& Others--Live (M-N)


Macarthur a Contti

The Suzan/Macarthur a Contti/The IO’s/Tryst--Pianos--3/1/06
        MACARTHUR A CONTTI were a wonderful surprise. They’re a seven piece band from Osaka, and took the stage for their tune-up in a wonderfully disorganized fashion. They all seemed to be tuning up at once, and the bassist kept a constant run going almost the entire time. Meanwhile, the lead singer was trying out the random English he had picked up. Mostly he seemed to be trying them out for comic affect. There he was, with a big smile on his face, announcing, with pauses inbetween, “Juicy Fruit!” “Duty free!” “Hot kiss!” Then he set the microphone stand up as high as it would go, about ten feet, and he would jump up and yell into it. Besides the bassist and the singer, they also had keyboards, a guitarist, a drummer and two slide trombones, one on either side of the stage, one of the trombones was played by the only woman in the band. They started into their set and laid down a firm rhythm and blues groove, which occasionally let some soul in with a number of the musicians providing back-up vocals, and when they let the guitarist step out he added a heavy dose of the rock. Throughout the proceedings, often even during breaks in the songs where the rest of the band cooled down, the bassist kept his runs going as if his fingers were no longer under his control. The band were having a great time, and it was contagious. Early in the set the woman trombonist stepped out into the audience and took a little stroll, and she did it again later in the show after the male trombonist had taken one himself. The trombonists usually played separate lines, but occasionally joined together for short bursts. The band partied, and the audience grew as the set went on. When they finished, the audience cheered for more, and MACARTHUR A CONTTI cranked into Hendrix’s ‘Fire’ with the guitarist out front wailing and the two trombones honking out the riff on either side of him. I haven’t seen a band do the r&b thing in a while, and it was a real joy to see it done so well, and with trombones!

Macarthur a Contti/The Ray Corvette Trio/Maison Blance--Pianos--10/25/06
        MACARTHUR A CONTTI are a six piece band now, including keyboards, drums, guitar, a lead singer, and topping things off with two slide trombones. They rock with a bit of funk, and a touch of r&b. Mostly what they are, though, is damn good fun. The band are all very good musicians, but what they seem to be aiming for the most is to bring you a heaping dose of fun. I enjoyed the entire set, and they were enjoying it, too, obviously. As the set moved into the second half, though, the theatrics started up, and that was when things stepped into some crazy fun. The trombones, manned by Ai, a woman, and Bellboy, a man, stepped off the stage and moved out into the center of the room, where they engaged in some apparent trombone dueling. They faced each other and blew those horns at each other. They took turns, and blew back and forth at each other, and the lead singer, Achako, even came out with them, and danced around with audience members before climbing back up onto the stage, and raising the microphone stand up tall enough so he could use it while standing atop a stool. They had managed to turn a good show into a party, but it wasn’t the climax. That came when they played the final song of their set, a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Fire’. It started off great, and then just dove into insanity. The guitarist, who generally plays a low-key, rhythm role in the band’s sound, steps out front for this song and not only does a very hot solo for the song ‘Fire’, but takes it on out into an impressive mock-up of Hendrix’s version of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’. By then, things are bordering on chaos. The keyboardist has climbed up on the drummer’s shoulders, and when they start into the second part of the song, the drums start up with both of them banging away. The lead singer has taken over the keyboards, and everyone’s doing pretty much whatever feels good. It was a wonderful show, and the audience responded with a rousing round of applause. It didn’t get us an encore, but I doubt there was anyone there who felt cheated.

Macarthur a Contti--R&R--10/27/06
        MACARTHUR A CONTTI were playing first, and there was no one there accept a few of their fans and friends, so the club allowed them to wait a while before starting the evening. When they began there still weren’t many people there. The singer hung a large U.S. flag on the wall as a backdrop, and soon the drummer, guitarist, and keyboardist started up as a trio. It was a nice strut of a jam, and in the minimalism of that sound, the importance of the bass lines the keyboards were adding to MACARTHUR A CONTTI’s sound really stood out. It was a nice way to start up the set, and showed the strength of the basic band. Soon, the singer came out, the two trombones followed him, and they launched into ‘Swimmy’, my favorite song from their first CD. The back-up vocals on that one are as catchy as they come. Those vocals, mostly provided by the trombone team, regularly sweeten the sound of this band, not to slight the lead singer, who handles his duties well, and adds a surprisingly good natured sense of humor. In spite of the situation, the band took the stage with complete authority, and ran through a short joyful set with an abundance of heart and good spirits. The room filled up a bit as the set continued, though most stayed toward the rear of the room. The last song brought the two trombones and the lead singer out to where the audience was. Yep, again, they took the show to the audience. MACARTHUR A CONTTI’s front trio partied it up, and shared their joy. It brought the audience alive, but they were the first band, and they were done for the evening. It was actually a bit of a teaser, and I may very well have to catch this fine band one more time before they head back to Osaka.

Numb/Macarthur a Contti/Claire Lise--Pianos--10/29/06
        Tonight my plan was to just enjoy MACARTHUR A CONTTI again, and hang out a bit, ‘cause they’re really a sweet bunch of people. When I checked the listing, though, it turned out a Japanese band called NUMB would be going on after MACARTHUR A CONTTI. So, I got my camera, and since I was there taking pictures, MACARTHUR A CONTTI does put on quite a show. When I got back, they were setting up. They started as a trio again, the keyboard player, Kazuko, had wrapped a yellow scarf over his face, so he couldn’t see, and was playing by feel. Shortly, Bellboy began playing his trombone from the rear of the room and majestically approached the stage. Then Ai started playing her trombone and followed him, and Achako Katana, the singer, followed her. They played another song first, but then launched into ‘Swimmy’. They had rearranged it, though. This time the guitarist handled the back-up vocals, and Bellboy and Ai played trombone during those parts. This band has such a free spirit, it’s not surprising that there would be a certain amount of improvisation, but that change was a surprise. They had a good crowd tonight, and they were obviously enjoying themselves. They thanked us, and New York, and suggested we should buy their CDs and T-shirts. “Buy now!” encouraged Katana, though there was no one at their table to take our money. They quickly got a good number of people dancing, which is a fairly rare occurance at rock clubs. Toward the end of the set, Bellboy started into a solo, and Katana grabbed the microphone and brought it out into the center of the room. Bellboy followed him. The band cut things down to a simmer, and Bellboy stepped up to the microphone and blasted away on his trombone. He soon found a willing dance partner, and managed a good variety of dance moves with her, while continuing to play his trombone. Next it was Ai’s turn. She found a young man, put the horn of her trombone right up against his chest, and blew out a solo that I’m sure he felt. Next came the trombone face-off. The band was cranking away behind them now, and it sounded great. After a bit more dancing about, they returned to the stage, and it wasn’t long before the guitarist stepped up front, cranked his guitar up, and they were into Hendrix’s ‘Fire’ again. It was a hot version, Hiro’s fingers were all over that guitar neck, as the trombones honked out the ‘Fire’ riff. The audience, who’d been surprised and delighted by the band, even before the trombones came out to party with them, were amazed at the guitarist’s sudden display of pyrotechnics. The excessive sound became so exaggerated, it stopped being ‘Fire’ and moved into Hendrix’s version of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ The drums stopped, and let the guitarist explore the song on his own. Kazuko moved away from his keyboards to climb up on the drummer’s shoulders, ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ reached its apotheosis, and the pair of drummers led the band triumphantly back into ‘Fire’. It was another great set. Everyone in the room was smiling. You should see these guys if you get a chance. Someone standing next to me marveled, “They’re like a Japanese version of THE FUNKADELICS.” “Actually, they’re more fun than that.” I replied, and he agreed.
        That same fellow commented that following MACARTHUR A CONTTI might not be a very desirable thing.

 

The Mad Capsule Markets

Peelander-Z/The Spunks/The Mad Capsule Markets/Goro--Don Hill’s--11/19/02
        THE MAD CAPSULE MARKETS are something unique. They’re a hard driving rock band, but during the entire set they’ve got recordings playing that include both synth tracks and added percussion. Besides the hard rocking, they’ve usually got a funk thing going on, but they’re often rocking so fast it gets lost. The singer’s mostly a rapper, but whatever boxes they’ve got him going through make him sound like his throat is made of sandpaper, and his mouth is full of marbles. Behind this fuzzy, vocal roar are a drummer, a guitarist, and a bassist who sometimes trades in the bass for something resembling an oscillator. Technically they’re all strong, and the frontline of singer, guitarist, and bassist, all put on an energetic show, which kept the crowd bouncing when they weren’t moshing. In fact, they were so energetic, I almost didn’t notice the drummer, who doesn’t call attention to himself, but was back there pumping out the beat like a machine. They didn’t have a slow song the entire set. So, he was working hard, but every ounce of energy was going into that beat. Now, if you’ve been counting, we have techno (the synth/percussion track), hard rock, funk, rap, and on top of all that, now and again the frontline would do these back-up vocals that were just perfect pop hooks. Granted, it didn’t always blend smoothly, but together it was a powerful concoction, and it certainly energized the crowd. At the end of the set, the singer threw out CDs, stickers, and T-shirts. After the exertion of grabbing whatever they could, many of the crowd left the club beaming--not a common occurrence in NYC.
        THE SPUNKS were up next, but they had to wait for THE MAD CAPSULE MARKETS’ crew to pack up their equipment, which for some reason meant spreading equipment boxes all over the dance-floor.

 

Mainliner

Mainliner/Christian Marclay & Lee Ranaldo--The Cooler--7/24/99
        I’m not sure what they were called, but a MAINLINER throw-together jam-band, played one long song. It moved from a slow hypnotic thing to a wonderful rave-up and then back again. MAINLINER’s guitarist is amazing, but of the three guitarists on stage for this one-song performance, it was the white-guy (I believe it was Lee Ranaldo) who seemed to be doing the most interesting things. Besides the MAINLINER trio (with Nanjo on guitar) and the white-guy guitarist, there was also a Japanese bass guitarist who did quite well.
        Shortly afterward, MAINLINER came out and blasted their way through their set. The guitarist is truly a wild-man psych guitarist of the first order, but the rest of the band are no slouches either. The rhythm section tended to play stark, simplistic riffs while the guitarist, jerking about like he was having a spazz-attack, played wigged-out leads that took off seemingly with no intention of returning. Then the rhythm section would shift into high-gear, and nothing was gonna stop ‘em. For the most part the vocals couldn’t be heard, and the set didn’t seem to be much more than half-an-hour, but the guitarist was an amazing psych-monster, and I haven’t seen a rhythm section stomp a riff into the ground like that in ages. It nearly rivaled the original STOOGES’ riff-pounding, but MAINLINER were going at least four times as fast.

 

Marble Sheep

Marble Sheep/Plastic Crimewave Sound--Bar Matchless--11/9/09
        Bar Matchless is a comfortable Williamsburg bar. It’s the first time I’ve been there. Not only is there a room in back where there’s no door charge and they pass a hat for the bands, but there’s also food, a room with one open wall similar to a patio, and tonight some kind of motorcycle racing on all the TVs.
        I really didn’t know anything about MARBLE SHEEP, but before they played a couple of friends let me know that Ken, the singer/guitarist, was also the owner/manager of Japan’s Captain Trip Records, a company that’s been responsible for re-releasing some great Japanese and western music. Like PLASTIC CRIMEWAVE SOUND they had two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer (Shunsuke of KIRIHITO) on a trap set, this time a snare, a floor tom, a cymbal, and a high-hat, but they also had another drummer on a full kit. I had the idea that they were flying a psychedelic flag, but tonight it seemed like pretty straightforward hard rock. Ken did regularly let the leads loose in a pschedelic direction, but generally they were just rockin’ hard, and it reminded me of an old style band. That makes sense, as I was told that Ken’s been leading MARBLE SHEEP for twenty years now. He’s the only remaining original member of the band. The other current members all seem normal rock age, late 20s to early 30s. The band rocks hard, and concentrates on the rockin’. There’s very little showmanship. Ken stood for periods with his back to the audience, his long grey hair flowing down his back. Regularly he’d end chord passages with an upstroke that crossed his chest, and he always made sure to signal the drummer with the full kit when the changes came. The only other showmanship, besides the furious attack on the instruments, and the way the rhythm guitarist jerked his head, was that the female bassist, Baby, who wore a T-shirt emblazoned "Driving Is Happy" under her leather jacket, would occasionally get excited and hop up and down, sometimes on one foot. Otherwise, it was just a rockin’ band led by a veteran, touring to support two CDs that will be released in Japan in a few days. Ken explained to me that they were being sold separately, and that one of the CDs featured their rock songs, and the other featured their psychedelic songs. Yes, they're being released on Captain Trip Records, of course. It was a small crowd in a small room, but afterwards there was a good crowd around the merchandise table, so obviously everyone enjoyed it!

 

Maruosa

Maruosa/Digit 216/Speak Onion--The Charleston-- 3/14/10
        The Charleston is a nice bar, and I got a Miller HighLife for only $3! I had one and then went downstairs in the basement where the music was.
        Maruosa was next. He set up his laptops on the floor over against the wall. It was loud, noisy, and apparently he was just setting up his sound. Once he got his sound adjusted, his only instruction to the sound man was, “Louder!” The sound man turned it up! Again, it sounded very much like a computer war game during a big battle. Unlike Speak Onion and Digit 216, he didn’t manipulate his sounds at all, but had them playing, and performed and sang while they played. He obviously knew them very well, often conducting the sounds by waving his hands around. His tapes often had silent spaces too, so that he could scream out during them. Otherwise he would dance around, jump around, shake his long hair, and basically rock out, sometimes he’d even get down on his knees, or lay down on the floor. Before he began, he had asked us, “Are you tired?” Several people let him know that they weren’t, but it’s very possible that all that jumping around made him a bit tired now and then. It was an exuberant performance, and the audience, who numbered slightly over ten people, were obviously having a great time, dancing around, yelling things at the stage, and raising their arms to show their enthusiasm. Maruosa jumped around and yelled a good deal, and as his performance went on, certain members of the audience danced up right next to him and around him. None of what went on at this show is my kind of music, but I recognize an exciting show, and this audience enjoyed all the performers, and were most excited by Maruosa. As a few of the audience gathered around Maruosa’s merchandise and decided what to buy, I made my way out of the basement, and as I passed a couple the guy was saying, “My ears hurt! I thought I’d be OK, until that last guy!”

 

Melt-Banana

Melt-Banana/Lynnfield Pioneers/Oyobando--Knitting Factory--7/2/99
        I can’t actually say that I liked MELT-BANANA’s music, but I was impressed with their commitment to it, and I very much enjoyed the show. Yasuko, the vocalist, was quite charming when she talked to the audience, and it was a nice contrast to the intensity of the music. To say the band consisted of guitar/bass/drums & vocals is true, but it does not help to describe this band. Both the drummer and the guitarist are very good, and all four of the musicians approach their instruments uniquely. There is definitely a strong hard-core influence. Many of the songs were half a minute to just over a minute, but some did stretch out to normal pop-song length. Though songs often sounded rather similar to others that were played, they never sounded like any other group I’ve heard. It was wonderful to see this band, of two women (the bassist and vocalist) and two men, present this very unique and intense music. They played hard and they concentrated on the music. Only Agata (the guitarist) bothered to perform much for the audience, falling into them at one point, and even he for the most part kept his eyes on his guitar work. The intricate songs obviously take full concentration. They were called back for three encores, but only played four extra songs. I don’t know if I would go see them again, but I very much enjoyed this show.

Melt-Banana/Arab On Radar--Knitting Factory--10/13/00
        I still don’t like MELT-BANANA’s music, but on a Friday the thirteenth, I was back for another taste. The songs are like concrete slabs, most about a minute long. There’s a hard-core influence, mixed with an arty perspective. Plus, there’s the aggressive attack of the entire band as they slam through song after song. So, though I don't like the music, I appreciate their serious approach to it. These are intricate songs, with unique dynamics. The musicians are impressive, technically and endurance-wise. Agata wears a protective surgical mask when he plays. His guitar often seems wildly out of control amidst the intricate rhythms. Yasuko could regularly be seen counting (to herself) during the breaks. Her staccato vocals are the true signature of the band. In contrast to these forceful, shouts, her between-song patter was quite matter-of-fact. She announced a new CD being released on Halloween, but the biggest surprise announcement was a cover of ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way’. In fact, that was the intro they played, and Agata had some fun with it, but when they finally launched into the song, it was DEVO’s ‘Uncontrollable Urge’. The good-sized crowd regularly passed people over their heads, and obviously enjoyed themselves. So did I.

Disorientation/Reorientation: Melt-Banana/The Dynamic Diplomats Of Double Dutch/Cone Eater/Ampere/Video 11--NYU Kimmel Center, Eisner and Lubin Auditorium--4/19/05
        This was a multi-media event, and, as such, it was a bit off the wall, or more like people had thrown things at the wall to see what would stick, but nothing as cool as that happened. There was originally going to be an eating contest, too, but the NYU legal department didn’t like the idea and gave that event a thumbs down. As a whole, it was a trifle strange, but not nearly strange enough. Still, it was a change from another night in the rock clubs, so I’ll count that as a plus, and MELT-BANANA rocked us just fine.
    The MC of The Dynamic Diplomats Of Double Dutch stayed on stage a while longer continuing to talk, as The DDODD made their exit, but members of MELT-BANANA were now making appearances on the stage, too, and setting up their gear. The crowd formed in front of the stage again, and got ready for the main event. When MELT-BANANA began their first song, the mosh pit started up right in the center of the crowd, and several people pushed through the crowd to help stir things up further. The pit died down once or twice, but most of the time it was active, and regularly, most of the people involved, and a few others who felt it was safer, would do a circle stomp during a good rowdy song. The sound was good. The band was tight. Most of the audience was ready for some crazy fun, and MELT-BANANA delivered it in rockin’ style. Rika, on bass, and the pale-face support drummer did a fine job keeping the rhythms full and active. Agata, the guitarist, came out in his surgical mask, with a wool hat pulled down so low, that most of the time, if you could see any of his face, it wasn’t much more than a crack large enough for his eyes to see out of. He’s a master of his style of guitar playing, and half the time it didn’t even sound like a guitar. His range of sounds is startling. Sometimes he sounded like a dentist drill. Sometimes the drill got bigger. At other times he sounded like a siren, but he almost always came up with something interesting, and even when he stuck to more traditional guitar sounds, the songs changed at such a rapid pace, there was no chance for anyone to max out on anything but the constant changes. Yasuko, the vocalist, is an even more unique stylist than Agata. She doesn’t seem to have that good a voice, but her precise, rhythmic, vocal attacks steal the spotlight in every song, even though the lyrics, and they are in English, are almost never comprehensible. When she speaks between songs, though, her English is clear, and her humor is as dry as a desert. She did crack herself up one time. “We’re on American tour now. Tomorrow night we play Knitting Factory. So, everybody come. We will wait for you.” She paused, looked out at the audience, and then, backing away from the microphone, doubled over with laughter. About halfway through the set she announced they were going to do ten short songs, which was exactly what they did. It took about two minutes, even with the introduction of each song’s title. They followed those songs, with a pounding version of DEVO’s ‘Uncontrollable Urge’. It may very well have been the longest song in the set, though a good number of MELT-BANANA’s songs have expanded in length since the last time I saw them, and it’s a nice change, as it gives their arrangements more room to develop and strut their stuff. They closed out with a few more songs that kept the crowd energetic and rowdy, played a final song, and soon returned to play another for an encore. There hadn’t been much disorientation, but MELT-BANANA had rocked us well, and were rewarded with a good crowd at their merchandise table. Having already picked up two CDs, I joined the crowd heading outside and reoriented myself to the warm spring weather.

Melt-Banana/Drop Dead/Children--Knitting Factory--6/10/07
        As MELT-BANANA began setting up, which took a while, Akiko (formerly of THE PLUNGERS) and her husband came over for a chat, which was nice. By the time MELT-BANANA started up, the room was packed, and almost immediately a good portion of the audience was bouncing up and down, and whenever the band launched into one of the more energetic rhythms, the pushing and shoving would begin, without any noticeable edge to the mosh-pit. The band are amazing. They pumped out one song after another, each of them quite distinctively different, all of them sounding like some kind of musical code that only they could cipher. Each song was a joyous assault of Agata’s guitar noises that usually changed before you could get a handle on them, a powerful bass/drums rhythm section ready to go into overdrive at any moment, and Yasuko on vocals that not only kept up with these wild untamed songs, but lined them up, whipped them into shape, dressed them up, and took them out on the town. The songs were like free-form aural constructions, but everyone in the band seemed to know exactly where they were during every moment of each song. After a number of intricate songs, none lasting more than two minutes, Yasuko announced that it was time for some short songs. She wasn’t kidding. During this portion of the show she announced the titles of each number, some of which were only a few seconds long, though one or two lasted over half a minute. Throughout the show the audience remained active with plenty of bobbing heads, and bodies pushed one way, and then the other, some trying to find equilibrium, others just enjoying the movement and the body contact. Toward the end of the show, Yasuko, in her clear and distinct English, announced. “We have T-shirts for sale--over there!” and she pointed to the merchandise table in the rear corner, “We have CDs for sale--over there!” once again she pointed to the rear corner, “So, after the show, please go--over there!” yes, she was pointing to the same corner, “and buy our T-shirts and CDs. Thank you!” Pay attention advertising majors, and note the artful use of both repetition, and call to action! The audience was under their spell from the beginning. Even the inexhaustible variety of cacophony MELT-BANANA presents as a matter of course, did not dissuade them. When the band exited the stage, the whoops and hollers were followed by a steady and forceful clapping that filled the small room. It seemed only a few moments before Yasuko once again bounded out onto the stage to much cheering, followed shortly by the rest of the band. Yasuko announced two more songs, but either they played more than that, or one of these songs was a bit longer than usual. Afterwards, there were almost as many people crowded around the merchandise table, as making their way out the door.

Melt-Banana/Liturgy--Bowery Ballroom--11/23/09
        I felt like seeing MELT-BANANA again, and I like Bowery Ballroom, so this was something I wanted to see, even on a Monday.
        I believe the house music was THE RAMONES the entire time between LITURGY and MELT-BANANA. I guess they wanted to wake the crowd up again after that opening set. The music went off. The lights went off. The audience applauded. The stage stayed dark, and Agata, the guitarist, and Yako, the singer, and whoever was drumming for them this tour, came out, but you could only see their flashlights. Agata and Yako had flashlights attached to their foreheads, and Agata had an extra flashlight in his hand. The drummer seemed to be Japanese, so it may have been their actual drummer, though they usually use a support drummer when they tour the U.S. Anyso, the drummer didn’t seem to have a flashlight, or he may have put his down once he reached his drum kit. Agata and Yako started making noises on electronic gizmos. They did that for a bit, and then the drummer started in, and they kept up the electronic distorted noises, and the lights remained off. That went on for a good ten to fifteen minutes. Occasionally you could see them when someone took a flash picture, but mostly it was just very dark and noisy. It had been announced beforehand that this tour they were going to play some of their new sound, which they were calling MELT-BANANA lite. For a while there I was thinking that they had spelled it wrong and that it was actually MELT-BANANA light, meaning the flashlights. After the ten or fifteen minutes, I saw a figure run crouched over, across the stage, back behind the drum kit, and that turned out to be Rika, the bassist, because soon they put their flashlights down, the lights came up, and their was Rika with her bass. They started into the more usual MELT-BANANA sound, which, in truth, is a very unusual sound, completely unique to MELT-BANANA. I still don’t like their records, but this is an amazing live band! The music, for me, is incomprehensible. I don’t know how they do it. Agata is an amazing guitarist, creating all kinds of bizarre sounds, and Yuka is a very unique singer. Their songs are so intricate, I don’t see how they play them, or especially how they remember the intricate changes of these songs that stop and start, and sometimes seem to end before they’ve really gotten them going. It’s just mind-boggling music, and they play it so frantically, it’s exciting whether you understand what’s going on, or not. As soon as they started into their hyper-spastic rocking, the slam-dancing started up. MELT-BANANA seems to attract a lot of slam dancers, and tonight that seemed to be growing. Regularly, it was just a free-for-all of rowdy dancers bouncing into each other, and bouncing into, or even charging into, audience members who were trying to stay out of the way and appreciate the band. Ah well, that’s part of the MELT-BANANA experience. There was also a stage diver, and a number of crowd surfers, which made it a rowdy, rocking night. The band played like crazy, and then they would stop. If there was a pause between the songs, Yako would make traditional comments in a very sensible manner, which is a surprising contrast from the revved-up craziness of their music. She doesn't move much on stage, but she's concentrating on the music, and when it’s time to sing, she spits out those lyrics rapid fire, and her delivery is so rhythmically on target, it’s a crucial part of the MELT-BANANA sound. When the pauses between songs were any length at all and Yako wasn’t making announcements, the audience would shout things up at the stage, including a marriage proposal at one point, and Yako’s response tonight was a repeated, “Meow”. I’m pretty sure it was “Meow” rather than something in Japanese that sounded like “Meow”. Actually, in fact, cats in Japan don’t say “Meow”, they say "Mya". Honest! She would smile afterwards, and it was funny, especially as she kept repeating it whenever the shouts came. It was a fun and energetic show, even after being bowled over once by a slam dancer. Their set wasn’t that long tonight, but it’s not surprising with the energy they put into their music. They left the stage, were quickly called back for an encore, and when they returned Yako took the microphone and announced firmly that they’d be doing two more songs, and that next they were going to do a cover of THE SPECIALS’ ‘Monkey Man’. The two encore songs were of good length, not always the case with MELT-BANANA songs, and they left the stage to good applause, in spite of the fact that Yako had sounded very firm about the two more songs, and my bet is that almost no one had any hope of them coming back out again. They didn't.

 

Mermort Sounds Film

Mermort Sounds Film/Daniel Bernstein/Crazy & The Train--Goodbye Blue Monday--9/14/09
        This is the first time I've been to Goodbye Blue Monday, or even heard about it for that matter. It’s a cool kind of beat club. A hodgepodge of art, antique leftovers, and odd trinkets litter almost every space of the walls. It’s a nice club, and there was no door charge. The music tonight centered around folk, and jazz, with some experimental elements. My guess is that it ranges farther than that at other times, but that those musics are central to the club’s performances.
        MERMORT SOUNDS FILM set up. They are a four-piece band of keyboards, laptop, guitar, and drums. I believe the young man who plays the laptop also plays keyboards, and the woman who plays keyboards also did some vocals at various times. She had a very nice voice, though she only used it for singing lyrics in one song. Otherwise she just added vocal accents to the songs now and then. They started out slowly. The laptop seemed to be playing the sound of metal being dragged over metal. The drums accompanied these sounds with sporadic percussive sounds of an improvised nature. The drummer actually got a solo during one part of the set, but often, during softer moments, he wouldn't play at all. When the band rocked a bit, he would keep a straight beat, but even then he would include flourishes, and when they went for a more jazz oriented sound, his flourishes were constant. The laptop often produced found sounds, but just as often was used musically. I remember hearing what sounded like a flute at one point. There were also times in which they would go for a sound that was closer to a film soundtrack, including found sounds and improvisations that often bordered on noise. The guitarist regularly jerked about as he played, or leaned way back and let his feelings flow into the guitar. He was the only one who spoke in between songs, announcing the name of the band, and thanking the audience for their applause. His guitar playing ranged from the very delicate to groaning squalls of distortion. The guitarist seemed to be the leader of the band, but the woman’s keyboards seemed to be the lead instrument. Along with the rest of the band, she seemed quite proficient. Her electric keyboards were set to sound like a piano, and remained that way throughout the set. Her playing ranged from jazz to what almost seemed like classical at times, but occasionally a pop or folkish ballad would slip in for a little while. The music changed regularly and was wide-ranging and emotive. There is another member of Mermort Sounds Film, and he operates the projector which shows films and arty projections on the band as they play. The projections weren't as effective on the walls of Goodbye Blue Monday, as they are so jam-packed with bric-a-brac, but I can imagine that in many cases they would add a certain flavor to the performance, especially as the guitarist’s occasional spasms were the band’s only theatrics.

 

Merzbow

Merzbow/Borbetomagus--Tonic--12/7/02
        Tonight MERZBOW was Masami Akita by himself. On two Apple desktops, with the occasional slight knob manipulations, he filled Tonic with digital sound, that a man next to me described as synthetic sound. Though he shook hands and talked with fans who joined him on the stage after the show, he didn’t say a word during the show. In fact, it was difficult to tell when the set up stopped and the show began, but it seemed most decided it was when the volume rose. It began sounding like the howling winds of a tornado from inside an uninsulated house, then it simmered down to a rainstorm. At other times during the show I was reminded of being inside a car, sometimes an old one, as it drove through a rainstorm, trying to tune in a radio with no stations in range, a microphone spun around on the end of its cord faster than a man could spin it, and a jet plane flying through a tunnel. Many members of the audience closed their eyes and meditated on the sounds. Most stared thoughtfully at the seated man in black, who kept his eyes focused on the computer screens and the electrical equipment on the two tables before him. Had I wandered into this show blindly, I would not have been amused, but this was MERZBOW, so I allowed myself to become fascinated by the whirring sounds and searched for beauty in the digital storm. After nearly an hour, Masami Akita stood up and turned his back to signal it was over, and was rewarded with enthusiastic applause. No one seemed to expect or desire an encore. There was a buzz of contentment. On my way home I found true joy in a simple tune hummed over and over.

 

Thee Michelle Gun Elephant

Thee Michelle Gun Elephant--CBGBs--9/8/99
        I had heard a tape of THEE MICHELLE GUN ELEPHANT and hadn’t been very impressed. They rocked, but didn’t seem to add anything new to the mix. It took them a while to set up, and when they came out and began playing, I stuck with my previous estimation for a long time. Still, I kept having to admit how well they rocked. They’re a tight little band, and they rock hard with no mistakes. Their songs don’t have many surprises, but they have some tasty hooks. Their lead guitarist (the second half of the show the singer almost didn’t touch a guitar) is one of the best rhythm guitarists I’ve ever heard, just incredibly precise and versatile. As for his leads, he was so completely in control and adept at everything, it was hard to get excited about them. Toward the end of the show, the band actually had some songs, or performances, that got a bit edgy. The good sized crowd obviously enjoyed it very much and the exuberant moshers up front regularly passed young men around over their heads. They’re a tight, technically very strong rock ‘n’ roll band. They didn’t break any new ground, but they put on a good rockin’ show, and the crowd appreciated it.

 

Miminokoto

Miminokoto/Jack Rose/Major Stars-Palace Tavern-10/29/05
        MIMINOKOTO were next, and there was a good deal of discussion as they set up whether or not they’d even be allowed to play. Apparently the Palace Tavern, or its neighbors, aren’t accustomed to loud rock music. The cops had come and shut down THE MAJOR STARS during their finale rave-up, and all concerned seemed anxious to avoid, or at least postpone, the reappearance of the police. MIMINOKOTO were told over and over that they would have to play quietly. Surprisingly, the band seemed to go for it, and not only agreed to play quietly, but did so. MIMINOKOTO are a trio. Before they started, the guitarist let everyone know that they’d been told they had to play quietly, and that we should all buy their CDs and play them loudly to see what the band really sounds like. They played softly, as they were told to, and it made me wonder how much that changed their sound. The guitarist sang in a low, emotional voice. The drummer played with an improvisational flair, switching back and forth between regular drumsticks and mallots. When the bassist began, the drummer immediately instructed him to turn down, and he did. They played four songs, and though they picked the tempo up once, they kept the volume down, and successfully avoided any more discussions with the police, who, as it turns out, were parked outside. When the band stopped, the audience’s warm applause encouraged them to continue, and they played one last song. I asked Adam, who had heard them before, if what we had heard tonight was a good representation of their sound, and he replied that he thought it was, and that the most unique thing about the band was the guitarist’s sound, which he described as “surf guitar in outer space”. It was a good description, and pointed out one of the most defining aspects of MIMINOKOTO’s sound.

 

Kosetsu Minami

Kosetsu Minami--Town Hall--6/21/03
        Kosetsu Minami has apparently accepted that he is, as billed (almost), the Japanese version of John Denver. Town Hall was pretty close to packed with Japanese of all ages except teenagers. A row of youngsters and their parents sat in front of me. Not being a big John Denver fan myself, I was kind of comparing my interest level with that of the youngsters. Kosetsu came out by himself and played a few numbers on his own. Having never seen John Denver perform, I can’t compare the two, but I’m betting his Japanese version talks a lot more to his audience. It surprised me how much he talked, and the fans obviously enjoyed and appreciated it, regularly laughing at his jokes and applauding his stories. As it turned out, he talked between every song. The talking was about half the show, and it may very well have been the larger half. Kosetsu Minami proved in those first few songs that he can play guitar well, and his vocals throughout the set, doing a good variety of material, were quite good. The musicians he brought out to back him up, a bassist, a guitarist, and a violinist, who each played other instruments, did their jobs impressively well. A woman was brought out to play keyboards about halfway through the set. The music was sweet and warm, but it was the performance and the camaraderie that was built up between Kosetsu and his audience that were most important. He’s fifty-four years old (the only part of the dialogue between him and the audience that I understood), and he knows how to work an audience. At one point he brought out some dancers to teach us how to do a traditional Japanese folk dance to one song. During other songs he encouraged the audience to clap, or sing along, and when he was called out for an encore, it almost seemed like he was encouraging the audience’s applause as much as they were encouraging him to play more. He played three songs for the encore, closing with John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’.

 

Takako Minekawa

Takako Minekawa/Falling Skyward--Mercury Lounge--11/2/98
        Two white guys accompanied Takako Minekawa, but I didn’t catch who they were. One played a guitar (He was billed as Sweet Trip, but he’s actually the lead musician of that band.) The other (Junior Varsity KM) played what seemed to be a collection of home-patched keyboards, boxes, tapes and even some DJ paraphernalia (He had no home-patched keyboards. He was doing a live mix off a PC laptop and hard disc using midi faders.) The mess of wires underneath his workstation was daunting. Takako mainly played a smaller keyboard, controlled a few additional boxes herself (She had some guitar pedals, the main one was a simulated 303 filter, a late ‘60s toy stylophone, a Casio VL-1, I think, and mainly her SCI six-track synth which she had used on the last few albums.), sang, and in the second half of the set played some guitar. She and the others were quite unexpressive, and the only real show came from a young, tubby fan, who quite uniquely, and a bit effeminately, danced alone on the empty dancefloor. The rest of the crowd, though very receptive to the music, remained seated or leaning against the walls. Their music did get into some grooves, but retained a thoughtful, passive feel. What surprised me most was that the tapes that were used, seemed to contain countless guitars and keyboards, along with squawks and squeaks, alarm clocks and police sirens, the cumulative affect tending toward noisiness rather than beauty. This, I liked. After the show they left the stage to much applause, waited till it died out and then returned to the stage to pack up their equipment. When the crowd saw Takako returning they began clapping again, but she shook her head and waved off the applause and any chance of an encore. I was impressed that the rest of the evening she never left the club, but pleasantly spoke with anyone interested in speaking with her or obtaining her autograph. (Thanks to Nicholas D. Kent for all parenthetical info. There’s a link to his site ‘Japanese Electronic Music’ on the main page.)

 

Yuto Miyazawa

Yuto Miyazawa--Le Poisson Rouge--5/4/09
        This was my first show at Le Poisson Rouge. It’s such a ritzy place, I felt a little uncomfortable, but I was wearing a tie, so I fit right in. Everyone was on their best behavior, the staff were helpful, the sound and stage were very professional, and I ended up having a good time.
        I couldn’t find an announcement of the time of the show beforehand, but figuring that Yuto Miyazawa is only nine years old, I correctly assumed that it was going to be a fairly early evening, and Yuto Miyazawa and his support band took the stage shortly after 8PM. I had no real expectations, but there was a fairly good sized crowd to see this young guitarist on a Monday night, and fittingly, there were a number of young children in attendance, accompanied by their parents, of course. The adults included both young adults, and mature adults, and my guess is that they had a wide variety of reasons for deciding to check out Yuto Miyazawa, who recently was awarded by Guiness World Records the title of youngest professional guitarist. Most importantly, this is no joke. Yuto Miyazawa at nine years old can play the hell out of that guitar, and from what I understand, was impressive a year ago at the age of eight! His father told me after the show that he had taught him for about a year, and that Yuto currently takes one guitar lesson a week, but that mostly he is self-taught. On stage Yuto is a bit stiff at this point, though certainly not in his fingers, almost as if he is performing a recital. He mostly keeps his eyes on his guitar, and when he talks to the audience, he is often reading off a paper down at his feet. Past thanking the audience for their applause, I had some trouble understanding his comments, but the one I remember most clearly was, “I love guitar! I love New York!” His music of choice seems to be hard rock, classic rock, and classic hard rock. Some of the songs I happened to recognize included ‘Highway Star’, ‘Crossroads’, ‘Freebird’, ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, and ‘Purple Haze’. I’m not a big fan of the classic rock guitar technique tricks, but Yuto can do an amazing number of them, and he does them well. Wow! What a great starting place! Yuto will have a lot of time to make all that technique work for him, and to improve on his stiff performance. The fact is, he has more time than just about anyone. He’s way ahead of the game, and he already has a wonderful feel for the guitar. His backing band tonight consisted of Randy McStine on guitar, Ivan Bodley on bass, and Louie Appel on drums. They did a good, solid job playing the songs, presenting them with the heft they needed to rock, but without stealing the spotlight from Yuto Miyazawa. Yuto sang every song except ‘Freebird’, which Randy McStine handled. Yuto’s voice hasn’t changed yet, of course, so he doesn’t have much range, but he has a lot of time to work on that, too. He sang forthrightly, and put the English lyrics, they were all English lyrics, across well. It was an impressive show, and I felt a real joy seeing this kid get up, play like a master, and rock like he had no business doing. Occasionally, when a song had built up to a peak, Ivan Bodley would kneel down beside Yuto, and they would bang away at each other’s strings. It was obviously a kind of game, but it was the most honest emotion Yuto seemed to show during the set. Yuto was called back for an encore, and for that he played us an instrumental number, just him and his guitar. Oh yes, and his two guitars were a polka-dotted flying-V and a sunburst Les Paul. Happily, I saw Yuto after the show, happy, smiling, and behaving like a nine year old kid should. At one point while Louie Appel was breaking down his drumset, Yuto and he were messing about with the high hat cymbals. After playing around a bit, Louie took the top one off to pack it away, and Yuto took the bottom one off and balanced it on his head like a Chinese bamboo hat.

 

Moja

Jucifer/Moja/Suicide City/Black Water Rising/Mahavatar/Kite Operations/Travesty/Noirceur--Europa--7/11/08
        MOJA are a male/female duo out of Tokyo. Masumi plays drums, and Haru plays bass and handles the vocals. They came out. Haru set up two microphones, and Masumi let loose an attack on her drums, which must have tested every one of them several times, and probably acted as a bit of a warm-up. They then launched into one of their songs, then another, and then another. Each song galloped along. Masumi pummeled those drums in every song, and ended each one with a flurry. Haru, meanwhile, kept an active bassline going, and used a number of boxes to get a variety in his sound. The different microphones gave him a variety of vocal styles. One of the microphones was fed through at least one effects box. The other wasn’t. His vocals tended to be either like chants, or meditative hums. It was not like any kind of drum and bass act I’ve seen before. They got a very good reaction from the crowd. The rapid pace of their songs kept Masumi’s galloping drums rolling headlong forward, while Haru’

Moja/Marc Rizzo/Inhuman/Wisdom In Chains--Club Europa--12/7/08
        Genki Shock and WSOU Radio presented this free show at Club Europa which they called Clockwork Orange Music Festival. It featured a bunch of hardcore bands and MOJA from Japan. There was authentic moshing, which at one point even developed into a fight, but it was great to see MOJA again, who even got some moshers of their own going!
        MOJA were up next. They set up, and then Masumi, the drummer, put out some info and CDs of the band at the foot of the stage. After a couple of songs, Haru, the bassist and vocalist, announced that they were gifts for the audience, and that anyone who wanted them should take one. I had very much enjoyed seeing MOJA last time, so I was happy to get another chance. In a couple of months they’ll be releasing their first album in Japan, so I was interested to see if their sound had developed much since the last time I saw them. Haru plays a distorted bass guitar, and adjusts the distortion levels for almost every song. He has two microphones he uses. One of them distorts his vocals. He uses that one most, and it was positioned so that he had to lean over to sing into it. The other microphone, which seemed to handle his vocals more normally, was set so that he had to stand up on his tip-toes and yell up at it. He’s a very good bassist, and though his contributions to the songs don’t have a large amount of range, he does add a lot of energy and fire to the compositions. The last time I saw MOJA, Masumi seemed to play each song the same way, charging into them, playing every song at breakneck speed, and ending each song with a flurry of beats, as if chasing something around her drumset. Tonight she played in a more refined manner. Each song she handled differently, giving MOJA a broader range than they had had before. My favorite song tonight was a long one with lots of stops and starts. Several times I thought they had moved on to a new song, but then they would return to the main theme, and each time they did, it was rejuvenating, and had me rejoicing and excited about what they were doing. They took that song much farther than they took any of the others, and it was truly a rewarding experience. Each time they would take it in a new direction, then it would slow down, fade out, or stop, and they’d start it up again with the promise of a new resurgence. One of the nicest things about their set was that, though they both worked intensely on playing their instruments, they also regularly made eye contact, and it was wonderful to see how often both of them, but especially Masumi, would smile. Sometimes after making eye contact with Haru, Masumi would just beam, and her joy was contagious.

 

Mong Hang

Japan-Smacksdown-NYC: Do Thank Anal/10 Yen Ana Kinoko/Petit Mit/Bossston 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 wasn’t Japanese this time, which was nice to see, and Continental was the perfect club for this event.
        There was already a good crowd at Continental when MONG HANG took the stage. They are a seven-piece band and crowded the small Continental stage. There was a drummer, a percussionist, a keyboard/percussionist, two guitarists, a bass guitarist, and a rather theatrical singer in dreadlocks. Their music seemed to retain some Japanese tradition, but it had definitely been impinged on, twisted, and distorted into something refecting a more modern Japan. There was much fast-paced rock and ska going on, but about once per song, the beat would stop, or slow down, and an eerie jazz/experimental angle would creep into the songs. The singer behaved like it was all a surprise to him, and acted out one extreme emotion after another. It was a good performance of bold, original music, and I wish I had picked up a CD at the table before they sold out.

Mong Hang/Gelatine--Knitting Factory--5/21/02
        MONG HANG took a while setting up, and then went offstage to get into their stage costumes. The audience waited patiently, and eventually the band came out dressed completely in white. The bass-guitarist wore approximately seven silver half-inch neck rings, like the kind some tribes use when long necks are desirable. Actually his neck looked long enough to handle a couple more than he was wearing. The band is made up of a lead singer, two guitarists, the bass-guitarist, a drummer, and two percussionists on a wide variety of percussion instruments. Everybody in this band is an impressive musician, and the music they've created makes good use of their skills. It’s a very dramatic music, and that drama is acted out by several members of the band, but the lead singer especially overdramatizes every situation, and adds a nice dose of humor to the music, which otherwise might come off a bit too heady. With the humor, the variety of styles of the vocalist, and the occasional added vocals of the three guitarists, the music seems like the soundtrack of a strange stage musical, regularly jumping about from one time to another, covering hundreds of years, and quite a few cultures, as well. A number of these years and cultures probably exist only in the band’s rich imagination, but others sounded strangely familiar. The variety is exciting, and that combined with the individual skills of the musicians is truly a joy to experience. They were quickly called back for an encore, and the band was obviously pleased with the warm reception.

Gelatine/Mong Hang/Daiquiri/Dynamite Club--I.V.--7/30/03
        MONG HANG were up next. It was unfortunate that it took them so long to set up. They’ve trimmed down to six since the last time I saw them, but their two percussionists still have an amazing number of things to bang on, and so, to set up. I assured my friends, Bohdan and Fia, that it would be well worth the wait, and after the fact they agreed it had been. MONG HANG are incredibly versatile musicians. Tonight their percussionists set up in front of the stage, on either side. The bassist, drummer, and guitarist are all top notch, but it’s the wide selection of percussion instruments handled by the two percussionists that takes this band to the frontiers of its sound. The xylophone on one side was answered on the other by steel drums, and these exotic instruments, along with keyboards, and much more, provided the surprising flavors that made the intricate music come alive over and over again. The music itself is theatrical, but the various personalities of the band’s members are emphasized by their white costumes, each unique in its way. Ba, the lead singer and frontman, is easily the most theatrical of all, appearing with a headdress of plants, and, drinking from an old gourd, as if playing the character of the town’s drunken fool. His performance was animated, and he led the band through all manner of beauty and buffoonery.

Mong Hang/The Spunks/Kaminari--b.p.m.--8/8/03
        Two of MONG HANG came out and began playing. After that they mostly came out one by one, until the entire band was up on stage, joining in. Then the lead singer came out with his large headress of branches and peacock feathers, and the show commenced. Their music has such an enormous range there’s only so much of it you can take in, and it seems as if they arrange the pieces so that they contrast with the pieces surrounding them as much as is possible, rather than arranging them so that they flow from one style to another by degrees. There are moments when you can’t believe they’re creating this music in front of you. There are others when you can’t figure out how they’re doing it, and the majority of the show you’re trying to imagine where the current progression might take them, and, of course, you’re always wrong. There are a cappella sections, clapping sections, moments of theatre when the group engage in various bits of singing dialogue and sound effects. Plus, tonight, Cotton, of ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE, joined them on theremin for a couple of songs. The spacy whirring of her instrument added yet another dimension to their sound, and during the songs she accompanied them, the band went into a noticeably simpler, more improvised mode. Bohdan and Fia especially enjoyed her jersey, which read “D-GENERATION” on the back, and “SUCK IT” on the front. On the way home, their friend, Eric, exclaimed, “That was the best show I’ve ever seen!”

 

Mono

Mono--Mercury Lounge--11/9/00
        All I knew was they were from Japan. I asked the woman at the door if she knew anything about them, and she replied, “They’re loud.” That sounded good. A few others entered the club, but most of them were the band itself. There were still very few patrons when they took the stage. The guitarists began strumming away. Then the bassist added her part, and in a minute or so the drummer kicked in. The sound grew, and grew, and grew some more. It was a big beautiful sound that seemed to naturally expand through each song’s changes. There were no vocals, no microphones, and no introductions or talking of any kind--just the songs, played forcefully and respectfully. MONO generally seemed to be uncomfortable, easily explained by the fact they were playing to a nearly empty room, but they put their heart into it, and took the small audience on a wonderful trip. Their music reminded me of PINK FLOYD’s spacier pieces. I felt privileged to have been one of the few to experience this unique band.

Mono/Lama Doo Dah--CBGBs--3/14/01
        Mono set up its wall of amps. The guitarists laid out their arrays of effects boxes, and in not too long they were ready to go. Again, there were no introductions, lyrics, or between song patter of any kind. They were performing the material from Hey, You EP. It was good to see them with a reasonable sized audience to appreciate them. Though their performance concentrated on the musicianship, the audience did inspire them to move a bit during some of the more climactic moments of their songs. Mantra Rock is a perfect label for them. The songs tend to repeat the same chord patterns, but flow from intricate moments of beauty to roaring waves of rockin’ bliss. The audience was enthusiastic, and though they were forced to stop playing before they had planned to, they had already delivered a moving and impressive performance. It was good to see them again.

Mono--Tonic--11/11/01
        MONO were here to promote their first full-length CD, Under The Pipal Tree. The band took the stage quietly, and Takaakira Goto announced that they were MONO. At the end of the set he tried to use the lone microphone again, but as no one had used it since, they had turned it off. MONO presents itself through its music. From the amount of time they spend looking down and hiding behind their hair, you get the idea they would almost rather you close your eyes and just listen. The songs usually start delicately and sadly with just one guitar. As they proceed the other members of the band slowly join in, and the music gently swells. It hovers in the air tentatively searching for an outlet behind swirling guitars, until suddenly it bursts loudly into a beautiful fire of pounding sound. In that climax the bandmembers forcefully react to the music they’re creating, taking control of it with their bodies, like a wave crashing onto the shore. When the music softens again, they recede with it. The music is extraordinarily rich, and the absence of vocals seems to give it a purity. The last song ended in a noisy, uncontrolled free-for-all, until one by one the band left the stage, the roar of the guitars slowly finding a rhthmic pulse in the droning feedback.

Mono--Tonic--3/7/02
 
      I got there a bit later than planned, and MONO had already begun their set. Assured by the door-woman that they had just begun, I hurried in, and though I’d been rushing all day, and was preoccupied with recent events, and current plans, I was soon wrapped up in MONO’s delicate and beautiful soundscapes. Their songs start off gently, and then slowly build, growing into a rich world that soon seemed to have the majority of this audience as good as hypnotized. The drummer, Yasunori Takada, has added xylophone to some of the softer portions of their songs, and it’s a nice addition, giving him an opportunity to add to the music when drumming isn’t required. Having seen them several times now, the subtle interplay between the guitarists, Takaakira Goto and Yoda, was more apparent to me this time. Generally, the band concentrate on the music, but when they pull out the stops, Takaakira begins to twitch; bassist, Tamaki, begins to bounce; and Yoda wrenches himself through a set of strange calisthenics. In the very last song, when the band had built the music up to a powerful crescendo, Takaakira Goto sputtered into a lead more akin to a hot punk band, and shortly afterwards seemed to trip, collapsing backwards into the drumset. He then wrestled his amplifier into a horizontal position, coaxing feedback from it with the guitar. Both guitarists began playing their large assortment of boxes more than their guitars, and as the feedback rose and throbbed, one by one the bandmembers left the stage. Though this was a surprising addition to the Mono show, I was more surprised that the show was over. It seemed like they had just begun. Why were they quitting? But thinking back through the set I had just seen, I realized it was a reasonabe length. I had fallen under their spell, and the music had rolled me into a space where I wasn’t thinking about the passage of time.

Mono/Kinski--Tonic--4/11/03
        The sense of this pairing quickly became apparent. KINSKI, too, are a four-piece with a woman on bass guitar. Like MONO, they’re an instrumental band. Their songs were more rock structured than MONO’s, and they tended to accent beats, rather than sections of songs.
        When KINSKI stopped, it was getting a bit late and it seemed that the crowd immediately thinned a bit, but by the time MONO started up, most of the crowd had returned. Seeing them after KINSKI highlighted some of MONO’s qualities as a band. After all KINSKI’s synth effects, MONO’s sound comes off as incredibly natural. Their songs start off delicately and beautifully, repeating chord patterns over and over until they become a natural force. Often, songs build, rising in volume, as the drums begin pounding, and the chords from the guitars begin crashing down, like angry waves against a rocky shore. I’ve seen MONO many times now, and their natural, repetitive chord structures seem to immediately wash away my conception of time. It seems like they do less songs each time I see them, but their performance was more intense and self-assured than I remember previously. They truly become a force of nature, and when they reach the roaring peak of a song, it’s a climactic release. During the conclusion of the final song, Goto Takaakira, the first guitarist, launched into the only obvious solo of MONO’s set. He dropped down onto his knees, stretching notes, and wrenching feedback from his guitar to dramatically close the show. He continued this, as the rest of the band disappeared into the crowd, and finally, after satisfying himself, made his own way into the crowd.

Mono--Tonic--11/29/03
        It seemed like I hadn’t seen MONO in a long time, mostly because I had missed two earlier shows from this tour. It hadn’t been that long, but it seemed like the right time to see them again. I caught the end of MASERATI’s set, and watched the lengthy process of them breaking down, and then, MONO setting up. They set up their own equipment, and when they were ready, they began their set with no fanfare whatsoever. Much of their music is soft and delicately beautiful, but when the first song built in volume and began to roar, like a jet heading toward you up the runway, a number of people in the audience departed, mumbling things like, “It’s too loud!” They’re an awesome band. Their songs are very similar, in that, there are soft, beautiful, gentle moments, which either slowly grow, or suddenly erupt, into a frenzied roar, and then, often as not, subside back into a sweet flowing melody. The second guitarist, Yoda, generally handles the repeated melodies, while the first guitarist, Takaakira Goto, does exploratory work, interweaving with, and developing those melodies as he shapes the songs. I’m not sure, but I think they played four songs, which would fit with the natural sound of their songs, like the four seasons. The set lasted about an hour, so the songs are fully expanded on. Though each deal with similar dynamics, they are distinctly different melodies and structures. Each one flows like a force of nature over those dynamic peaks and valleys. The echo effects, regularly used by Takaakira Goto, give the songs a haunted feeling, and as they develop, they sweep you up into their majestic ebb and flow. The finale of the final song departed from their usual sound, as guitarist Takaakira flew into a kind of punk Hendrix climax. He twisted the guitar into every position imaginable, while the feedback roar reminded me of Hendrix’s ‘Wild Thing’ finale at Monterey. At another time I heard the roar of an oncoming train. It was magnificent, and though, when it subsided, there was a good amount of applause and calls for an encore, it was hard to imagine them following it up. They didn’t.

Mono/Asobi Seksu/Eluvium--Mercury Lounge--4/14/05
        I was there to see MONO and ASOBI SEKSU.
        MONO took the stage without saying a word. They hadn’t even set up any vocal microphones. Throughout the set, hecklers and exuberant fans were ignored equally. Takaakira Goto and Yoda, the two guitarists, were sitting down, as was Yasunori Takada, the drummer, which left Tamaki, the bassist, the only one standing during the first number. I was interested, so this time I counted the songs and dramatic explosions. They did five numbers total. The first had a slow gentle build up, finally reaching a dramatic crescendo like waves crashing on a beach. Throughout the set, whenever they quieted down after one of their crashing roars, the audience clapped enthusiastically, even though usually the song was not over and there was still a gentle, calming summation to come. For the second song, which had a similar structure to the first, the guitarists joined Tamaki and stood up. At times the three in front would sway back and forth with the music. At other times they would each move differently. Tamaki sometimes seemed to be moving impatiently. During one of the more dynamic moments Yoda, the second guitarist, busy creating a storm of guitar squall, seemed to be being yanked backward by the beat, as Takaakira pulled out long, haunting notes that twisted through the turbulence. The third song was shorter, soft, and delicate. All of their songs have delicate moments, and it was unfortunate that there were a few yahoos in the audience who decided these quieter moments were a good time to start up conversations. The bar in the next room would have been a better location for the pleasure of listening to themselves talk. The fourth song seemed to make up for the lack of a dynamic crescendo in the previous song, by providing two of them, with a delicate break in between, and another to refine the number. During the softer moments in the second half of the set, the drummer would lean forward, as if resting his head on the drums. In the fourth song, as the two guitars floated in the gentler currents, Tamaki moved back to her amp and turned her back on the audience. The closing number didn’t so much have a dynamic break, as it slowly rose up into a swirling roar, and then just as slowly subsided. There was no closing roar of feedback and effects tonight, no amplifiers wrestled to the ground. Either MONO had decided that the slowly thinning crowd didn’t deserve it, or that that wasn’t really what their music was about, but tonight, after taking us through a variety of storms and gentle eddies, MONO simply put their instruments down, and left the stage to the sound of some well-earned applause.

 

Moon Mama

Pika Yuka/Preacher And The Knife/Water Fai/Hard Nips/Moon Mama/Boats--Pianos--3/16/10
        Moon Mama set up her drums. Moon Mama is Pikacyu of AFRIRAMPO, so she not only had the cymbals, snare, and bass drum pedal, but she brought a second floor tom. She also had an electric guitar with several boxes. I had no idea what was going to happen, but the room was starting to get a little fuller. Moon Mama started off behind the drums. She tested them out first, and then sang a little while she started into a little drumming. Soon she stopped singing, and started concentrating on the drums. Then she began pounding them, and really let it out. She rocked it up well, and showed off what she can do. Then she came out front, strapped on the guitar, and announced, “That song was called ‘This Is Who I Am’.” She started off on the guitar softly, and gently strummed and picked out a tune. Her playing was fine. Her vocals had a certain folkiness, and she seemed fairly comfortable playing guitar for us. It didn’t take long for her, though, to turn up a bit and start using the pedals she had brought out. She quickly edged into some noisy guitar expression, and was rockin’ it well into the distortion. Once she had it up to where she wanted it, she used a pedal to loop it, and laid the guitar down. The distortion kept looping, and she got back behind the drums, and played along with it, really letting things out again. AFRIRAMPO hasn’t made an appearance here in a number of years, so it was good to see Pikacyu working those drums once more. I believe she sang and shouted out a bit more, and then she grabbed her floor tom, picked it up, beating it with a drum stick, headed out from behind the drums, took a leap off the stage, and ran through the crowd, all while still beating the drum. She ran all the way to the back of the room and then partially down the hallway, where she paused to concentrate on pounding the drum a bit more, then it was back through the crowd, back up on the stage, still pounding away on that drum. She put the drum down, and returned to the guitar. It was back to the softer strumming Pika, and she introduced her last song, ‘Okasan’, which she explained meant ‘Mother’, a song that she hoped all the children of the world would sing. It was a sweet song, until the very end, when she turned up again, and screamed a bit. It was a nice dramatic way to close the short, but strangely intriguing set.
        PIKA YUKA appeared with a guitarist. When Pikacyu announced that they would also have a guitarist with them, during the Moon Mama set, she claimed she had forgotten the name of his band. After the set she announced his name, but now I’ve forgotten it. He was good, and though it would have been interesting to see Pika and Yuka maneuver through their jam alone, he proved to be a nice addition. Throughout most of the jam he used his guitar quite subtly, but he did, now and then, take his turn to roar, as they all did. Yuka, who is Yuka Honda, formerly of Cibo Matto, may not have actually roared much, but when the jam settled down into a quiet, introspective contemplation, the sounds she came up with were the ones that stood out. The sounds of hers I remember most were like electronic wax dripping melodically into a steel drum. Pika followed at times, and led at others, singing ethereally at one point early in the set, and later, as the three of them raised their sound into an angry roar to close the set, Pika was screaming out in anger and smashing away at the drums. A couple of times during that final outburst, I thought I heard Pika yelling something about New York, but after the set she seemed very pleased, and happily shook hands and talked with the people and friends who wanted to share a few words with her before they left.

 

Muddy World

Muddy World--Tonic--320/07
 
     MUDDY WORLD, on Tzadik Records, are basically a jazz trio, though they do have the guitar, bass, and drums line-up. They occasionally step out of that mode with aggressive guitar attacks, but for the most part the barefoot guitarist picks out intricate runs. Often at the end of a song, he’d reach up as if plucking something out of the air. The bassist kept intricate runs going constantly. Occasionally the guitarist would drop out and just let the bassist go. The entire band was technically very good, and the songs were varied and interesting. Only one song had vocals, sung by the guitarist. I was surprised what a beautiful and plaintive voice he had. There weren’t many people there to enjoy the band, as they were the first band of the evening, but the small audience was appreciative. When they finished, I was out the door. OOIOO were playing down at Knitting Factory.

 

Mummy The Peepshow

Japan Nite 2000: Lolita No. 18/Polysics/Number Girl/Spoozys/Mummy The Peepshow--CBGBs--3/20/00
        What a great night! I can't remember the last time I saw five bands in a row that were all good!
        MUMMY THE PEEPSHOW opened up the show and came out dressed in matching outfits. I was familiar with them and expected them to be a bit more punk than they were. They seemed to be going for more of a pop thing. Some of the vocal parts were worked out quite well, and they’ve got some very good songs. They are definitely clever, and when their technique gets past the amateurish, their songwriting is gonna make them a strong band. Besides the songwriting, what puts them over now is their performance. They obviously enjoy what they’re doing, and it’s contagious.

 

My Way My Love

My Way My Love/Vibration/No One & The Somebodies--North Six--1/7/05
        MY WAY MY LOVE set up, and before long a couple of recordings slid up into the mix. The bassist tested his megaphone, the drummer thumped around his kit a bit, the guitarist ran his various effects boxes through a few of their tricks, tested the microphone, and the collage of sounds hinted that I might be in for a set by the latest Japanese noise band. Suddenly, all together, the trio hit a loud accent, and launched into some rocking that was still quite noisy, but had my attention. The guitarist, Yukio, was wearing an Evil Dead II T-shirt. The bassist had a naked doll hanging from his amplifier, and the drummer was wearing a T-shirt reading, “Tokyo Fuckin City”, which now and again elicited that cry from the audience. The remainder of the set contained a wide range, from soft, quite beautiful, pop ballad moments, to lots of hard rocking, wailing guitar, more prerecorded effects tapes, the bassist occasionally shouting through the megaphone, and a good number of hot riffs, often interspersed together in the same song. It was a rocking set that just seemed to get better and wilder as it went on. Sometimes the guitarist was on his knees, at other times bent over, concentrating on his guitar playing, and when not at the microphone, or messing with his effects, he was all over the stage, flipping his guitar and body around in a wide variety of rocking contortions. Two thirds of the way through the set, he threw himself backwards across the stage onto the drummer’s set, knocking drums and cymbals in all directions. There he was, lying flat on the stage amidst the scattered drums. The drummer, after a quick look of disgust at the damage done to his kit, stood up and left the stage, followed by the bassist. When the applause died down, Yukio asked if we’d like to hear some more, and after some cheers he apologized, “We have more to play. Sorry, I got excited.” He called the rhythm section back, helped the drummer put his kit back together, and as the drummer made some final adjustments, started into a beautiful song on his own. When things were set right, they launched into a few more rocking songs, climaxing with another backwards flight into the drumset. With the drums scattered on the floor once more, the entire trio left the stage. Afterwards, Mina, who had emailed me about My Way My Love’s shows, which otherwise I would have been unaware of, introduced herself, and then introduced me to Yukio. Thanks Mina! I look forward to seeing their show tomorrow night at Knitting Factory.

My Way My Love--Knitting Factory--1/8/05
 
      Aimee and Dan happened to join me tonight. When we walked in we were told that BLUE VELVET would be on next, but very soon MY WAY MY LOVE began setting up, which was just fine. Knitting Factory’s Old Office is in the basement, and the stage area is so small that MY WAY MY LOVE, and probably most other bands, were forced to take up about a third of the floor area, too. During the set up, I paid closer attention the bassist’s bullhorn, and it seems to be attached to an old lamp stand, and there’s a microphone taped inside it. The tune up, checking of mics, and testing of the effects boxes was reduced, seemingly in proportion to the size of the room. I also noticed tonight that the tapes I occasionally heard playing last night were probably going on continuously, but can generally only be heard between songs, or when the band is playing very softly. Mina informed me, after the set, that they had played the same songs as last night, but Yukio, the guitarist, had less room to move, so he moved less. The songs seemed to have more of a consistent throb tonight, though, of course, there were some pop moments, and some wonderful, wailing guitar episodes. The smaller, basement area seemed to reduce Yukio’s excitement level, resulting in no flights into the drumset, and therefore no resetting up of the drums, shortening the length of the set. Their was a good audience for the small room, and the reaction to the band was warm and enthusiastic. Aimee and Dan both liked them, and Dan quoted me a couple of audience comments he had overheard. One young man was heard to say to a friend, “They’re going to be a hard band to follow.” and another claimed, “This band is my new favorite band!”

 

Nananine

Japan Nite 2002: Bleachmobile/The Salinger/ Understatements/Bonkin’ Clapper/Nananine/Clammbon--Elbow Room--3/18/02
        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.
        NANANINE were up next. They, too, made attempts at English, but were the last to bother. Most of the audience was Japanese anyway, so it was hardly worth it. NANANINE are a standard four-piece. Their music is quite charming, the kind of uplifting beat-group pop you don’t hear anymore. They’re a young group, and the music was energetic, and fun. Best of all, they were having a great time playing it. The lead guitarist had some very nice riffs, and the bassist was the showman of the band, jumping about, and encouraging feedback from the audience. Their performance was as energetic as their music, and they even made a point of playing a song in English for us. Things were going well.

 

Natural Calamity

Cornelius/Natural Calamity/P.J. Olsson--Bowery Ballroom--11/9/98
        NATURAL CALAMITY came out. They included five Japanese: a drummer, a bass guitarist, a guitarist, a guy who played with a table full of boxes and a distorting microphone, and another guy who played keyboards and more boxes. They also had an English woman singing lead. She wore a T-shirt with a picture of a woman’s upper torso on it. That was probably my favorite thing about the show, unfortunately. They tended toward slow funk/soul grooves, with odd electronic distortion coloring the sound. Her vocal ability was quite limited, but she never tried to surpass it, and was pleasant enough. The lyrics were quite unchallenging and might have been improvised on the spot for all it mattered, but I’m sure they weren’t. I talked a little with the bass guitarist after the show and he seemed a very nice guy.

 

The Neat Beats

The Neat Beats--Mercury Lounge--11/8/99
        Akiko (of THE PLUNGERS) told me about this show last night. I’m glad she did, because I hadn’t noticed it, and it was well worth seeing. Yes, in their suits and ties, they were neat, and they definitely had a beat. After the first song there were no real surprises, except how incredibly well they recreated the early ‘60s beat bands. Technically, they were impressively slick, and they rocked with a clean, positive joy that I haven’t seen in ages. Their hair was slicked back and their schtick was down. A DAVE CLARK FIVE ballad was presented respectfully with charm, and THE ZOMBIES’ ‘Tell Her No’ was also given a wonderful treatment. Otherwise, they covered many of the early rockers that inspired the beat bands, and sprinkled in originals that fit perfectly with the rest of the material. Many in the small crowd expressed their appreciation by dancing, and when the band finally left the stage there were many smiling faces.

 

Ni-Hao

Afrirampo/Ni-Hao--Japan Society--12/8/06
        The Japan Society has a beautiful theatre, and I’ve seen many movies there, but this was the first real rock show I’ve attended there. The assigned seating was the biggest surprise, but I had bought my ticket early enough to be fairly close to the stage. Photos were not allowed, though I noticed various camera phones documenting the event. The seats are comfortable, and it was nice to see the bands in a “high-art” setting, on a big stage with professional lighting.
        NI-HAO came out, dressed in their colors, and took a bow before beginning their set. They are a trio, and refer to themselves as “Blue”, “Red”, and “Green”. “Blue” is Yukari, who began playing bass, and also plays bass in LIMITED EXPRESS (HAS GONE?). “Red” is Ariko, who also began playing bass, and “Green” is Leo, who began on drums. They all sang, and that was when things took off. Their three voices, singing together, were animated and joyful. Yukari’s bass was set at a higher pitch, and kind of took the leads, as she plucked the strings with her fingers. Ariko used a pick and played her bass more traditionally, but sometimes quite subtly. Leo kept her drumming simple, though the rhythms and speeds changed quickly, and often. The songs were strange, quirky, and often seemed unfinished, but the spirited vocal arrangements, which were sometimes marvelously intricate, and at other times seemed partially improvised, always brought some joy to the mix. After about five songs they all switched instruments. Yukari took over the drums, which wasn’t an improvement. Leo moved to keyboards, and Ariko moved over to a small box which she manipulated to play recordings and add effects. She handled it artfully, always returning to the recordings exactly on the beat, and it was nice to hear the band stretching their range in a playful manner. After about four songs in that set-up, they swittched back to the original two bass set-up, and closed out the show with another five songs or so. Yukari really seemed to loosen up toward the end of the set, and the band got into some stronger rock grooves. Yukari’s bass led those songs, but her bandmates were right behind her. My favorite moment, was when I realized that part of a multi-structured song--their structures generally tended toward the unpredictable--was a cover of JACKSON FIVE’s ‘ABC’.

 

Noodles

Brain Failure/Hang On The Box/Peelander-Z/Noodles/Gito Gito Hustler/The Spunks--Siberia--10/23/03
        I was told that CMJ pretty much rejected the idea of an Asian Night. That at the last minute Siberia, partially because they wanted to be involved with the CMJ festival, volunteered to host the Asian Night. I also heard several young men with big smiles on their faces congratulating themselves, after seeing several of the bands, because, “We made the right choice!” You’ve got to wonder though, why anybody would put an Asian night on at a place with no stage. Siberia doesn’t even have a drum stand, so it was pretty much a night of watching the bands, seven of them, between other people’s heads. In spite of that, it was a great night!
        NOODLES were up next. They had the same formation as GITO GITO HUSTLER, four women with two guitarists, but they did not have that band’s energy. In fact, Junko, on guitar, and Ikuno, on bass, almost seemed to wish they weren’t there. They regularly hung their heads, and generally stayed in a very small area of the stage. They gave us no reason to complain about their playing, though. The band was tight, and served up an interesting variety of somber songs, most of which seemed to involve the imperfections of life and love. The drummer, Ayumi, was working it, and kept the songs moving along, and they did pick up the pace a bit toward the end of the set. Yoko, on vocal and guitar, was the front woman, and though she didn’t bother talking with the audience much, she was obviously putting her heart into it. She regularly closed her eyes when she sang, and it gave the impression that she was keeping in touch with the truth of her soulful message. They are a unique band, and though their lack of presentation leaves their songs to speak for themselves, their material is strong enough to hold its own. Many of their strongest songs were structured around walking guitar lines, and as their set came to a close, it seemed they had saved their best material, and one of their hardest rockers, for the end. They could use some work on their presentation, but they concentrated on playing their material, and they earned our respect.

Japanese Girls Samurai Tour ‘04: Bleach/Petty Booka/Noodles/Kokeshi Doll--Knitting Factory Tap Room--3/23/04
        NOODLES set up quickly, and the opening guitar chords of the first song surprised me. They opened with some of their strongest material, and the first few songs seemed more polished than I had remembered them. The bassist and lead guitarist still seem to be wishing that they weren’t there, and concentrating on their instruments in an effort to forget the audience. Yoko, the lead singer/guitarist, seemed much less somber this time out, and actually was showing a certain amount of exuberance. Ayumi, on drums, kept the beat lively, and the band was putting the songs across well. The mournfulness I remembered seemed to have been replaced with a certain amount of catchiness. About four songs into the set they surprised me again by covering The Buzzcocks’ ‘Ever Fallen In Love’. Yoko sweetly confessed her fondness for New York and the audience, and the joy kept growing. A few of the numbers in the middle of the set seemed to drag a bit, but the simple early BEATLES-style guitar solos and the warmth of the arrangements carried them through. They wound things up with a few more winners they had saved up, and brought their set to a solid close.

Pillows/Daddy/Noodles/Future 86--Pianos--3/20/05
        When NOODLES began their set, I edged up to get in a good position for photos. I was interested to see how their sound might have changed since their lead guitarist had left the band. Their sound is a bit more sparce now, but it kind of fits their alterna-pop sound, and they seem to have worked a bit more on their back-up vocals. Sometimes all three of them were contributing vocals, and all three of them talked with the audience at various times. Yoko, the singer/guitarist, pointed out that this was their third time in New York City. “I love New York City. I want to live here!” she continued. At that point I overheard somebody behind me say, “I’m starting to like this band!” Later, while Yoko was tuning up, Ayumi, the drummer, slyly waved to the audience, and said, “Hi!” Then she asked, “Are you high?” She paused, and then with a smile continued, “I feel fine, too!” The songs are still sweet and passionate, and Yoko sings them with feeling. The bassist, Ikuno, still tends to hang out toward the rear of the stage, when she’s not singing, but Ayumi keeps the beat energetic, and the band, who’ve been together now for ten years, are tight. At one point, I saw Ikuno a bit lost, and trying to figure out where in the song they were, but by the time Yoko took the song back into the next verse, Ikuno was right with her, and Ayumi had kept the beat coming steady and strong. They’re a charming band.

Japan Girls Nite: Gitogito Hustler/Bleach 03/Noodles/Falsies On Heat/Red Bacteria Vacuum--Bowery Ballroom--10/21/07
        Wow! What a night! This special Japan Girls Nite ‘07, brought to us by Audrey Kimura of Sister/Benten Records, is only happening once, right here in New York, and was lots of fun, but then, I knew it would be. The crowd wasn’t that big, but it was OK for a Sunday night, and the crowd was enthusiastically enjoying themselves more and more as the night went on. Interested in getting an OK to photograph the event, I had warned Audrey that Bowery Ballroom was usually very strict about photography, so I found it humorous when I saw a bouncer, who had that night accused me of videotaping, pulling Audrey aside for videotaping her own show. Oh yeah, and I think every band told us that they loved New York, though one of the guitarists of FALSIES ON HEAT may have spit and pretended to heave shortly after telling us how much she loved our city.
        In a few minutes, NOODLES were up to entertain us. They did this with their attractive pop songs. They’ve been a trio now for a while, and seemed to have improved a good deal since the last time I saw them, several years ago. Yoko leads this band on guitar and vocals, and is supported by Ikuno on bass, and Ayumi on drums. Again, the rhythm section is tight and keeps the music smooth and rocking at a good pace. Their music doesn’t have a wide variety, but they do rock things up a good deal now and then, and at one point toward the end of the set they slipped in a cover of THE BUZZCOCKS’ ‘Ever Fallen In Love’. Early on, Yoko told us about the beautiful view she had seen at the top of the Empire State building, and, of course, that she loved New York. Later, while bassist Ikuno retuned, she told us the same exact story, without a telltale smile. Just the same, Yoko’s songs have a sincerity you’ve got to believe. Her guitar playing won’t set houses afire, but her vocals are sweet and soulful. She’s obviously singing from her heart, and it warms her songs and makes them real. Her emotions are what keep this band going. It was good to see them again.

Pillows/Noodles--Blender Theater--3/21/08
        It was an interesting evening. The place was sold out. I got there half an hour after the doors opened, and there was still a line that went about a third of the way around the block, and it was barely moving. Thankfully, the bands didn’t start until everyone was in. It was also interesting that it was a younger crowd than I’m used to, which was nice, and promises a good future for Japanese rock music. Also, it was nice because I got to practice some more with my new camera.
        NOODLES were the first out, and they got a good reception. The crowd let them know we were happy to see them. Singer/guitarist, Yoko, soon reminded us that they had been here in October, and let us know that they were very happy to be back in New York. I was impressed by how punchy they sounded. Early in the set, Ayumi’s bass drum pedal was just pumpin’ away. Ikuno’s bass was pumping along, too, but, most noticeably, Yoko’s rhythm guitar work was punching things along, too, in a way I haven’t noticed her playing before. Her leads still tended to be slow and tentative, but her rhythm was really propelling the songs along. The first half of the set really rocked, and I was quite impressed. Many of the songs were quite catchy, too. Of course, the rockin’est song of their set, as usual, was THE BUZZCOCKS’ ‘Ever Fallen In Love’. After that one the set lost some momentum, but overall it was good, and they got a very warm reception from the audience. It was nice to see them go over so well with a sold-out audience in a good sized place, and they invited everyone to come see them tomorrow night at Magnetic Field.

 

Numb

Numb/Macarthur A Contti/Claire Lise--Pianos--10/29/06
 
      That same fellow commented that following MACARTHUR A CONTTI might not be a very desirable thing. NUMB was the name of the band that task fell to. They started off with a woman on drums, and a man on acoustic guitar. His guitar playing was quite good, with some nice fingerwork. His vocals were very good, too, and very emotive. At some points his vocal style reminded me of Richie Havens, though he sang in Japanese. He often lifted his right foot up off the floor as he sang, expressing a certain intensity. The drummer was quite emotive, as well. She was a good drummer, and though she didn’t hit the drums hard, you could tell she was feeling every single contact with her drums. She would lean back, raise her arms up, and then attack the drums with another expressive volley of beats. After a few songs they were joined by an electric guitarist. The acoustic guitarist/singer mostly reduced his guitar technique to strumming once the electric guitarist joined them. The electric guitarist was impressive. His playing was fluid, and often fast. At first it seemed a kind of classical guitar style, but honestly, he played a number of different styles, and played them all well. So well, it was difficult to believe he was reading the music as he played it, but he did have a booklet opened on the stool before him. At a point late in the set, the drummer switched to a wooden box, and tapped on that with her hands for one song. The songs and singer had very much of a folk styling, The drums added a certain amount of rock to the mix, and her expressive drumming was fun to watch.

 

Number Girl

Japan Nite 2000: Lolita No. 18/Polysics/Number Girl/Spoozys/Mummy The Peepshow--CBGBs--3/20/00
        What a great night! I can’t remember the last time I saw five bands in a row that were all good!
        I wasn’t familiar with NUMBER GIRL previously. They took a bit longer to grow on me, but did have depth. Many of their songs switched gears from softer melodic interplay, some of it beautiful, through to emphatic emotional outbursts. Both the guitarists, male and female, were impressive, and the rhythm section were no slouches either. I was a bit disappointed in the limited vocals of the male guitarist, and kept wishing that someone else in the band would help him out, but when the songs rose up and his vocals became impassioned expressions of angst, you couldn’t help but believe him. He also won me over early in the set when he announced to the audience that he realised he wasn’t cool. They’re a good rockin’ band and impressed me enough that I picked up one of their CDs on the way out the door. Unfortunately, none of the other bands were offering theirs.


& Others--Live (O-R)