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 wasnt 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.
FALSIES ON HEAT were up next. Theyre a quartet. My friend Roger, who really liked them, told me they reminded him of New York No Wave. To me, they sounded like quirky for kicks pop music. Their music had a cute aspect to it. The drummer and bassist were good, and kept the songs together and rolling. The two guitarists, who both sang, though technically a bit wanting as guitarists, gave each of the songs the peculiar qualities that kept them unique. They often added cute little lead lines that sounded like advertising jingles to songs that otherwise loped along to a comfortable rock beat. Best of all, one of the guitarists, would flirt with the audience, then raise her eyebrows and let us know she was taking the piss out of us. She didnt really seem to have any more respect for the music they were playing. Several times she got down on the stage on her back, kicking her legs up, and when the drummer had to run off stage to replace the snare, she was happy to keep us entertained. She, apparently, was the comedian of the group. Their songs didnt always work, but they kept things interesting with their clowning and their sonic curveballs. Oddest of all was the bassist, who played well, but, except when she was singing, kept her back to the audience at all times. I mentioned this to her and some of her friends later, and was told that she was shy and being mysterious. I couldnt get past it being a bit weird, but that fit perfectly in this band. They were having a good time in their own peculiar way. By the by, RED BACTERIA VACUUM and FALSIES ON HEAT are headed over to the west coast next for four dates. Check em out for yourself!
Falsies On Heat/Carnal Knowledge--Cake Shop--9/20/08
Tonight The Cake Shop had go-go boys dancing in their underwear between sets. I dont know if thats a regular thing now, or a sly comment on a night of female led punk bands.
FALSIES ON HEAT fit the bill of female led punk bands, but were obviously technically a bit more together than the others I saw tonight. They have two guitarists and a bassist up front, all female, and a male drummer. Tonight they didnt have as much chit-chat with the crowd as the last time I saw them, and stuck to aggressive punk rock. Many of their lyrics are in English, and apparently tend toward a humorous sense of being outrageous. How funny they actually are is a bit hard to tell, as their accents make it difficult to decipher the lyrics, but the one song which J.C. had spelled out for me beforehand, involved picking their noses and spitting on your face. Wakame, the guitarist who sings the most, certainly seemed to be having a good time, sometimes even laughing outright as they performed the songs, and regularly getting down on the floor and rolling around with her guitar. The rhythm section concentrated on their playing, and Maki, the bassist, again mostly kept her back to the audience except when singing back-up. She says she does it because shes shy. Except for Hiro, the drummer, everyone in this band turned their back on the audience now and again. Im beginning to think its just part of their contrary punk nature. Im still not sure what I think of FALSIES ON HEAT, but they got a good response from the small, but crowded, room tonight.
Bakubeni/Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re/The Notorious MSG/Echostream/Quaff/Minirex/Falsies
On Heat--Knitting Factory--9/27/08
FETES (Far East To East Showcase), put on by KarateRice in association with The New York Animation Festival was a big night for us fans of Japanese rock. There was a good crowd, including lots of folks from the animation festival. The biggest negative was the guy running the lighting. Whenever a band got the slightest bit intense, his response was to turn off all the stage lights, except for the lights which shined on the band from behind, leaving the bands backlit, and regularly blinding the audience. As fans, we often say were going to see a band, but with that kind of lighting, most of the time we couldnt see them at all. It got worse as the evening went on. The other noticeable negative was that the evening ran late, and after midnight and THE NOTORIOUS MSGs set many people went home, leaving TSU SHI MA MI RE and BAKUBENI to play to a much smaller crowd. Throughout the night, the show was hosted by the silliness of Kaiju Big Battel.
FALSIES ON HEAT opened up the night in good style, and got to close their week long New York tour at the best venue they played. They responded by putting on the best performance of that short tour. They rocked it hard, and seemed to be getting a real kick out of it. They played their set with a long string of paper cut-outs strung across the stage from the left microphone stand to the right one. I wasnt close enough to see what they were, but on closer inspection they seem to be a sprouting garden of cocks. Wakame at one point bent under the string of cut-outs to perform a song out at the front of the stage. She also did her usual rolling around on the stage, and even climbed up on top of her amp several times, once performing an entire song from the top of her amp. She had rigged a microphone stand so that she could sing from there. It was something I believe Ive never seen before. The lighting wasnt so bad for FALSIES ON HEAT, though it soon became atrocious. The sound was as good as weve come to expect from Knitting Factory, and showed off the odd lead lines that Wakame and Satomi ornament their songs with, and those unique lead lines bring out an odd pop feel to the punk rock this band plays. Satomi does a good bit of the singing, and tonight she was the one who most often spoke to the audience. Even Maki, the bassist, gets to sing some of the lead, though mostly she sings back-up vocals. Her vocals are the angriest of the band, and they seem to remain angry, no matter what shes singing. Again she usually kept her back to the audience except when she was singing. If nothing else, it shows off her long black hair, which hangs down well below her hips. It was nice to see them have such a triumphant set on the night before they fly back to Japan.
Qypthone/Himawari/Creme Blush/Spoozys/Peelander-Z/Condor 44/Fantasys
Core--New York -- Tokyo Music Festival--5/26/02
This night of the New York -- Tokyo Music Festival was quite the success. Lets hope it does become an annual event! The pier was a nice place to be. The wide variety of bands was intriguing. The MC regularly mispronounced the bands names, when he knew them at all, but thats a small complaint. The bands set up quickly and kept coming.
FANTASYS CORE opened up the night. Unfortunately there werent many people there yet to enjoy their rockin set. It didnt seem to phase them. The five piece band, with two guitarists and a lead singer with a racing stripe of war-paint down the center of his face are a rockin beat band. Theyve got some nice songs, and the singer puts on a show and was obviously having a great time. There was some goofiness with a toy light sabor, and twenty or so plastic balls slapped out into the audience with a racquetball racket, but frankly, this band doesnt need the goofball schtick. The blues based rock they bash out is tight and mean. Sure, youve heard these riffs before, but the rhythm guitarist was dead on, the lead guitarist cranked, and the singers vocals outshone any of his stage antics.
Fantasys Core--Meow Mix--3/26/04
When Ryota and I arrived, FANTASYS CORE was setting up, but it was still early and not many people had arrived. Mao Karisu, the singer, was walking around with his racing stripe running down the middle of his face. Unfortunately, only a few more people had joined us when they kicked into their set. This is a rock band, and they do know how to rock. A couple of times during the set Mao announced, I dont know how to speak English well, but I know how to speak rock, and rock they did. With a standard two guitar line-up, they played through a strong set with an above average number of catchy hooks. Many of the songs are composed of standard blues-based rock riffs, but they often found ways to spice those up, by paddling small balls out into the audience, or playing call and response games with the small but enthusiastic crowd. Tonight, because of the small stage, the bassist was placed directly behind one of the guitarists. Maybe, in compensation, he was the loudest one in the band tonight. The last time I saw them I had noticed how good both the guitarists were, but with the bass so loud tonight, it became very apparent what a wonderful addition he is to the band. Aside from the racing stripe and a few odd props they havent really added any new ideas to the standard rock equation, but they do a damn good job of using tried and true riffs to rock up a good party, and Maos antics keep things entertaining. I believe their material has improved a bit since last time I saw them, too. At the end of the set they received enthusiastic applause and yells from the small audience, and though they obviously hadnt planned to, they were coaxed back up on stage for two more numbers. It was good to see them again, and a shame that the majority of the crowd didnt arrive until well after they had packed up their instruments for the night.
Fantasys Core/Chris Glover--Sin-é--3/29/05
FANTASYS CORE had a bit of trouble setting up. Mao Karisu, the lead vocalist with a white stripe down his face, was taking some test jumps to keep his energy level up, but eventually things were straightened out, and he joined the rest of the band on stage. Once they got started, there was no stopping them. They went from one song straight into the next thoughout the set. Even when Mao was talking with the audience, or whacking plastic balls out at us with a small racket, there was usually something like an opening bass line being repeated, and the rest of the band always knew exactly when to kick in. The material has expanded a bit since last time I saw FANTASYS CORE. Some of the newer songs have slower passages that had a kind of spacy/psychedelic feel, but even those songs had rockin portions where the tempo picked up, and those uptempo sections sometimes presented a rockin comic edge, especially with Maos exaggerated movements. The guitarist in the pin-stripe suit also did a good bit of classic jumping about. The entire band wears suits, making them one of the better dressed bands in the business, and their two-guitar rockin attack is formidable. To open the set, Mao had pulled out his light saber and stabbed himself through the head. To close the set, the light saber came out once again, and he stabbed himself in the chest. I was told the band will be playing Boston tomorrow, so dont worry. The invincible Mao survived both suicide attempts, and will wield his light sabor into the future.
Fantasys Core/Kung-Fu Grip/Randy Nerve!--Southpaw--11/8/06
FANTASYS CORE came out and rocked the small crowd with energy and flash. Mao, the lead singer, was wearing his white racing stripe down the center of his face, and they were there to rock! Mao started off with a light sabor, which he pantomimed stabbing himself in the head with. It was not the last prop, and it was not the last schtick weve seen before. I dont speak English, he said, though actually he seems to speak English fairly well, but I speak rock and roll! That always gets a good cheer. It didnt take him long to win over this small crowd. He had them rooting for FANTASYS CORE in practically no time at all, and they are a band well worth rooting for. Theyre a classic rock band. Mao puts on a show, and the band are a tight, disciplined rock band. The drummer is right there. The bassist is subtle, but artful, and either of the two guitarists can lay out a lead that puts just the right edge on a song. Together, they are a strong rockin band. Mao moves about the stage constantly, clowning, jumping, dancing, entertaining and inciting the audience, and hes a good singer, too. The material is fairly standard rock music, with some nice pop touches that give it flash, but Ive seen this band a number of times now, and they always put on a very enjoyable show. Hey, they rock!
I arrived just as MOTION TURNS IT ON was breaking down their equipment. Soon, FANTASYS CORE was setting up, and it wasnt long before Mao Karisu, FANTASYS COREs leader and lead singer, started a dialogue with the audience by chanting and encouraging the audience to join him. As always, he wore a white racing stripe down the center of his face. Fairly quickly, the band launched into their first song, and the set was underway. They are a very tight band, and went from one song into the next with no noticeable cues. Mao is still using various props, but their importance in the stage show seems to have diminished a bit, as if now they just keep him busy in between his various dancing, jumping, and stalking of the stage. This band can play, and what they play is rock. After a few songs, Derek, of MOTION TURNS IT ON jumped up on stage with them and held up the titles of the songs written out on large pieces of paper. Perhaps that was to make sure the audience could understand, but most of the titles were in English, and Maos pronunciation is pretty good these days, even if his English isnt. Or, as he says, I dont speak English, but I speak rock n roll! Mao moves about the stage a good deal in a very theatrical manner, and the rest of the band plays enthusiastically behind him. Only one song slowed down the pace a bit, and in it a classic guitar riff was played by both the guitarists, but they took turns, each playing a bit of the riff, and then allowing the other to play part of it. Then it was back to the rocking. The final song built up to a crescendo, and then they held it there, pumping the finale of the song until it didnt seem they knew how to stop it. One by one, each member of the band took a solo as the rest of the band stopped, when they stopped, they would jump into the air, and the rest of the band would start in again. When everyone had had their chance, they pumped things up one last time, and then all jumped up into the air, finally finishing the song and their set.
Far East Native/Drag Citizen/Peelander-Z--CBGBs--9/28/03
BoogieWoogieCafe.Com, a New York based internet radio station (in Japanese), presented this, and used it to create and celebrate their 100th show.
FAR EAST NATIVE are a hard rock trio. They started out with a rendition of The Star Spangled Banner on harmonica, and after a song, the guitarist/singer did a short speech to the audience in English. Later, there were longer speeches in Japanese by both him and the bassist, but mostly those speeches seemed to be addressed to the video cameras, and radio audience. As the set went on, they very much convinced me what excellent musicians all three of them are. I was especially impressed with the bassist, who regularly laid down very nice runs that brought out a melodious aspect not usually associated with the bass guitar in rock. The material was well written, and diverse. It included beautiful power ballads and hard rockers that showed off the bands prowess quite well. Unfortunately, their music, though very well done, stays in a standard rock format. It gives us an example of how it can be done well, but doesnt add to the mix. The most dramatic moment of their show was a tape that played in English about the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. The band stood still on the stage while the tape played, and the audience responded with silence. Then the band launched into one of their most powerful rockers. Theyre a talented band, and if you are looking for an example of how standard hard rock can be done well, theyll fill the bill.
Flight Of Idea/The Vondells/Crusher/Sweet Machine--Cave Canem--10/18/07
This was a Frank Wood, anti-CMJ party, as he said a number of times. There were nine bands, and it was only $5.00. Unfortunately, some of the bands decided that since there were nine bands, theyd play shorter sets. It was my first visit to Cave Canem. Its in Lucky Chengs basement, and is a standard rock n roll dive, but Frank Woods razzle-dazzle kept things hoppin.
FLIGHT OF IDEA are a rock band with a poet out front on vocals and saxophone. The band are a drummer, a bassist, and a guitarist. Technically theyre good. They can play, but tonight they only played about three or four songs. The second song, the singer introduced as an improvisation. It was definitely looser, and more chaotic than the others, but none of the songs seemed to have much structure. The band made a lot of noise, and the drummer kept the pace rocking, but the most interesting things were the bassists jumping around, and the squawking of the saxophone when the singer had finished his verbal attack. The bassist bounced out into the audience once, and stayed there for a while. He seemed to be having a good time. The guitarist made a lot of use of his distortion effects, and his guitar seemed to squeal a good deal as the band charged out into the unknown. The singer often appears without the band as a poet. His vocals seemed to be pretty much a poetry rant, which would perhaps have been more interesting to an audience that understood Japanese. I did enjoy his outbursts on the saxophone, but it was all over before I could make it past the chaos.
Japan Nite 2009: Detroit7/Asakusa Jinta/Grapevine/SA/Sparta Locals/Omodaka/Flip--Bowery Ballroom--3/22/09
Ah, Japan Nite 2009! Japan Nite has become a tradition. Once a year, Audrey Kimura, of Benten/Sister Records organizes the Japanese bands for SXSW, and after the SXSW shows, she takes a bunch of the bands on a short, but slowly expanding, tour of some of the bigger cities of the United States. Thankfully, New York has always been included. Sometimes Audrey comes back later in the year, but the March Japan Nite show has become a tradition, and it’s often the best show of the year. This year she brought seven Japanese bands. Wow!
FLIP opened up the night. They’re a four piece, all female band, from Okinawa. Of course, it was two guitars, a bass, and a drummer. The rhythm guitarist was the lead singer. Surprisingly, they were neither a spunky pop band, nor a spunky punk band. They were a well rounded alterna band. They played well, and their songs were good. Every song was uptempo, and every song had some nice and catchy hooks. There was nothing particularly special about FLIP, but they were a good solid band. You can’t beat good hooks, and their material had a wide enough range to keep them interesting. Unfortunately, they were the first band, and they had the shortest set of the night. During the last song, the lead singer/guitarist bent over and rammed the microphone stand with her head, knocking it over. Immediately, a stagehand rushed out and picked the microphone stand up for her, but she managed to knock it over again pretty quickly. Hey, a little theater is a good thing. When their set ended, I still wanted to hear more, so I did the sensible thing. I walked downstairs and bought their CD. With it I got a piece of Okinawa candy, which was delicious, tasting largely of brown sugar.
Flower Travellin’ Band/Endless Boogie--The Studio--3/14/09
It was good to have my friends ENDLESS BOOGIE opening up for FLOWER TRAVELLIN’ BAND. The Studio is a smaller place than I expected, in the basement of Webster Hall, but they've got a good sound system, and I liked the place. Before the show I was able to talk with Jun Kobayashi, the bassist of FLOWER TRAVELLIN’ BAND, and he explained that the band had broken up and hadn’t played for some thirty five years. It was during that time that Hideki Ishima, the guitarist, invented his electric sitar, which he named a sitarla, and that before that he had played a regular electric guitar. Tonight he played the sitarla exclusively. This was the second night of their first U.S. tour.
I didn't really know what to expect from FLOWER TRAVELLIN’ BAND, having only heard Satori (1971). I recognized a couple of songs they did from that. All of them are excellent musicians, and the electric sitar gives them a very unique sound. They are a drummer, George Wada, a bassist, a keyboardist, Nobuhiku Shinohara, the electric sitar player, and a lead singer named Joe Yamanaka. Joe has long dreadlocks hanging down his back, and a really nice vocal style in a surprisingly high register. He also played a number of percussion instruments when he wasn't singing, including tambourine, some type of drum, and a cowbell. The keyboards generally stayed low in the mix, but occasionally would start out some songs, often in a psychedelic mode, with the drummer shimmering around on the cymbals, and then perhaps Hideki starting in with some fingerwork on the fretboard without even picking or strumming. At other times during a song the keyboards would stand out, either emphasizing a part of the song, or just adding some nice flourishes. The sitarla was the real musical treasure, though. It seemed to have six strings, like a guitar, making the wider neck the thing that made it a sitarla. Sometimes it would sound like an electric guitar. Surprisingly, and I'm not sure how he did it, but at times it sounded like backwards electric guitar. Can you even do that with a box? It was amazing! At other times the sitar orientation was easy to hear. The number of styles he played was outstanding. The solos stretching into the realm of psychedelia were good fun, and one riff he played with his fingers running up the neck like rivulets of a stream seemed obviously inspired from his sitar studies. Largely their songs tended towards blues rock, and they could play 'em. Sometimes they were slow blues, sometimes they got a nice groove going, and Joe's vocals would add a real soul to them, and then at times they would take things out into the psychedelic realm. At first I was more impressed by Joe's stagemanship than his actual singing, but by the end of the set he had won me over with the intensity of his sincerity and his emotional warmth. He's quite the singer, and an excellent showman, often raising the mic as he sang and belting out his vocals skyward. One of the songs I remember most clearly, I believe was called 'Woman'. It was a slow blues that Joe really did a number on, and as he did, the sound grew and the band slowly rocked it up. FLOWER TRAVELLIN’ BAND put on an amazing show, and perhaps in the style of the ‘70s, they played for nearly two hours! The crowd did thin a bit after an hour or so, but the people who stayed seemed to get more and more into the spirit of the experience. After nearly two hours of playing, FLOWER TRAVELLIN’ BAND closed a final song, building up the ending until Joe leaped up into the air, and landed with the final beat of the song. Then the enthusiastic cheers actually brought them back, and they played another half hour or so. It was some of the most intense rocking of the evening, including a solo by almost every member of the band, which gave each of them a chance to shine. Jun, on bass, particularly impressed me, as he hadn't really stepped out much previously. Adam, whom I talked with after the show, was disappointed that they hadn't rocked as hard as the early records he had heard by them, which he compared with BLACK SABBATH, and others thought they had played much too long, but there were a good number of us who were amazed at how much this band had to give, and at how generously they had given! After the encore, Joe shook a number of hands, and then jumped off the stage to shake some more. It was a very good night!
Im not sure why I didnt think about it yesterday (when I saw Keiji Haino alone), but the new Tonic layout is much improved. Getting there early is still a good idea, but it doesnt feel nearly as cramped. Tonight Fushitsusha was Keiji Haino on guitar and vocal, and Yasushi Ozawa on bass guitar. There seemed to be very little interaction between the two; meaning that Haino led, and Ozawa followed as best he could. Largely Ozawa did a good job, but now and again he would find himself keeping a beat that went against what Haino was doing, and it was always Ozawa who had to change. Keiji Haino is a true spirit. He goes his own way. Take it or leave it. This was a much different show than the one he did on his own the night before, and Ozawa, and the brand name FUSHITSUSHA might well have been the reason. They opened up the set with a sonic roar that lasted about eight minutes. It was the only song of the set with no vocals. Hainos vocals are all over the map, and tonight he seemed to approach each song from a different vocal perspective. He started off the second song with a strange, slow, loop of beats from his rhythm machine. Some of it was beautiful, with tentative guitar lines, and falsetto vocals, but it became abrasive, and went on too long. The next song was more of a rocker. In a way, it was the most similar to some of the things I had seen Haino do the previous night, but in this situation, standing up, he had a lot more freedom of movement, and as the songs got louder, and his guitar playing became more intense, his body jerked about like electric volts were shooting through it. Im relatively certain that they did one of the songs Haino had done the night before--the one I had decided was vaguely similar to Little Town of Bethlehem, but about halfway through Haino adjusted the tones of the single-note run he had looping through his boxes, and the second half of the song sounded like a random series of bells from inside a bell tower. A couple of the songs in the set were real rockers--one of them with changes that Ozawa was obviously familiar with. For me it was probably the highlight of the set. The very last song of the set was another rocker, and it stirred up the very appreciative crowd, who clapped and howled, and successfully brought them back for an encore. It was a very short encore, but I was impressed that they came back out at all. The music was at times powerful, at other times quite delicate--an impressive range.
FUZZASS took a while setting up, and then had some problems with various aspects of their equipment. FUZZAZZ, it turned out, are three guitarists. They also had a laptop, controlled by a foot pedal. The backing tracks included drums, other effects, and occasionally bass and back-up vocals. The woman sang the lead vocals, and both the men sang back-up vocals occasionally. The beats, though fairly loud in the mix, stuck to slow tempos. The womans vocals were gentle and hesitant. Two of the guitars generally played such a determined rhythm it almost made you wonder what they needed the drum tracks for. One of the guitarists occasionally went for some feedback, but otherwise all three of the guitars were played in a surprisingly restrained manner. The songs, which lacked dynamic structure, did meander now and then into a haunting beauty.