July/Aug trip Day 4&5 (きのこ帝国、group_inou & Chatmonchy)

July 24: きのこ帝国 (kinoko teikoku) played at Daikanyama UNIT and I met up with Mer-Charlotte, Mer-Ikuko and Yukako (チーナ) to go watch them. They're definitely a shoegaze band borrowing some of the best sonic elements of Ride (circa Nowhere) and a touch of MBV. But while most shoegaze bands are content to wallow in a myopic range of swirly guitars and emotionless/ethereal vocals, KT spice things up time to time with heartfelt crooning and some chaotic energy on stage. They opened with "ミュージシャン" which is a typical slowburn shoegaze track. It's an okay song that builds to a crescendo at the end but it's fairly generic shoegaze that can lull me to sleep if I have to sit through an entire set of songs this ilk. Luckily the 2nd song "国道スロープ" had more pep and flavor and they played one of my favorites "WHIRLPOOL" right after. "WHIRLPOOL" is straight "Vapor Trail" Ride level sublimeness. I wish I could remember the set list. They also played "畦道で" "夜が明けたら" a couple new songs and ended with "退屈しのぎ" which is always breathtaking. Guitarist あーちゃん (Ah-chan) handled almost all the emcee-ing. She gave an emotional explanation of how she cherishes performing on stage and all the people who have supported her thusfar. Nearly every article of clothing/gear especially her slippers, beanie cap and guitar were given to あーちゃん by different friends and family members so it's like they're on-stage with her when she performs. きのこ帝国 were fantastic. It's too bad they didn't play my favorite song "足首" however. Hopefully they play it when I see them again Aug 8 at Chiba LOOK.

As you know, Akai Koen had to bail on coming to Canada in October. I had already talked to Kinoko Teikoku about coming next year but with Akai Koen's absence I was hoping they could come even earlier in October. Unfortunately, it's too short notice and they have gigs and studio recording time already in place. I feel incredibly bad for チーナ but NMFT5 is going to have to be post-poned until May 2013. It's not official but almost a certainty.


July 25: First of all some sad news. スカートの中 played their 2nd last show on July 25 at Shinjuku Red Cloth. They're playing their final show Aug 14 @ Red Cloth and will be releasing a final 3 song CD-R at the event. Skirt no Naka were a fun band to watch and as you know I firted with the idea of having them participate in NMFT. Skirt did start out as a band called Still Flag, announced they're breaking up only to fool their fans by changing their name to スカートの中. But it looks like this time the break-up is earnest.

Unfortunately, I didn't make it to Skirt no Naka's penultimate gig. I went to group_inou vs Chatmonchy @ Shindaita FEVER, a sold out show that had advance tickets sell out within hours of going on sale. Thankfully, group_inou put me on the guest list. Although they play two completely different styles of music I was surprised to find out this was the first time _inou and Chat have ever played a show together. group_inou took the stage first and right off the bat cp gave me a shout out "steve! steve! steve!" during the start to "SHIP." group_inou are gaining more and more popularity but as evidenced by the number of Chatmonchy T-shirts in the audience the crowd was partisan to HashiEri and Akiko. But that didn't mean squat because group_inou had the entire audience going mental, jumping up and down and making tons of noise. During the first emcee break Imai told the audience how they had just returned from a small music festival in Hokkaido. There were huge delays with bands and fans alike trying to get onto planes flying out of Hokkaido. Then cp chimed in that he ended up sitting next to one of Kyary Pyamu Pymau's back-up dancers on the flight home. Apparently she was cute but still a high school student. hahaha. During the 2nd emcee break cp and Imai introduced me to the crowd and talked about the Canada tour. Holy sh*t! That was super-nice of them. Imai shouted "Hey Steve, are you going to go to Ramen Jiro!" and I shouted back ”はい!JIROに行きますよ!” (Hell yeah, I'm going to Ramen Jiro!) hahaha. On the NMFT tour we talked about ramen alot so it was a little inside-joke.

In Canada, group_inou tore it up every single show and in Japan it's just the same. It's impossible not to have a great time watching these guys perform. They played a great combination of classic, recent and brand new songs. Although their most recent stuff tends to be on the 'jiggy' side as long as they play afew of their classics like "Status", "PR", "COMING OUT", "SHUP", "Quest" from time to time it's all good. They didn't play "Status" or "COMING OUT" but they did play "PR (u.u.o mix)" and "SHIP" and "QUEST" You can see setlist and photos from the show HERE.

group_inou set the bar sky-high and I was interested to see how Chatmonchy could measure up. Alot of you know that Chatmonchy used to be my favorite band. I say "used to" because their sound has changed dramatically going from powerful shoegaze/emo to commercial pop as they exploded in popularity. For me they peaked at Seimeiryoku with most of my favorite songs on the albums "Chatmonchy Has Come" and "Miminari" If you asked me my favorite Chatmonchy songs I'd reply (in no particular order): "ひとりだけ" "DEMO、恋はサーカス" "プラズマ" "どなる、でんわ、どしゃぶり" "恋愛スピリッツ""湯気" "親知らず""モバイルワールド" "春夏秋" "Y氏の夕方" "やさしさ" (although "hitori dake" "Demo Koi wa CIRCUS" and "Plasma" are probably my 3 most favorite songs)

In fact the entire NMFT tour started because years back I thought it would a great idea if somehow I could bring my three favorite bands at the time: チャットモンチー, 凛として時雨 and ミドリ to Canada for a tour. That was a pipe dream and after I watched Tokyo Boredom, I felt I should start by supporting indie/underground bands instead.

Even though my love for Chatmonchy's music waned with each new album I reserve a spot in my heart for them since their earlier music had such an impact on getting me interested in Japanese music in the first place.

After Kumiko left the band and Chatmonchy started playing as a duo, friends told me that it revitalized them into playing and writing songs with more soul and vigor. So I had great interest in seeing what they were like as a duo during Countdown Japan last year. Unfortunately, in my opinion they still retained the happy, shiny, fluffy vibe of latter 3-pc Chatmonchy that catered to the teenie-bopper demographic. Although swapping instruments throughout the set did make their set fairly interesting.

Based on what I saw at CDJ last December I had low expectations for Chatmonchy's performance at Shindaita FEVER. I was already blown away by group_inou and hell, I got in for free so if Chatmonchy disappointed again it was no big deal.

Guess what? Chatmonchy SLAYED! Okay, it wasn't as awe-inspiring as Chatmonchy circa-Miminari but they put on a great show with a lot of heart, emotion and surprising power. Quite different and much-improved from what I saw at Countdown Japan.

Once again the setlist and photos are available HERE. They covered group_inou's "JUDGE" and had cp join them on stage as well. How awesome is THAT?!

Also, E-chan pounds the sh*t out of the drums when she plays. :)

After the show, I got to go backstage and talk with HashiEri and Akko. cp was the best wing-man! He had nothing but awesome words to say about the NMFT tour and myself as the organizer/host. Anyways, I can't talk about the details but there is lots of interest on both sides in having Chatmonchy participate in NMFT. It was a dream to bring them to Canada 4 years ago and it looks like it might actually happen.