical choices. They started off strongly on the side of funk jams, but the longer they continued, the more rock guitar riffs got ground up as fodder for their funk machine. The bassist never strayed from his throbbing funk production, but the guitarist and the song arrangements threw all kinds of wonderful things into the mix, and all but the drummer bounced about the stage having the time of their lives. Nao Yoshida, the singer, led the party with all manner of funk chants, calls for celebration, and joyous rebellion, as she ran through an impressive array of vocal theatrics. It was wonderful to be a part of their party, and the music they created for the cause was inspirational. They were easily my second favorite band of the evening. Thats not bad when youre playing with five other bands.
Boom Boom Satellites/Me You Us Them--Santos Party House--11/24/09
The free show, presented by Superglorious, was supposed to be at 7PM. I got there about 7:20PM, and ended up waiting at the end of a fairly long line because they still hadn’t let anyone in yet. That’s about par for the course.
I was outside when BOOM BOOM SATELLITES started playing. Someone had said there was another band coming on after the solo act I had walked out on. I only missed about one song, came back in, found my new friend, Yuko, who I met at the MARBLE SHEEP show, and have since run into at both the MELT-BANANA show last night, and this show. She verified, as I had guessed once I got a look at them, that it was BOOM BOOM SATELLITES up on stage. There were the two Japanese guys, who officially are BOOM BOOM SATELLITES, plus there was a black guy dancing around the middle of the stage, and a female Japanese drummer, who I guess was their support drummer. By the time I got in a good position the young black man was gone. The support drummer was still there, and BOOM BOOM SATELLITES were rocking away. One of them plays guitar and sings, and has some kind of box that he fiddles with now and then. The other young man plays guitar, bass, and over in his corner he’s got a laptop and a few electronic devices that he regularly fiddled with when he wasn’t playing the guitars. One of those boxes had some control of the other man’s vocals, which generally had some electronic effects on them, if only a good dose of reverb and echo. The vocals, interestingly, were generally mixed below the backing tracks of the songs that were probably handled mostly by the laptop. It was a rich sound, which had a bit of a house/dance feel to it, and those backing tracks were generally mixed out front. I barely noticed the guitars, though when I listened for them, they were obviously there. It was all very professionally done, and though they definitely rocked, the elaborate production of the backing tracks, and perhaps the smoke machines, made it all seem a bit removed, as if we were watching it from a different time zone. Regularly the guitarist with the boxes would get the knobs positioned correctly, then grab the guitar or the bass, and move out into the center of the stage and rock out a bit. It usually spurred the guitarist/singer to rock out a bit more, and occasionaly he’d run off to the side of the stage and entertain the people over there. It was good modern rock, and they got a very nice response from the audience who were there to see this free event at Santos. As soon as they left the stage the house music came on, but soon someone came out and suggested that we should show BOOM BOOM SATELLITES our appreciation. We did, and they came out and sang one more song for us. BOOM BOOM SATELLITES have another gig tonight, so it probably wasn’t long after that that they headed up for their gig at Joe’s Pub.
Boredoms/Jim ORourke/Growing--Bowery Ballroom--5/25/05
BOREDOMS were up next, and I was able to move to the front of the stage, so I did. Three drum sets were set up, each facing the center of the stage, along with some electronic equipment. In between the bands tonight, The Bowery Ballroom didnt have any music playing, which actually was a nice change, and everyone seemed to enjoy being able to have extended conversations without yelling in each others ears. It took too long, but eventually Eye came out on the stage with two glowing balls. The movement of one triggered a synthesized chime sound. The movement of the other triggered the sound of a roar, like a wave crashing, or thunder. Before moving either of the balls, though, he began singing, Hey-oh! in a very loud voice, but he wasnt using a microphone. He manipulated the balls, raising and lowering them dramatically, and from the edge of the stage was able to use the halls natural reverberation to amplify his repetition of those two syllables. After a minute or so, the drummers came out and joined him, taking their places at their individual kits. There were two men, and a woman who had a keyboard next to her kit, and, of course, was Yoshimi. Eye continued to sing and wave the balls about, and the drummer closest to him leaned away to make sure he didnt get clobbered. After the opening, Eye went back to a collection of electronic contraptions, which seemed to be tone generators, oscillators, and various effects. The drummers started up, Eye manipulated the humming tones of the electronics, and on top of them he added his eclectic vocal interjections, singing, roaring, and occasional screaming. Eye was well supported by the three drummers. They were all very good, and watching them, I slowly realized that everything they were doing was well worked out. They were not just playing off each other, though at times they did that, too. They were playing through composed pieces, and a good deal of the time they were all three playing the exact same things, and changing the beat and routine on cue. Later in the set, I noticed Eye giving the cues, and often conducting them at times, but early on in the set the pieces seemed to be elaborately worked out, and all three of the drummers seemed to know exactly when the changes came. None of them seemed to be leading the pack. Halfway through, Yoshimi did a short vocal piece, and after that her vocals regularly interacted with Eyes. I only noticed her playing with the keyboards a few times, but it was nice to have her vocals added to the mix. It was a powerful sound to have the three drummers all pounding away and adding a tribal element to Eyes elaborate constuction of humming electronics. They must have played for over an hour, and I wasnt expecting them to come back for an encore, but they did. The encore seemed a bit more improvised. The drum parts werent worked out as meticulously, and Eye was doing a lot more conducting, but like the rest of the set, they created a warm monstrosity of sound that brought the night to a majestic close.
Boris/Hidden Hand--Knitting Factory--10/17/05
The room packed a little tighter in anticipation for BORIS. I don’t know what it is about metal shows, or record conventions, but males tend to outnumber women about nine to one, and perhaps because of that, a good portion of them seem not to have bathed recently. Now mash them all up close together, and the stench can become very intense. BORIS drummer came out first, put his kit in order, and then left the stage. In a little while, the guitarist, and the bassist/guitarist/vocalist came out and put their guitars, amps, and boxes in order. Once things were set, they began emphatically striking chords, then letting them resonate before striking the next. This went on for several minutes, and eventually brought the drummer back out. He positioned himself behind the drums, and gestured with his mallots for the crowd to respond, which they enthusiastically did. Soon he was banging on the large gong behind his set, and the show had begun. BORIS are a trio. The guitarist is a woman. She has an amp set up on the front of the stage so she can adjust the controls from where shes playing. The singer plays a two-necked guitar, one a bass, the other a guitar. Generally he concentrated on the bass, except when the band was into lengthy instrumental exposition. The first few songs started off rocking at a good pace. Having understood that the band was known for creeping, monolithic, metal sludge, I was a bit surprised. Their rock wasnt terribly original, but they were rocking. The lyrics tended toward repeated phrases. Two I thought I heard as, Livin in the city! and Relax and reload! Whether that was actually what he was singing, I wouldnt swear to, but it worked. The band was technically good. Then halfway into the set, they descended into the sludge. The guitarist turned up her amp and let the effects take over. Noise overpowered the sound, and the drummer went back to banging on his gong. They slowly came out of the audio cloud, and were back to the slow resounding chords, mixed with a variety of effects, and the occasional swirling lead guitar shrapnel. It was a soundtrack for walking on a barren moonscape with no gravity or momentum. It went on for a good twenty minutes or so. They did rock again once after that, but the set was on a downswing it couldnt recover from. Though the bassist/guitarist sang, he never spoke to the audience. Only the drummer made any attempts to communicate directly. They closed their set, and each waved as they left the stage, the guitarist shook a few hands, but the applause was light, and they justifiably didnt return for an encore. I recognized the bassist of YURA YURA TEIKOKU as I left the main space.
Boris/KRS-One/Flying Lotus/Devin The Dude--East Village Radio
Music Festival @ South Street Seaport--9/7/08
A free festival put on by East Village Radio. I dont listen to radio, and if I did, Id probably listen to WFMU first, but this was put together well. Id have to give East Village Radio a listen, too, cause you cant argue with getting the chance to see BORIS for free!
After all that rapping, I was so ready for BORIS. There had been a smoke machine going for the rappers, but when BORIS came out it seemed to get turned up. They checked their equipment, and left the stage. It had just begun to get dark when they returned to the stage. The drummer, Atsuo, banged on the Zildjian gong hanging up behind his drums, and they were off. They played a few short rockers, most notable for the leads by the guest guitarist, Michio Kurihara, whos played with many different groups, but is best known for playing with Ghost. Most of the songs tonight were sung by the bassist/guitarist, Takeshi, who mostly stuck to bass tonight, as there were already two guitarists. Unfortunately, his vocals were too low in the mix, and could barely be heard. The second song sung by the female guitarist, Wata, was probably my favorite of the set. It was a slow, haunting thing. With the smoke billowing from the stage, and the general lack of movement there, it reminded me of strolling through a graveyard at night, and her vocals seemed mournful, and respectful. It was interrupted by a brilliant guitar solo from Michio Kurihara, which was not only chilling, but jaunty at the same time. They followed that up with an even slower song sung by Takeshi. The sounds of the guitars seemed to have arrived from several dimensions away, and hung in the air with the clouds of smoke, which were giving the lights something to play with throughout the set. A slow monotonous beat was emphasized, and the vocals were moaned out into the darkening seaport. It was a long, slow song, but in the middle they took it up into a wild guitar crescendo. They took it back down again after that though, and kept it there until the very end when they brought it up a notch to a haunting and dramatic conclusion. It was such an enormous song, I expected them to leave the stage afterwards, but they didnt. Wata coaxed a shrill, one-note feedback out of her guitar, while Kurihara plucked a dark melody of notes from a repeated chord. Takeshi switched to guitar as the song developed. Atsuo, meanwhile, began to introduce dramatic flourishes to his drumming, and brought things up to a peak. He then banged on the gong again, jumped up onto the bass drum, and raised his hands above his head to call on the rock gods and goddesses. He raised the bison sign up above his head with his right hand, and with his left he pointed out at the crowd, letting it slowly travel across the entire crowd. He followed that by jumping off the bass drum, jumping off the stage, crawling up on the barricade that separated us from the stage, and stepping out into the crowd. He actually took a step or two, held aloft by the crowd, before he tumbled down into them. About ten feet into the crowd he was soon lifted up again and returned to the front. The rest of the band continued their droning melody until Atsuo had mounted the stage again and exited immediately to the rear. In a moment or two, they too exited the stage. They didnt return for an encore, but they didnt need to. Everyone was satisfied.
After starting late, and then missing a train, I arrived at Maxwells in time to catch part of PSYCHIC ILLS last song. There were a good number of people there, but I was able to buy a ticket at the last minute, so it wasnt quite sold out. I hadnt been positive I wanted to be there, you see. I like Maxwells, and the idea of seeing BORIS in a small club, after last seeing them on a big stage, outdoors at The South Street Seaport, was a nice idea, but I think finally what won me over to the idea was that things have been a bit slow of late. So making the trek out to Maxwells on a Sunday night to see BORIS just started to seem like a good idea. After a short time, some of BORIS took the stage and received a round of applause. As they set up, there were a few other rounds of applause, like when Atsuo, the drummer, finally came up on stage, and when the smoke machine started pumping out its product, which it continued to do throughout the set, often to rounds of applause, as it usually seemed to mean that things were going to start rocking again soon. Yes, Michio Kurihara, was playing with BORIS again, and, as there was no mention made of it in the tour info, it leads one to believe that hes now a member of the band. Hes certainly a big plus to their sound. Later in the evening, Wata, the female guitarist, sang a slow, mournful, and beautiful song, and in the middle of it, Michio Kurihara took a rocking guitar solo, the only rocking thing in that entire mournful tune, and he received a round of applause afterward. The band set up, and then Atsuo began banging on the big Zildjian gong with a padded mallot. That brought another round of applause, and the band started into their set. The first song was the longest song of the set until the end of the set, when they played a couple of songs that just seemed to go on and on. That first song sounded like huge boulders rolling down a mountain. It was a slow song, but a magnificent way to start off the set. After that they played about seven standard-length rockers. Takeshi, who plays a double-neck bass/guitar, sang most, if not all, of those. During the first couple of songs, a mosher started up, but he was the only one, and he was bouncing about so much, and apparently angering some, that he left a song or two later. Oddly enough, about five moshers started up once or twice as the set continued, but for the most part the crowd was respectfully attentive, and encouraging. Boris rocked those early songs well, and when they did leads, Watas often tended to be squealing or screaming leads. Michio Kurihara often uses a slide, and it gave his leads a swirling, whirling sound. Of course, thats a generalization. They both had much wider ranges than that, and when Wata starts pumping out a rhythm, she keeps it coming. When Atsuo started pounding the drums, the guitars always followed him, getting louder and louder, until they were overpowering. At times, the bill of my cap was trembling from the roar, or maybe that was just my skull vibrating. When they really got going, Takeshis bass didnt just pound your chest, it vibrated your entire body. With Michio Kurihara, this is a remarkable band, and in a small club like Maxwells, this is an incredibly loud band. After Watas song, which was a nice change from all the rocking, they went back to the rocking. They began one of the longer songs, which would rock hard, and then quiet down. Then Atsuo would raise his drumstick up in the air, and the crowd would start cheering. Then BORIS would rock it up again, until they brought it back down, and Atsuo would raise his drumsticks, and the crowd would cheer again. By this point, I was ready for the set to end, and now and then some people seemed to think it was about to end, and got an early start out the door, but BORIS just kept on going. Each time they slowed things down, Atsuo would raise his drumstick, and the crowd would cheer, and then hed start pounding those drums again, and the guitars would crank up again. Atsuo closed that song off with the Zildjian gong, which, again, I thought might mean the end of the set, but they started up another song. I believe that was another rocker, with a great repeated riff played by Wata, which they took way out into the cosmos, and then brought back down. Then things got very quiet. Again, I thought we might have reached the end, but Takeshi began strumming his guitar, and Wata began softly picking. Atsuo and Michio didnt play at all at first. Takeshi began singing what sounded like a traditional, lackadaisical, folk tune. The song slowly built, Atsuo and Michio joined in, and they took that song even farther out than they had taken anything that night, and then brought it back to the soft folk tune. They took it up and down several times, and it was easily the longest song of the evening. At one point the guitars were even playing disjointed bursts of spastic aggression. When they brought the song back down, each time Takeshi started singing again his vocals seemed more tired and more mournful. Then, again, theyd start rocking it up, and the guitars would kick in. Atsuo pounded his drums, and then his gong, and then he climbed up on top of his drums and raised his arms up in triumph. The guitars continued to roar. Atsuo paused, pointed out into the audience, letting his finger roam, and then jumped off his drums, and in just a step or two crossed the stage and launched himself out into the audience. He crowd-surfed out across the top of the crowd until he spotted the door. Then, rolling off the crowd and landing on his feet, he stood up, gave us one big wave, and headed out the door. Meanwhile, the band just kept cranking like they were trying to shake the building down. They cranked away for another few minutes, and then one of their infrequently used tapes, which started off some of the songs and appeared in the middle of others, went on, and almost as if it was a timer, they suddenly quit.
Japan-Smacksdown-NYC: Do Thank Anal/10 Yen Ana Kinoko/Petit
Mit/Bosston Cruising Mania/Electric Eel Shock/Techma/Mong Hang--Continental--10/17/00
This show, apparently presented by Micro Music who handed out a complimentary CD of their artists, was well attended throughout the evening. About half the audience wasnt Japanese this time, which was nice to see, and Continental was the perfect club for this event.
BOSSSTON CRUISING MANIA disappointed me, mostly because theyve got such a great name. The band is made up of two guitars, bass, drums, and a singer. Not nearly the extroverts that ELECTRIC EEL SHOCK are, the singer spent much of the time hunched over, singing to the floor, or with his back turned to the audience. The band tended to get into a groove and stay there, plowing it for all it was worth. Toward the end of their set they managed to get a very active mosh-pit going, by chanting the word Mosh! over and over. It was an effective way to close their set.
Budo Grape/Superfortress/Kocho Bi-Sexual--Knitting Factory--6/5/08
BUDO GRAPE are a five-person band. They came out in matching black and white checkerboard shirts, wearing either green or red, see-through, plastic ties. They were a drummer, a bassist, a guitarist, keyboards, and a singer. The singer and keyboardist were women. The singer handled most of the lead vocals, but now and then other bandmembers would get a chance. Midori, the keyboardist, sang one song about how she was a space alien, and the guitarist, Nagai, sang at least two songs. There were almost always some background vocals going on, so, Quminco, the lead singer, still got to sing, even when she wasnt handling lead vocals, and on one song she did an impressive job of helping out Midori on keyboards. BUDO GRAPE are an energetic and a very playful band. Quminco had a very cute way of presenting herself and the songs, and, along with Midori, did a good deal of jumping up and down as they performed the songs. They reminded me in some ways of THE PLASTICS, in that they had a slight techno sound, and humor was in the forefront of their presentation. They were on their game technically, too. They closed out their energetic set with a song they said they cant play in Japan because its too rude. To illustrate their point, they held up signs showing the translations of the three Japanese words, which were crap, piss, and spit. It was a very happy, pop song, and the smallish, but enthusiastic, audience happily sang along. After their show, the band met, talked with, and signed autographs for their fans.
The Captains/Gelatine/The Wellington Ladies Welfare League--Knitting
THE CAPTAINS came out, set up, tuned up, and then disappeared. In a couple of minutes they made a grand entrance to some offbeat 60s instrumental music. All four of them were dressed in red, military-style uniforms. The lead singer, Kizuhiko, came out last, carrying a rose in his mouth, and soon they were rocking. Kizuhiko also plays rhythm guitar off and on, but he regularly puts it down to concentrate on the vocals and the theatrics. The rest of the band, drums, bass, and guitar, who all did some back-up vocals, are technically very good, and easily handled the artful variety of music they played. They bill themselves as The last group sounds band, and I dont think anyones arguing with them at this point. Group Sounds, in case youre wondering, were the Japanese bands inspired by THE BEATLES and the other English Invasion groups. THE CAPTAINS music, besides being well played, captures the innocence, the energy, and the simple dramatics of the mid-60s, as well as a slightly comic romanticism. The surprising thing for me was that they dont play the music tongue-in-cheek at all. They play it straight, and they pull it off. Besides the romantic humor, illustrated by Kizuhiko bringing roses out into the audience, gifting young women (usually) with the flowers, and occasionally even fainting, overcome by his powerful emotions, he also, more than once, pulled out an ornate hand-mirror, and admired himself in its reflection. Jun, GELATINEs guitarist, had remarked earlier how beautiful Kazuhiko looked, and that he had felt lucky to share a pizza and a soda with him the night before. Props, besides the roses and the mirror, included a bullfighter cape, an umbrella, and a large Japanese flag with the kanji characters Shishin written across it, meaning to be overcome by the emotions of love. There may have been other props, but I was trying to take pictures, and at the same time protect myself from the overly rambunctious Genki Shock mosh team. A pushing match eventually ensued between the Genki Shockers and Hayden, of Karate Rice, who had set up the show, and it took the glory off THE CAPTAINS encore, which involved the singer being brought back through the crowd on someones shoulders, and singing the last song standing on a chair, but nothing could take away the fun that THE CAPTAINS had brought to us. I wish them good luck on the rest of their U.S. tour, which will finish up again here in New York at Pianos.
I was told they were going on at 1AM. I arrived at 12AM, and their set was half over. Still, I saw enough to see that this Tokyo band of a bassist, a guitarist, a quena (a South American reed flute) player, along with a support drummer, were all very good musicians. Uniquely enough, the quena was the lead instrument. The music was quite upbeat, and though not my style, it was very enjoyable. I wish I had been able to see the entire set. Shuhei, the guitarist/vocalist, was honest and straight-forward, almost humble, when dealing with the audience. Which fits the name of the band. I understand that Pampie is Japanese slang for ordinary people. We are Japanese, Shuhei announced. A patron handed him some chopsticks. Yes, he continued, we are part of the Japanese economy, but we are trash of the Japanese economy. At times, the quick strumming of the electric, hollow-bodied guitar sounded more like a synthesizer. The subtle, but active, bass provided the bottom, and the quena sprightly danced along on top. Its a unique and envigorating sound. Shuhei kicked his sandles off, and played the last couple of songs barefoot. They were generally well received, and there was some sporadic dancing.
Charisma Pampie/Cober/Matt Turk & His Band--CBGBs--3/7/02
It was good to see CHARISMA PAMPIE again. They took the stage obviously pleased to be back at CBGBs. Everyone in the band is technically quite good, including the new drummer who seemed to help them rock harder than I remembered them rocking last time. Unfortunately, the flute player, who plays a South American style flute called a quena, and is usually their lead instrument, was the least audible member of the band. The flute out in front of the band gives them a very unique sound. Without it they had a more typical rock sound. The bass guitarist is never static, keeping the bottom in a constant state of flux, but he stood off to the side of the stage as if he didnt really want to be involved. Shuhei, the guitarist/singer, plays a hollow-bodied Gretsch, and like the bassist, plugs directly into his amp using no boxes of any kind. This time the flute player used a mouth mike. It just didnt work. CBGBs inexperience at miking flutes became obvious, and blaming it on the guitar being too loud was a bit hard to swallow. Most annoying was that there seemed to be a live mike on the stage that took a hit whenever the flutist landed from one of his leaps into the air. He was actually told to quit jumping on the stage! He must have thought it was a rock club, or something. Still, in spite of these problems, CHARISMA PAMPIE played their songs with authority, and gamely kept the crowd amused and entertained throughout the set.
Chatmonchy/Omodaka/Red Bacteria Vacuum/Omodaka’s/Jinny Oops!--Bowery Ballroom--3/21/10
Audrey Kimura and Japan Nite made their after SXSW stop in New York for 2010. It’s usually the highlight of the year for Japanese rock in New York. My guess is that once again, nothing will top it this year. Thank you Audrey, and my thanks to all the bands. It was another rockin’ Japan Nite! Why weren’t there more people there to support this annual event?
Headlining tonight were CHATMONCHY, another all-gal trio who have gained a large degree of fame and popularity in Japan. This is their first U.S. tour, and Audrey Kimura seemed very pleased to have them join her on some of her Japan Nite shows. New York was lucky enough to be one of the shows they decided to play. I can see why they have been so successful. Technically all three of the women are quite good. Their music is very much pop music, and the singer/guitarist has a sweet voice. They have a nice range of music, and even rocked things up a bit once or twice. On the bassist’s amplifier was a hand drawn sign that read, “Chatmonchy A Go Go”. Early on the guitarist was retuning, and a male voice in the audience shouted out, “I love you! Marry me!” Her English may not be her strong point. The drummer and the bassist did most of the talking for the band. Her response to this proposal? “Hi! We are Chatmonchy.” That probably means the wedding bells will not be ringing out any time soon, at least as far as that particular proposal is concerned. CHATMONCHY provided lots of nice pop music instead. A number of times during the show the guitarist let the drummer and the bassist play alone, and the bassist provided a stong and supple bottom. The bassist and drummer also provided nice back-up vocals, sweetening the pop music this band seems to play effortlessly. They played a good set, and left the stage, and they were the only band tonight that was called back for an encore. They came back out fairly quickly, and began their last song, ‘Renai Spirits’, with the vocalist/guitarist singing a very sweet song with no backing. I mistook it for the usual ploy of calming the audience down a bit with a soft song that would leave us pleasantly sated, but then the guitarist turned toward her amp and with a few strums she created some powerful feedback, and the rest of the band joined in. The song remained slow-paced, but it was a heavy number that once again proved that this band can rock when they want to. It was a slow numbing rock song with a hint of beauty, and a nice way to close down the night. They didn’t announce it, but they’ll be playing again tomorrow night at Cake-Shop. I certainly plan to be there!
Japan Nite 2002: Bleachmobile/The Salinger/ Understatements/Bonkin
Again Supervoid.com sponsored Japan Nite, and like last year, as we left we were given a various artists CD with two songs each by ten Japanese bands, five of whom had performed for us that night. There was a respectable size crowd for a Monday night.
CLAMMBON opened up the evening. Theyre a trio of a drummer; a woman on keyboards and lead vocals; and a guy on bass, a Korg synthesizer, and background vocals. They started off with some very pleasant pop music with some lite-jazz overtones. It reminded me quite a bit of Akiko Yano. They were nice tunes and the vocals, though they reminded me a bit too much of the cat in the Meow Mix commercials, were sweet. Plus, she provided us with the very best English of the evening. As the set continued, their sound expanded surprisingly. The jazz became more improvisational, often with portions where she slowly, and rhythmically pounded on the same chord, while the bassist took the band into the realm of psychedelia. Theyre all technically very good, and surprised me with a much larger range than I initially expected.
The time for the show got pushed back an hour or so, but it turned out very nicely. I got to talk with the band, and maybe just to thank me for supporting them and other bands like them, they each bought a Rock of Japan T-shirt, the first ones Ive sold in several months. Thank you, CLIONE-INDEX! As the band before them, TITUS ANDRONICUS, broke down their equipment, a somewhat intoxicated young man jumped up on the stage, praised TITUS ANDRONICUS, and then announced to the crowd that the band coming up next, CLIONE-INDEX, were the best thing he had heard in a long while, and that everyone should do themselves a favor, stay for the next set, check em out, and treat their ears to something special. Very few took his advice, but as CLIONE-INDEX played their set, the crowd slowly grew until I no longer had a clear shot of the stage and was raising my camera up above peoples heads as usual. CLIONE-INDEX started off each song with one guitar, sometimes with strums, at other times with intricate picking, but always very delicately. During the first song the bassist and second guitarist crouched at the front of the stage and didnt stand and join in until the drummer started in with his mallots. As the song began to slowly swell, the drummer switched to his drumsticks, and the band began to sway to the rhythm of their music. As the songs grow more intense, their movements take on a jerkiness. The entire band is technically very good. They are an instrumental band. There were no vocal microphones on the stage, and the band never said a word. Their songs start gently, and slowly, gradually, grow to a thundering climax. The only times they changed their general pattern at all were that one song started off in a waltz tempo, and the last song, fittingly, rocked harder than the others. As an instrumental, Japanese, rock band, they’re going to be compared with MONO. At this point, MONO would win in a face-off, but if you like MONO, this is a band well worth checking out, and theyre good guys, too.
44/Fantasys Core--New York-Tokyo Music Festival--5/26/02
This night of the New York -- Tokyo Music Festival was quite the success. Lets hope it does become an annual event! The pier was a nice place to be. The wide variety of bands was intriguing. The MC regularly mispronounced the bands names, when he knew them at all, but thats a small complaint. The bands set up quickly and kept coming.
CONDOR 44 were up next. Theyre a trio. The guitarist and drummer were quite good, and the female bassist played inventively enough. Unfortunately, the soundman had her vocals down so low you couldnt hear her at all. They may have tried to turn her up, but if so, she must have started singing even softer. The guitarists vocals were audible and good, and they also had a back-up singer who joined them for a few songs. The music was a thoughtful spacy pop which provided the guitarist room for exploration with the other musicians. Their lack of performance allowed the music to speak for itself.
PEELANDER-Zs party spirit was much appreciated after CONDOR 44s mellow set.
Core Of Soul--CBGB--11/13/03
When I arrived, I was surprised by the crowd. There were a good number of people, and a fair number of them were obviously there to see CORE OF SOUL. Their equipment was already set up. All six of them took the stage at the same time. There are only three members of CORE OF SOUL, and they were out front. They were supported by a rhythm section, and a keyboardist. Up front on the stage we had Keisuke Iizuka on keyboards and a good-sized collection of boxes. Song Rui was on guitar and did an impressive job, playing many of the key elements of the songs, and often not sounding much like a guitar at all. Everything he did was very tasteful, and, like Keisuke, he mostly kept to himself, looking down at his instrument, but he let loose with a few flourishes. Fukiko Nakamura on vocals was the show. She took center stage, and sang like she meant it. The band sounded good and full, and her voice is pretty wonderful. She spoke comfortably in English, asking the audience how they liked the band, and smiling happily when a fan called out his love for her. Their material is well written, though it never strays far from pop ballads. When she raised up her arms to add a little drama, and belted out her songs, she had a good portion of the audience rooting for her. In one of the early songs she claimed, Im no angel!, but I dont ever remember a band on CBGBs stage sounding quite so wholesome. After the show, while the guys packed up their equipment, she happily talked with fans and signed autographs. They finally asked her to leave the stage so the next band could set up. With her equipment in hand, she stepped down off the stage and kept talking with whoever wanted to say, Hi! or get a picture taken with her. The band was still talking with fans when I left the club.
Cornelius/Natural Calamity/P.J. Olsson--Bowery Ballroom--11/9/98
I felt like I should try to see CORNELIUS again, since theyre so big in Japan and were playing the Bowery Ballroom, one of my favorite clubs. I didnt try hard though. I decided that night that Id like to see the show. I called them up to see if it was sold out yet. It wasnt, so I walked down there. Finally, CORNELIUS emerged. Keigo Oyamadas first words were, CORNELIUS is a band. They had a standard four-piece line-up, with a few plusses. The lead-guitarist also played keyboards, and Keigo played not only guitar and vocals, but also theremin, tapes, various boxes, and he controlled the videos that played behind them. As a band they were all strong musicians, and the music was wide-ranging, covering pop, hard-rock, psych, and adding some new frontiers. I was quite impressed with Keigos theremin work. At times when the lead-guitarist was on keyboards, he would play rhythm-guitar and do the leads on theremin with the neck of his guitar. At one point he played Love Me Tender on theremin with Elvis on the video-screen behind them. The thing that impressed me the most was how synced they were with the videos behind them. Seemingly, without even looking, the changes in the songs were instantly reflected on the screen behind them. However they managed to do it, that shows an incredibly tight band. The weak point was the material. Though it was impressively wide-ranging, and the theremin and other toys added interesting effects, the songs themselves didnt really do much for me. This may have been partially due to the fact that they were sung mostly in Japanese, but basically, beneath the cleverness and strength of their chops, they were little more than a pop band.
While they prepared for CORNELIUS show, they raised a screen up in front of the stage. At first they played a short video centering around the Point cover. Then it stopped and we watched shadows moving around behind the screen for awhile. When a song finally did start up, another video began, and Keigo Oyamada would point to an area of the screen as a word would appear. It was a clever way of beginning the show, and the sold out crowd was appreciative, though not as appreciative as when the front screen came down and the four piece band was unveiled. They consisted of a bassist, another man on a healthy variety of keyboards, an occasional guitar (and there must have been some tapes and samples there as well), a blonde-haired woman playing very emphatic drums, and Keigo on a variety of guitars. He seemed to be changing guitars for nearly every song, and once, with the help of an audience member, he played Love Me Tender on theremin. At another point, while the video played clips from Planet of the Apes movies, he interacted with the audience by encouraging those in front to join him in pressing buttons on a large toy sampler. Four large lights positioned at each corner of the stage regularly shone their lights, often erratically, around the room, providing a circus-like atmosphere. The band was very tight, and played through a wide variety of CORNELIUS previous material, though, of course, concentrating on the latest release, Point. Throughout the show, videos played on a screen behind them. Many of them were quite clever, and fun to watch, but the band concentrated on playing the music, and let the videos do the visual entertaining. Keigo occasionally raised his guitar upright in the air, or said, “Thank you.” at the end of songs, but the music and videos were pretty much the show. The music ranged from light pop to some nice rockers, and the opening chords of songs regularly elicited cheers from the audience, but eventually the videos seemed to leave the crowd a bit stupefied, like when you watch too much TV. CORNELIUS closed the set with Brazil. A video of clouds played, and the lyrics flashed on the screen as Keigo sang them. It was a surprisingly warm moment, and as the band left the stage the crowd began stomping enthusiastically for an encore. They were rewarded with one videoless song in which the keyboardist played some guitar and jumped about more than anyone in the band had during the entire show. The music was good, and the videos were fun, but it was a shame that they so dominated the show. The lights came on and it was over.
Curlies--Knitting Factory Tap Room--10/10/06
CURLIES are Hiroki on guitar and lead vocals, and Nozomi on drums and back-up vocals. After watching an exciting set by GELATINE, with Seiko dancing around in her diapers and bandages, two women, Nozomi and her friend Miki, walked around Arlenes Grocery saying, If you like Japanese bands, you should come and see CURLIES. They are from Tokyo.
So there I was at Knitting Factory, several days later, having managed to see as little as possible of the three heavy metal bands who had preceded CURLIES. Being one of the few people there to see them, I was able to talk a little with them, their friend Miki, and Nozomis parents, who had flown in the day before to support their daughter, and see CURLIES play live in New York. They were all very nice people. Finally Hiroki and Nozomi took to the stage, and after setting up their sound, they launched into a quirky and animated rock n roll set. Many of the punkier songs have a very fast pace, and the lyrics fly by like verbal gymnastics. One of the most offbeat things they did was to seemingly end their songs, and then, after a brief pause, theyd start the same song up again, sometimes several times. They played their instruments pretty well. His singing was OK, and her background vocals were sweet, often kind of chirpy. Most of the time they really seemed to need another instrument to fill up their sound, but Hiroki seemed to be enjoying himself in an energetic, and slightly nervous manner that had him flitting about the stage when he wasnt singing. During their cover of I Just Want To Make Love To You, Nozomi spiced things up with a very nice harmonica break. They also covered THE BEATLES I Wanna Be Your Man. On a late Tuesday night they didnt have much of an audience, but those who were there stayed, and seemed to be enjoying themselves right along with Hiroki. Nozomi was working too hard to show joy, but Im sure she was feeling it. Or maybe she was nervous about her parents being there.