adieu et bonne chance Kulu Kulu Garden (R.I.P.)

On May 15th, 2011 Kulu Kulu Garden played their final show. The decision to break up came as a shock since things appeared to be going very well for the band as they were under a developmental deal with Victor Entertainment. They took part in the original NMFT tour, found an amazing full-time drummer, played an ass-kicking set on the final night of Swan Song Council 2010 and were more confident and tighter than ever in their performances. They were planning on releasing their first full album. All the instrumental tracks had been recorded and all that was left were tracks for the vocals. They evolved with a fresh new sound: unabashedly poppy but still incredibly aggressive and anarchic. Sort of like eating dessert and 5-alarm chili at the same time (sweet... but ridiculously effing HOT!!!)

So what the hell happened?!! Well it turns out despite the string of good luck the band was on the verge of break-up for quite a while. Kotone loved performing and always gave it her all on-stage but being in a band was always more hobby than raison d'etre. It wasn't something she wanted as a career. Anyone who has ever met Ryotaro knows he's one of the nicest guys around but when it comes to music and his band he is very meticulous and demanding. Kotone's charming, carefree attitude and Ryotaro's humble but strict personality co-existed under a pleasant symbiosis but eventually their priorities and ideals clashed beyond reconciliation. Being on the verge of signing with a major label was initially a mitigating factor; however, their A&R was quite the hardass in terms of putting massive pressure on Kotone to improve her singing. One night during a gig Kotone made a slight but recognizable flub and Takuya (drums) exploded at her with criticism and anger. This was the straw that broke the camel's back and Kotone who had been hiding/downplaying her unhappiness with the band finally screamed back with 2 years worth of pent-up stress and frustration. I wasn't there but I'm sure whatever she said could be loosely translated to: "F*ck you guys! F*ck the band! This sh*t is OVER!!!" After that night, Ryotaro and Takuya never heard back from Kotone for weeks. For all intents and purposes KKG broke up that night but they still had a special gig ("Reunion #3) to play on May 15th which was planned months in advance involving friends' bands whom they had played and grown together with over the years. Kotone eventually cooled down and got back in touch with Ryotaro and Takuya but they all agreed that the May 15th show would be Kulu Kulu Garden's last.

I am so glad that as a complete fluke I would be in Japan at the time when Kulu Kulu Garden would be playing their final show. The first time I ever saw them perform was in early 2009 at Shinjuku Motion and it was fitting that they would play their final gig there as well. It sucks whaled*ck that just when Kulu Kulu Garden were hitting their stride they break up well before reaching their prime and anywhere near the ceiling of their potential. If you saw them in Canada, you know they tore it up!! :

But as musicians Kulu Kulu grew by leaps and bounds in the span of just one year. Newer songs like "koyubi sentimental" got tweaked and upgraded to sound so much more badass especially regarding Ryotaro's guitars. Kotone became much, MUCH more confident and playful on stage and her fashion sense improved astronomically (gawdy pink tights in Canada vs girl-next-door-stylish-yet-casual-couture of recent) Here is video footage from their final set (unfortunately I didn't get any footage of the new songs)

There are lots of girls in rock bands that are all-smiles and playful on stage but have varying degrees of b*tchiness when they take off their stage performance mask. However, I can state unequivocally that Kotone doesn't have a single pretentious or malicious bone in her body. That's what makes it so awesome when she shows a bit of a chaotic and aggressive side while performing a song but maintains her everyday genuine, effervescent charm at all other times on-stage or off. Plus she has more "moe" in her left pinky than all the ...48 group members combined. If the otaku crowd in Akihabara had found about Kulu Kulu Garden they would have been in sheer awe of Kotone's "moe-ness" and KKG would have blown up with a ton of crazed fans like the guy at the front of the stage in the 3 videos above.

After the set, I told/asked Ryotaro: "Holy shit. That guy right up front had to be Kulu Kulu's #1 biggest fan. Does he go to a lot of your shows?" Ryotaro: "I have no idea who he is. That was the first time I've seen him in my life." me: LMAO!

That guy was both seriously stoked at getting to see KKG play live and unbelievably bummed that it was their last show. Here he is on the ground sobbing as Kotone-chan consoles the complete stranger:

Ryotaro is working hard on new songs and continues to jam in the studio with a number of musicians. He's looking for the right singer before he starts his next band. If he could, he'd kidnap イグゼット from Zibanchinka and have her scream/croon for his band willingly or under duress. =)

Kotone-chan will be going back to university for post-grad studies. She can also be found serving up delicious Thai food @ .... 秘密。

I wish Ryotaro and Kotone the best in their future endeavours. Ryotaro's helping me out with the tour in filming and making a promo video for NMFT3. I might meet up with him and Tonjiru (Far France) tonight and see if they want to eat yakiniku @ Tonchang. And I'll probably stop by Kotone's restaurant at least once on my trip to say hi.