Oct 28 was indeed a superlative night of asskicking music.Zher the Zoo is a small live house with a sleek modern look. Capacity is quoted at 250 but I seriously doubt that and would give a more conservative estimate of 100-150. The show was supposed to begin at 7pm but as is commonly done the organizers delayed the start with the hopes that more people would trickle in to see the first act. I was getting a little antsy because スカートの中 were scheduled to perform at 8:20pm at Red Cloth.
チャラン・ポ・ランタン finally graced the stage at ~730pm. I was hoping to see them perform as a duo b/c if I bring them to Canada next year it would save me a ton of money to bring them without their backing band カンカンバルカン (CANCANBALKAN). The bad news was they had brought CANCANBALKAN with them so I couldn't remind myself how strong Charan Po Rantan perform by themselves. The good news is that Charan Po Rantan + CANCANBALKAN together are FREAKING AWESOME. CANCAN consists of 6 members but today they were missing their banjo and soprano sax players. So it was Charan Po + MiniBalkan but they still KILLED it. If present-self told past-self 3 years ago that one of my favorite bands would perform gypsy music with accordions, tubas and banjoes past-self would have called bullsh*t on him and proceeded to kick present self's ass. =P But it's true these guys make gypsy music sound fresh and exciting because they're such badass musicians. When I first saw Charan Po Rantan, Momo-chan was still 16 years old. 16 years old!! But she sang with the maturity of a seasoned vet who had experienced a lifetime of trials, tribulations, heartache and sorrow. Momo's 18 now and is still as cute as ever. It's difficult to look anything but cute singing with a stuffed pig tucked under her arm. However the way she belts out the vocals with such masterful control and range leaves you much more in awe of her talent than her mo-e appearance. Koharu was born playing the accordion and her mom was sure glad to have opted for an epidural. :) Koharu has crazy skills on the squeezebox and always has hilarious stories during emcee breaks which she tells at the speed of sound. Actually somtimes she goes on and on about a whole bunch of nothing but it's still a trip to see her talk so fast. When I first saw Charan Po Rantan perform I was blown away by their talent and by the absurdity of how well their performance works. But as awesome as they are as a duo, with CANCANBALKAN they're 10 times mightier. So if... when I bring Charan Po Rantan to Canada, my bank account will shed a fountain of tears but I think I'll have to bring CANCANBALKAN with them.... or at least MINIBALKAN... or BALKI from Perfect Strangers.
When Charan Po finished their set I looked at my watch and went "F***************CK!!" It was already 8pm and I had 20 min to skedaddle my ass to Shinjuku Red Cloth. However, in my mind I was mitigating the situation by assuming there's no possible way Skirt no Naka's show would be running on time either. But to ASS.U.ME just makes an ASS out of U and Me. Well actually just ME because, I managed to get to Red Cloth huffing and puffing at 8:27pm and Skirt appeared to have started promptly at 8:20. Goddamnit! When I entered the hall Skirt were playing the immediately recgnizable "妄想彼氏" with the chorus: 知らない誰かとセックスしてる 知らない誰かとセックスしてる 知らない女とセックスしてる which is about Skirt being paranoid that their boyfriends are playing around with other girls. They rock out like crazy during this song so I was bummed I didn't get to see it performed in its entirety. Skirt no Naka won't wow you with technical musicianship but they have ebullient attitude and energy in spades and enough tweaks (palm muted scratches, start-stop and syncopated rhythms) in their garage post-punk sound to put an instant smile on your face. The majority of the audience seemed a bit undecided on whether they truly liked this band gauging by the 中途半端 (chuutohanpa = half-assed) applause but I thought it was a no-brainer that they were type A for awesome.
It seems like there's a trend of new female bands playing barefoot in white dresses (eg Skirt no Naka, Merpeoples,and the supremely awesome 赤い公園) I'll do an indie spotlight on Skirt No Naka later and save some video footage for that.
I was more than satisfied having watched Charan Po Rantan and Skirt no Naka but the rest of the bands at Red Cloth were unexpectedly brilliant.
モルグモルマルモ (morgmolmalmo... I'll call them Malmo for short) are a 4-pc band from Kyoto. Before they began their set the bassplayer of Nippon-Paper Parking (1st band whom I missed b/c of Charan Po) told me this band is utterly amazing. So I had high expectations which were clearly not met by the first song Malmo played. They were incredibly tight as musicians.... actually to a phenomenal degree but it was too straightforward, run-of-the-mill power-pop for my liking. But then things changed from the 2nd song onward. They added more and more Zazen-esque flavor. Not an aburd about of experimentalness but a sprinkling of math here and there to give the music much more of an edge. Also each member of the band sings with incredible harmony (think グーミ) to a degree that is not heard much nowadays. They also have fantastic stage presence and stage antics. Oh! And I so I wish I got it on video but 10 seconds after they blazed into their 2nd song the lead vocalist said "wait.. wait.. we should do member introductions" So he introduced the bassplayer... first of all member introductions should be quick and simple... but the bassplayer started rambling on about how he woke up in a daze this morning, that he lives in Kyoto but grew up nearby in Yokohama, about his sketchy friends in high school and kept going off on an insane tangent all at a lightning speed pace that would put Charan Po Rantan's Koharu in a state of shock. He went on for a good 2 minutes straight without taking a single breath and the microsecond he was finished the entire band blazed right into continuing the song at the precise place they had left off. THAT was unbelievably f*cking awesome and immediately changed my initial lacklustre impression of them. Malmo isn't a band I would go out of my way to see but they were a pleasant surprise and quite enjoyable to watch.
Actually, re-watching the video footage, I would totally see these guys again. They're like a poppier version of Owlights. Mo'Malmo!!
And arguably the best band at Red Cloth that night was o'valencia. I had seen this band's name around when looking up live schedules but never bothered to research into them. Also before I went to Yoyogi Zher the Zoo, I had stopped by to pick up a ticket for the show at Shinjuku Red Cloth so I knew exactly where Red Cloth was in case I became pressed for time transitting between the 2 clubs after Charan Po Rantan's set. It was at this time I saw a beautiful girl sitting down just outside Red Cloth seemingly waiting for the doors to open. It turns out she is the bassist for o'valencia. Since they were the last band to play they would have been the first band to sound-check/rehearse so she must have been sick of waiting around for the show to start. After o'valancia walked on stage and sorted themselves out, the Gt/Vo thanked all the other bands who were fun and energetic but warned the audience that they're a "serious" band. He even said the word "serious" in English. The bartender heckled "Veeery SERIOUS" and other people yelled out "Seeeerious." It was a rather hilarious way to start the set. They were indeed more earnest in their sound and demeanor compared to the other bands but they also rocked out the hardest. They were like a sweet combination of the Decemberists (whose song I assume inspired their name) and Rin Toshite Shigure (weighted more towards Rin toshite Shigure. They're also quite similar to another band I really like named きのこ帝国.
These cats were pretty f*cking dope. I really like how they go from heartfelt "serious" mode to batsh*t crazy aggressive and loud. And oh my god, that bassplayer is not just a pretty face she is absolutely fierce on 4 strings. Reminds me alot of Etsumi from Thai Kick who plays superfast, tricky basslines with the greatest of ease.
I am so glad the timing of the bands at both shows played out the way it did. I missed 1.5 songs by Skirt no Naka but I have a chance to see them again in Hachioji on Aug 2. Although to do that I would have to miss out on the band apart @ Shindaita Fever. The band apart usually play much bigger concert halls like Liquid or Axe so seeing them in a bit smaller setting like Fever would be great (though I did see them as the secret guest band at Kichjoji Warp 2 years ago). The band apart vs Skirt no Naka. Will appreciation of skilled musicianship or the sukebe side of me win out? They're both bands I am considering bringing to Canada so it's a tough choice, though you and me both know I'll probably end up skirtchasing in the end. :)
Oh yeah, today I got invited as a guest to watch Mass of the Fermenting Dregs. They're playing at Zepp Tokyo in a 2 day event with all-female bands. (though MOTFD = majority male since Naoya of Qomolangma Tomato is their support guitarist. effing Ogura Naoya?! Hell yeah!) Other bands playing tonight: Scandal, Stereopony, FLiP and SPEED to name a few. I actually have a modicum of interest in watching SPEED but aside from MOTFD the line-up of bands is pure fluff.
If I were curator of the event I would go with:
赤い公園 スカートの中 DODDODO MOTFD チーナ 股下89 チャラン・ポ・ランタン 雅だよ雅 nisennemondai
with 小南泰葉 and 後藤まりこ as hosts/MC's.