Kahimi Karie/Momus/Gilles Weinzaepflen--Fez--10/13/98
This was a big mistake. Dan and Peter joined me, but left almost immediately after discovering that the place was packed and there would be no place to sit down. I should have left too. I was interested because Osamu had told me about Kahimi Karie, telling me that I might not like her music, but that she was very popular in Japan, and very cute. I thought it would be fun to see her in such an intimate setting.
After another short break Kahimi Karie came out accompanied by more tapes and Gilles and Momus on the Korg synthesizers. Momus claimed it was her first live performance. He played guitar in a couple songs, and Kahimi played it in one. She had a thin, breathy vocal which reminded me of Claudine Longett, but Claudine had more of a voice. Momus had apparently written most of the songs. He was the only one of the three who rose above synthesizer lounge music, and he did it by being obnoxiously hip. The whole thing sucked, only rarely even achieving clever. I felt very much ripped-off. I suspect that the 40% of the audience who were Japanese felt similarly. Perhaps shell get better as she gains more live performance experience.
Bardo Pond/LSD March/Masami Kawaguchis New Rock Syndicate--Tonic--1012/06
I saw Masami Kawaguchi play once before with his band MIMINOKOTO. At Tonic he was able to play at the volume of his choice, and apparently, MASAMI KAWAGUCHIS NEW ROCK SYNDICATE like to play loud. They are a trio, and the drummer is a woman. They started off with a wild, rockin psych instrumental, to let us know right away where they were headed. The tempos changed quite a bit throughout the set, and most of the songs featured Masami Kawaguchi on vocal, and often included several guitar solos. His rhythm section tended toward the basics, but kept the beat steady and strong. Kawaguchis guitar solos were intentionally disjointed and very angular, and as he played them he lurched about, but stuck to his side of the stage. Though his vocals were not that strong, his guitar solos were striking, and his jerky movements about the stage were definitely entertaining.
Ai Kawashima/Minami Kizuki--Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Sakura Matsuri--5/2/09
I’ve been to Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Sakura Matsuri before, and it’s always been a fun and enjoyable day. It usually brings out a good crowd of people, but today there was a long line to get in, large crowds, and the people seemed to just keep coming. I learned something today about Japanese pop stars, or at least young, female Japanese pop stars, and that's that they're apparently not expected to play for very long, at least not at Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Sakura Matsuri. We were entertained before and between the performances by a young man who may have been known as Uncle Yo, who picked people from the audience, and comically gave them introductory samurai lessons. That was fun, and the cherry blossom trees were beautiful, plus it was beautiful weather, there was a good wind, and the cherry blossoms were falling, and floating through the air at a good and steady rate, just like it's supposed to be.
Next, after a few more samurai lessons from Uncle Yo with a few more volunteers, Ai Kawashima was introduced. Ai accompanies herself on keyboards, which seemed to be an electric piano. Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Sakura Matsuri labeled her “Tokyo’s hottest J-pop star”. She seemed very comfortable with herself, and her piano playing, though not spectacular in any way, was strong and sure. Her vocals were a bit weak, but she sang very gently, and seemed comfortable enough with herself, that it gave her vocals a shy, sensitive quality. By the third song they had boosted the reverb in her vocals quite a bit. The first song was a new single called ‘Daijo-bu Dayo’. The second song was called ‘It’s OK’, and the third song was called ‘Simple Treasures’. It was sung in English, and was a very beautiful song about finding the beauty in life. Her songs were simple, sincerely sweet, and wise. When she returned for her encore, again organized by Uncle Yo, she was interviewed about the schools she’s helped financially to build in Cambodia, Liberia, and West Africa, and was cheered warmly for her generosity. Afterwards, when asked by Uncle Yo to play another song, she seemed confused and surprised, but quickly agreed to play one more. It was very much like her other songs, gentle, and purposeful, and though I have my doubts about whether she is truly Tokyo’s hottest J-pop star, she’s an impressive young woman.
Japan Day: Orange Pekoe/Ai Kawashima/Yaz Band--Central Park’s East Meadow--5/31/09
At the end of the YAZ BAND set, the MCs came out and announced that Ai Kawashima would be joining them. The MCs pumped up her J-pop prestige, and out she came. She sang two songs with YAZ BAND backing her up, and her voice seemed a trifle stronger when she was just concentrating on the singing. I’m sure the excellent sound system helped a good deal, too. YAZ BAND seemed to tone things down a little bit while backing her up, but when it came time for the sax solos Yasuyuki Takagi still let loose. He was completely supportive and encouraging of Ai Kawashima while she sang her two songs with them, regularly nodding and smiling over at her.
The MCs came out again after the two songs, and told us a little more about Ai Kawashima’s interesting life, and her rise to stardom, promising that she would be back out in a few minutes to perform her solo set. It wasn’t long before she came out, sat down at her electric piano, and began singing for us. Her songs tend toward the romantic pop ballad, though, judging from the song in English, which she closed her set with, ‘Simple Treasures’, her lyrics resonate with positive messages about life’s journey. She introduced one song in English, and one song in Japanese. I suspect that it is her life story, and the positive message of her lyrics that has brought her the stardom, as the music of her songs, her singing, and her piano playing are not that spectacular. As you listen to her simple, straightforward songs, though, you believe that she believes what she is singing. She doesn’t over-sell, or over-dramatize the songs. She sings them honestly from her heart, and plays them simply, and firmly. She got a good response from the crowd, and afterwards did a short interview with the MCs about the schools she has helped to set up around the world for children, and her feelings about life and Japan Day. Interestingly, one of the things Ai Kawashima said was that it was great for Japan Day that it was such a sunny and beautiful day, but two songs into ORANGE PEKOE’s set it began drizzling.
The crowd hadn’t thinned out too much by the time KAZHA took the stage. Just from their short soundcheck, you could tell these guys were professional. Then they started into their set, and it was immediately obvious that every single one of these guys--the guitarist, the bassist, and the drummer--were impressively good, and the singer, Kazuha, has a lovely voice, as well. They were a rock band, but Kazuha’s vocals had a feeling of romance to them, and Hideki, the guitarist, sporting a CBGB’s T-shirt, at one point launched into a solo that sounded very much like soft jazz. About the second song something went wrong with the guitar. Kazuha, whose English was generally quite good, asked haltingly if they could borrow another guitar, and it seemed like every guitarist who had played that night headed back toward the dressing room to offer up theirs. Kazuha looked at the bassist and drummer, nodded, and left the stage as they launched into an impromptu jam. Damn, these guys are good! Kazuha, who performed barefoot, later informed us that they had just released their first CD. She also told us that she loved New York, and that KAZHA should come back here again real soon. That got a hearty cheer from the audience. They played one instrumental with a drum solo, and that was hot, too. Kazuha’s vocals kept the drama going, and the band made sure things kept rocking in a very smooth way. It was an impressive show. I may very well decide to see them again at Don Hill’s on Tuesday!
Kazha/Power Pirate/Nautilus--Don Hill’s--6/15/10
Earlier, POWER PIRATE’s guitarist broke a guitar string, borrowed a guitar from Hideki Matsushige, KAZHA’s guitarist, and then while she played his guitar, he took her guitar and changed the string for her. Above and beyond the call of duty!
There really wasn’t much of an audience tonight, which was disappointing. I did get to talk to the bassist, Yota Sato, before KAZHA’s set, and one of the things I asked him was what he thought of the U.S.A. What surprised me was that he said the people he’s met in the U.S.A. have been more gentle than Japanese people. Damn, another myth squashed! There was no broken string jam tonight, and no instrumental with a drum solo, though the drummer got a short solo right at the end of the set. Just the same, this is an awesome band. Hideki stepped out front for a number of solos tonight, and he certainly deserves some recognition for his fine guitar playing, and the rest of the band deserves some cheers for their chops, as well. The small audience enthusiastically did what they could. Kazuha, which is actually how you pronounce the band’s name, has a wonderful voice, and I was surprised to realize that a lot of what she’s singing is in English. Mostly, I can’t get past the accent, but her vocals are so beautiful, it doesn’t matter what she’s singing. In one song the band even drops out, and she sings a verse a cappella. It doesn't slow the song down at all. This is a powerful band! I like my music a little edgier, and this band is about as smooth as they come, but it was well worth it to come out and see them again. On this, my last live report for Rock of Japan, I made the mistake of hanging around afterward and talking to the band. Kazuha handed me their new CD, so now I've got to try to get a review of that up, too. Yikes! I’ll do my best!
photo by John Li
Japan Nite: The Beaches/Detroit7/Ketchup Mania/Petty Booka/The
It was another great night of Japanese rock n roll brought to us by Audrey Kimura and Benten/Sister Records. They sold out and Knitting Factory was jam-packed with smiling, happy people who knew they werent gonna get another onslaught of Japanese rock like this until Japan Nite rolls around again next year. Oh yes, and, of course, all the bands told us they loved New York.
KETCHUP MANIA were up next and it was back to the rocking. They were a fairly straight punk rock band, and they rocked it hard with drums, bass, and guitar, but out front was a young woman in a dark dress with all kinds of spangles and shiny discs hanging off it. She was energetic, and did a good deal of jumping and bouncing about the stage, but what she added to the band, besides more energy, which they already had a good deal of, were very happy, pop-style vocals. Its something only the Japanese would do, and more power to them. It was punk rock, but it was fun, and when they took the tempo up a notch they would break into ska, and successfully got the only real mosh-pit of the evening going. It kept going for most of the rest of their show, too, and they seemed to be loving it. They rocked us good and hard, and had a great time doing it. The only people who might not have enjoyed it were some of the people in the inner circle surrounding the mosh-pit.
Kiiiiiii/Tomomi Adachi--Tonic--March 3, 2007
Another wacky night at Tonic. There wont be many more. Yep, another New York club is closing. Tonight, though, the wackiness was a lot of good fun.
To the sounds of THE JACKSON FIVEs I Want You Back (U.T., the singer, told me later that she loves Michael Jackson) KIIIIIII took the stage and began pulling all manner of toys, scarves, and sparkly streamers out of a robot bag, littering them around the stage, and draping them on microphone stands, monitors, and everywhere else they could think of. In this way, the two young women made the stage their own. When the song ended they began singing and doing an odd little dance. One of the women, Lakin, was a drummer, and though not great, she was talented enough to keep a variety of beats. The other, U.T., was the singer, and actually had a very nice voice, and sometimes would play Casio keyboards. More often, though, she would sing and bound about the stage, sometimes singing, sometimes shouting, sometimes doing odd dances, and regularly falling down in front of the drums to end a song. At times Lakin would come back to the front of the stage to sing along with U.T. Several times she brought out an alligator hand-puppet to help her sing along, and at those times she would sometimes stomp on the stage to keep the beat. Both women took turns jumping off the stage to get some power slaps from the audience, or just to run to the back of the room. Their songs were silly, sometimes petulant, always childish, and occasionally beautiful. Subjects that I can remember now included milk chocolate, vacations, jumping on the bed, dancing, and, of course, love. At times there was even a sadness, but that was usually to set up an energetic expression of joy, and joy is what they were intent on spreading--great gobs of it! The singer, especially, made it difficult to take pictures, because she was always moving. Their set was like an improvised playtime, and they were having fun, fun, fun. My guess is most of the audience wanted to get up on the stage and join in the fun, but the way KIIIIIII was spreading the fun around, Im sure everyone there was having fun right where they were. The music was primitively iffy, but there were usually clever moments in each song, KIIIIIII was having a great time, and they were happy to share their joy! A good deal of applause got us an encore of a couple more songs, and KIIIIIII began packing up their gear as JACKSON FIVE tunes began playing again.
Ai Kawashima/Minami Kizuki--Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Sakura Matsuri--5/2/09
I’ve been to Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Sakura Matsuri before, and it’s always been a fun and enjoyable day. It usually brings out a good crowd of people, but today there was a long line to get in, large crowds, and the people seemed to just keep coming. I learned something today about Japanese pop stars, or at least young, female Japanese pop stars, and that’s that they’re apparently not expected to play for very long, at least not at Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Sakura Matsuri. We were entertained before and between the performances by a young man who may have been known as Uncle Yo, who picked people from the audience, and comically gave them introductory samurai lessons. That was fun, and the cherry blossom trees were beautiful, plus it was beautiful weather, there was a good wind, and the cherry blossoms were falling, and floating through the air at a good and steady rate, just like it’s supposed to be.
Minami Kizuki apparently had her first big hit in January. She’s from the Amami Islands in Japan (halfway between Kyushu and Okinawa), and though Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Sakura Matsuri called her a “J-pop sensation”, she’s really a folk musician. When she was introduced, she came out with a shamisen. She was very sweet, and giggled and smiled broadly whenever Uncle Yo told her how pretty and beautiful she was. She played two songs and accompanied her vocals by playing simply, but well, on the shamisen. Her vocals were surprisingly beautiful, and full, for such a young woman. She really does have a very nice voice. In between songs she apologized for her lack of English. After two songs, she was joined by an accoustic guitarist, and Yusuke Yamamoto (who previously played with GELATINE, but regularly plays with a number of local bands including CHIMP BEAMS, CHIN CHIN, and RETADA) on conga drum, cymbals, chimes, and various other percussion instruments. They backed her up well, though conservatively, and she sang two more songs. They were charming songs, and though she had put away her shamisen, she continued to impress with her vocals. It was a very gentle music, but it had a soft, warm beauty. After those two songs with the two-man accompaniment, all three musicians left the stage. Uncle Yo easily led the crowd in calling for an encore, and soon we got one. Minami returned with her shamisen, and after a brief chat with Uncle Yo, happily played us another song accompanying herself on shamisen. Her music has a Japanese traditional feel, but it also has a very modern folk feel, and the large crowd seemed very receptive to this sweet, young woman.
Koenji Hyakkei/Time Of Orchids--Knitting Factory--5/14/07
KOENJI HYAKKEI were amazing! Technically all of them were way up there. Theyre led by Tatsuya Yoshida, most well know for his duo RUINS. He was on drums. There was a five-string bassist, a woman on soprano saxophone, a woman on lead vocals, and a pianist who also had an organ. They all sang, and seemed to all sing well, but the lead vocalist was spectacular. Her vocals were strong and full, and her range and dexterity were stunning. The material was completely over the top. Its influences were all over the map. I heard middle-eastern, funk, rock, classical, jazz, opera, and usually each of those flavors was mixed with two or three of the others. On top of that it was hyper to the max, as if keeping up with a speed fiend. Late in the set, over on the side, I saw a guy dancing to it, and he was doing a wonderful job of representing the music. His feet were bouncing around like he was dancing on coals, and his arms were jerking around like a crazy man. It was quite a sight, and as most of the time you couldnt see much of the band from where I was, I kept watching him until he wore himself out. The material was easily overwritten, and yet, it all fit wonderfully, and much of it was a true joy to hear, though a bit on the exhausting side. Even with the rich abundance of sound, every now and again, I just had to stop and pay attention specifically to the incredible things the lead vocalist was doing. Her vocal chords got quite the work-out throughout the set, but the quality of her vocals never flagged. Generally she stayed in the higher vocal ranges, but at one point, when she was singing along with the bassist, she took it down to below where he was singing, much lower than I would have expected her capable of. Everyone in the band got their chance to shine, and each of them easily proved their value to the band. It was an extraordinary set, and it wore a few people out, but most clapped with exuberance when it ended, and clapped some more when the band returned to the stage for their encore, which Tatsuya Yoshida introduced as a pop song from the first album. Honestly, it didnt sound that pop, but maybe thats one of the few stretches theyre not quite prepared to make yet.
Japanese Girls Samurai Tour 04: Bleach/Petty Booka/Noodles/Kokeshi
Doll--Knitting Factory Tap Room--3/23/04
Ryota Mori, my photographer tonight, and I did an interview with BLEACH after their soundcheck, and in a state of contentment close to bliss, we took too long over a chinese dinner and, unfortunately, missed about half of KOKESHI DOLLs set. KOKESHI DOLL are a trio. They rocked us hard, but too often the beats tended to plod rather than kick. The band is competent enough, but the only thing that gave the songs any fire at all was the singer/guitarist. Her singing was both fiery and dramatic. She writhed and twisted herself around the microphone as she sang, and the passion of her vocals did put some heart into the performance, but failed to breathe much life into the material. There may have been something in the first part of their set that would have warmed me to the second half, but as it was, I was disappointed that KOKESHI DOLL had failed to live up to the recordings I had heard.
photo by Philip Simkowitz
Kokusyoko Sumire/Swinging Popsicle/Echostream/Gelatine--The Studio--9/27/09
KOKUSYOKO SUMIRE are two women, obviously classically trained, who have added a certain amount of polka, lullabies, balladry, cabaret, and gypsy music to their classical music, and come up with something rather unique. Let’s start with their outfits. They both wore large, red half-bonnets, with a gold butterfly and three purple butterflies sewn onto them. They each wore identical purple wigs, sparkle make-up, and a yellow ribbon tied in a bow around their necks. Their red hoop dresses matched the half-bonnets, and blossomed out around their legs. The only real difference in their costumes was their tights. Sachi wore pale yellow tights, and Yuka wore grey and white striped tights. Yuka mostly played piano, but for a while she stood up and played accordian, and she seemed to get more playful while she was playing the accordian, engaging the audience and Sachi with various stories and questions. She introduced herself at that time, “My name is Yuka, and I like beer!” which received many cheers. Sachi quickly responded, “Are you fourteen?” Yuka thought for a moment, and then answered, “Yes, I am fourteen, and I like orange juice.” Sachi plays violin, and at one point they both picked up recorders and played a very sweet duet. Their musicianship throughout their performance was very impressive. They may not be virtuosos, but they are both obviously accomplished classical musicians. Some of their tunes were based on classical pieces that I am familiar with, though I couldn’t name them, as I rarely listen to classical music. Obviously they had written their own lyrics to them, and my suspician is that their lyrics, always in Japanese, resemble nursery rhymes. In introducing one of her songs to the gathered anime fans, only one or two of whom came even close to the unique beauty of KOKUSYOKO SUMIRE’s costumes, she offered this advice, “If your parents object to something, I wish you to protect it!” The only tune they used that I actually recognized was ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, which Sachi played on violin. Ah, but KOKUSYOKO SUMIRE have more than just their rich tradition of classical music, and whatever other musics they may choose to mix with it, they also have Yuka’s very substantial soprano vocals. She uses her vocals firmly and beautifully to present her lyrics, but at one point she did get up from her piano, go to the microphone that she had used when playing the accordian, and did what seemed to be a vocal improvisation. It was one of the highlights of an intriguingly eccentric performance. After their show they went to their merchandise table, and soon began posing for pictures with a new admirer cradled between them for each picture. They were still posing for pictures with one fan after another when I finally left the club.
Limited Express (has gone?)/The Punks--Knitting Factory--9/16/05
While Jesus and I talked, a guy named Ray came over and introduced himself. He recognized me from the website, and just wanted to say, Hi!, I guess, cause he didnt say anything much about Rock of Japan. He did have positive things to say about LIMITED EXPRESS (HAS GONE?), though, and soon they were on stage and getting ready for their set. It took them a while to get their sound together, but as they did, the crowd grew, and once they started into their set, they had a respectable sized crowd pushing their way towards the stage. Yukari, the bassist and lead vocalist, was obviously overjoyed to see so many people there to see them. Theyre a trio, and happily launched into their set like it was a party. All three of them were technically very good, and their music rocked with offbeat jazz diversions spicing things up royally. It was as if they had written typical pop/rock songs, and then taken them apart, and put them back together however they pleased with improvised asides. The music was wonderfully quirky, and the happiness they obviously had playing it was a joy to be seen. Yukari would jump out into the audience, and hop up and down while playing fluid riffs that rolled and turned the songs. Jinichiro Iida repeated his intricate guitar riffs with slight variations until they made perfect sense, and regularly he would run up to his microphone, emphatically pointing and gesturing out at the crowd. Koji Narazaki, on drums, kept a stern beat, but smiled at his coconspirators, as if sharing a joke that only they were in on. Everyone there obviously enjoyed the party the band was having, and many hopped along with Yukari. It was an exciting set, and the only shame is that it ended so quickly (easily under half an hour), with no encore.
Limited Express (has gone?)/Child Abuse--Rockys--9/30/05
LIMITED EXPRESS (HAS GONE?) took their time setting up again, and then left the stage. I believe they were wearing the same clothes when they came back out, so Im not sure why. Perhaps they did a power circle or something, because when they came back out, they all slapped hands in the center of the stage and began their set, once again with big smiles on all their faces. The first song went fine, and I even recognized it from the previous show, but when they started into the second song, none of the microphones were working. They improvised a bit, tried again, and after hearing an explanation from one of the sound men, apologized to the crowd, and before leaving the stage, recommended drinking while the sound was sorted out. About five minutes later, after another three-way hand slap at center stage, the band was back again at the rocking. I think theyre one of the cheeriest bands Ive ever seen. They have an odd sound. Jinichiro Iida tends to play variations on a riff on his guitar. Koji Narazaki follows him spiritedly on drums, and on bass Yukari makes things bounce as she wrestles the riffs and leads them through their turns. Yukari also handles most of the vocals, using a range of styles, many exaggerated and humorous. Jinichiro accents things with his screams. In an early song, Yukari put her bass down and playfully added some new kinks to her vocals. The band took the music way down and Yukari went into a soft mumblespeak. It was the strangest thing I had heard them do, and made much of their other music seem quite predictable, which it isnt. It was a good deal longer set than I had seen them do for CMJ, and it wasnt long before they were back to expressing their joy. In time, even their strange style, which had begun to feel familiar, tingled with excitement again. Then the microphones began to loose volume, and you could see Yukari lose her patience. She dropped her microphone, and grabbed Jinichiros. Dissatisfied with it, she shoved the stand, and it toppled off the stage. The microphone in front of her bass speakers was the one she found that worked, but by then it was too late. The music built up to a dramatic turmoil, Yukari pushed over some of the drums, and stormed off the stage. Jinichiro and Koji kept the music roaring, Jinichiro raised his guitar up above his head and slammed it down on the stage. The set was over, and the band was unhappy, but it had been a good set, and I still felt joyful.
Local Sound Style/Ovum/Holidays Of Seventeen/Parkers
Theory/Rice Cookers--Santos Party House--10/20/08
Unfortunately, LOCAL SOUND STYLE, who only had time for three songs didnt set up any faster than the other bands. Their first two songs were standard pop rockers of standard length. They too had two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer. The rhythm guitarist did the vocals, and the lead guitarist was the showman. He was skinny, and had some form of a top-notch/ponytail, and as he played he continually leaned this way and that way, and seemed even more animated as he spun off his leads. Their third song started off like a good rocker, but no more spectacular than their other numbers. I dont know if this was normal for LOCAL SOUND STYLE, or if it was partly because they were following OVUM, but this last song closed with a very loud roar. Guitars and the bass were raised up into the air, and the band took that last song up into a noisy cacophony. Chaos reigned on the stage and that roar just kept growing. It was a wonderful climax for this evening. Their set still seemed way too short, but they had finally impressed me. If they could turn their standard rock into that kind of crazy cacophony, they might very well have something special. I might have to see them again just to see what they could do with a full set.
Independants/Lolita No. 18/Blondie/Ronnie Spector/Dictators--Tramps--7/17/98
(Joey Ramone's Cyber-Bash '98)
LOLITA NO. 18 were the band I was there to see. I had read one good review of a live show. Otherwise I knew nothing about them or what they sounded like. They turned out to be a quartet consisting of a lead singer and the standard rock trio backing. The trio seemed typically cute, young, Japanese girls, but the singer put on a good schtick as a loud, unbred, bad-girl clown. It reminded me of Akinas soap-opera image. They started off with some hard-core sounding stuff, but done with big smiles. Almost every song was done with big smiles. I was quickly relieved to find that they played in an impressively wide range of styles. The singer played a good harmonica in a slow ballad. Technically they are a little lacking, but considering theyre a trio, they do fine, and the guitarist was even impressive. She was, I think, the best musician of the band, and she had a very nice stage presentation. She never seemed to be taking anything too seriously and was having as good a time as possible. My favorite part of her presentation was when she introduced each member of the band and their likes. The drummer likes turtles. The bass guitarist likes butterflies. The lead singer likes beer. (Someone from the audience shortly brought her one.) The guitarist then introduced herself and said, and I like Snoopy. They then proceeded to play Hang On Sloopy with a chorus that went, I love Snoopy, Sloopy hang on. When I thought to pull out my earplugs for a moment, I was surprised to find how loud and full their sound was, too. Joey came out and sang Rockaway Beach with them. It was a very enjoyable performance, and though the rhythm section rarely cracked a smile, the other two rarely didnt. They came off as a very sweet, fun, rockin band.
Immediately after LOLITA NO. 18s performance I went back to their stand and found it crowded with people buying CDs, T-shirts, posters, and buttons. It took a while for me to purchase their three CDs, and while I was waiting, the lead singer came over to help out at the table. She had dropped the rude, dummy act, but remained sweet and friendly. I congratulated her on the show, and asked for one of the small felt-tip pen drawings that each of the four had done. Someone before me had done the same thing, so I figured it was worth a try. She graciously obliged, allowing me to pick which of the remaining three I would like. I also signed their book.
I would have left the club then, but before I got away from the table, THE INDEPENDANTS had started up. The table was still crowded with people wanting to buy LOLITA NO. 18s wares when I finally left the club.
All total, it was a wonderful night and I was very glad that I had finally decided to attend.
Japan Nite 2000: Lolita No. 18/Polysics/Number Girl/Spoozys/Mummy
What a great night! I cant remember the last time I saw five bands in a row that were all good!
LOLITA NO. 18 closed out the show in style. The guitarist, Ena Arai, who impressed me last time I saw them, is even better now. This is a damned good rockin band, that no longer needs to play on their cuteness, and doesnt. They sounded tight and professional. I was impressed! Only the vocalist, Masayo Ishizaka, seems to have stubbornly refused to improve. Her vocals are still grating and a bit annoying, but shes the show. Every band was good to great, but this was the only band that inspired a full-fledged mosh-pit and kept it going throughout most of their set. Masayo did manage an impressive soulfulness on one song, and both her kazoo and harmonica (one song each) were good, but mostly she was there to lead her band through a hot punk rockin set. The covers included:Hang On Sloopy; Shakin All Over; Rockaway Beach; and Video Killed The Radio Stars--a wide variety, all of which they handled easily with a lusty vigor. It was an exhilarating set, and a perfect way to end a wonderful evening.
Japan Nite 2001: Love Psychedelico/Bleach/The Jerry Lee Phantom/Heart
Wow! It was a great night with four good to maybe even great bands, all of which got a good response from the crowd. It was well attended, almost exclusively by Japanese. Thats good and fitting. Still, I cant help but feeling that non-Japanese New York rockers are really missing out. As the crowd left, Supervoid.com (who sponsored the show) passed out a free sampler CD with songs by the four bands and five others.
LOVE PSYCHEDELICO are now enjoying top of the charts popularity in Japan, and fittingly closed the show. They are bass, drums, guitar, and keyboard, plus the singer/frontwoman sported an accoustic guitar for the first few songs. I was not overly impressed initially. The accoustic guitar added a folkiness to their standard AOR approach. The band was technically very good, but the songs didnt do much, and the introduction of a Dylan cover, Like A Rolling Stone, confirmed my fears. Then she put the accoustic guitar down, took off her jacket, and started the next song off with a quasi-rap intro. It seemed kind of daring, and better than youd expect from a folky, plus it was a good, catchy, well-written song. From then on, with her just singing, they rocked, and every song was impressive. They really are a good band and deserve their success. She commanded the stage well, with occasional competition from the lead guitarist; and the songs, one after the other, surprised me with their richness and their hooks. Theirs was one of the CDs I picked up on my way out the door.
Bardo Pond/LSD March/Masami Kawaguchis New Rock Syndicate--Tonic--10/12/06
For the LSD MARCH set, Masami Kawaguchi moved from the left side of the stage (his left) to the right, where he picked up a bass guitar. His New Rock Syndicate band members left the stage, and the guitarist and drummer of LSD MARCH joined him. LSD MARCH are a trio. They started with a slower number, and their guitarist, Shinsuke Michishita, seemed to be doing his best to avoid playing along with his rhythm section. He quickly revealed himself to be the more accomplished guitarist. His playing was always in the outer cozmos, and often quite beautiful. When he went into an intense guitar solo, he often seemed to be doing a modern dance in a rather spastic manner. His body would jerk into an extreme position, which he would then hold. Many times he would only play the guitar as he jerked about, and as soon as he froze, the guitar sounds would either stop, or the feedback would hum. His vocals were slow and mesmerizing. Masami Kawaguchis bass playing was more innovative and fluid than his bandmate in the New Rock Syndicate. The drummer seemed to switch between intricate jazz-like maneuvers, and stomping out the beat loudly and powerfully. There were some rockers, but many of the songs moved at a slow, other-worldly pace. The most interesting number seemed to be a jazz inspired improvisation. All three members of the band played off each other in an agressively abstract manner, as if they were playing against each other, rather than together. It was an impressive set that grew more intriguing as the band stretched their format, and Michishitas guitar solos soared further and further out into the LSD MARCH ozone. The band members are all quite good, and their serious approach to their music put it across with an impressive warmth, but the guitarists awkward and energetic dance/duel with his guitar kept things vibrantly in the here and now.
I arrived at Siberia early, hoping that LUMINOUS ORANGE would actually play at 8PM, so that I would have the time I needed to get over to Brooklyn and see BLEACH tonight, as well. LUMINOUS ORANGE was the first band, and there were some problems setting things up, but the band and the sound men got things straight, and half an hour late, we got LUMINOUS ORANGE. The band is led by Rie Takeuchi on lead vocals and guitar. As I understand it, the rest of the band changes from time to time, but tonight featured three young men on guitar, bass, and drums. They were all fine musicians, as is she, and though they played loud enough for the sound man to recommend that they turn down--they didnt, the sound wasnt abrasive at all. Song after song blended into each other, and her sweet and gentle vocals, barely audible over the instruments, had a calming effect, a bit like getting a massage on a traffic island in midtown. Though the songs seemed quite similar, and all had a kind of pulsing flow, they were often intricately arranged. I was most interested in what the two guitarists were doing. Sometimes they seemed to both be playing rhythm guitar, but at cross currents; and at other times they seemed to be playing similar leads that worked together like harmony. After a song, and an embarrassed silence, Rie announced, Hello, we are LUMINOUS ORANGE. Thank you for coming. It was the last we heard from anyone in the band until she announced the last song, and repeated, Thank you for coming. The band plays its music. Theyre often looking down at their guitars, and theres silence during tune-ups, but their music has a unique sound all its own. When they stopped, members of the crowd demanded an encore, and Rie was claiming that because one of the members was new they had played everything they knew. As it turns out, I had lots of time to spare, and should have waited to see if they would do another tune, but it didnt look like they were going to, and I didnt want to miss any of BLEACHs set.