2012.10.03 harafromhell @ Shibuya LUSH

Earlier this year I went to a show at Shimokita Basement Bar almost straight after landing in Tokyo and checking into my hotel.The bands that played that night were (in order of appearance): ハラフロムヘル (harafromhell), 夢見てる, where is my mind?, o’valencia, and Day and Buffalo. o'valencia and Day and Buffalo were exceptional but I was bummed that I didn't make it in time for harafromhell.

harafromhell's demo is one of my favorite CDs in quite a while so I made sure that on this trip I'd be able to see them play live at least once. On Oct 3 they played a show @ Shibuya LUSH with タカユキカトー(ひらくドア), グッバイフジヤマ, Day and Buffalo and The Mashiko. I read singer Tatejima Yoko's twitter feed so I knew harafromhell would be the 4th band to play and that I could take my time going to the show. At Shibuya LUSH, there are no in/out privileges so once you go inside you can't normally leave and come back. I know Kenji (Bucolic, COMA*, ex-cumulonimbus) the booking agent @ LUSH but I didn't want to take my chances being stuck inside and bored prior to harafromhell. The doors opened at 630pm and the show started at seven. I got to Shibuya at around 7pm and then walked towards LUSH. Instead of heading inside the club I took my time eating a delicious avocado burger at nearby Kua 'Aina. At around 740pm I headed downstairs towards LUSH. Coincidentally, Kenji was working the door. Even though he's the booking agent he also works the door and bartends too from time to time. Not to mention he's on stage almost every other day playing drums in one of his many bands. I should also mention that this show was a Beat Happening! event. Beat Happening! is similar to the Wavelength events held at Sneaky Dees/Garrison showcasing up & coming bands in Toronto. Beat Happening! shows book up & coming bands and occasionally veteran bands primarily from Tokyo but also other parts of Japan. The guy who runs Beat Happening! has specific tastes and most of the bands lean towards indie-pop, indie-rock, pop-punk and folk with an overall festive party vibe to the line-up. 385 has played Beat Happening! a few times but there's not much underground punk/HC happening at these events. The curator also has a predilection towards bands with cute female members... but I don't see anything wrong with that. hahaha.

When I walked inside the first performer was タカユキカトー (Takayuki Katou), the singer-guitarist from ひらくドア (He Luck Door). He was just finishing up his set and I caught the last song. It was standard acoustic folk which maybe years from now when my tastes mellow out I might be able to appreciate more but for now unless there's exceptional guitar-work or terrific song melody/arrangement associated I tend to zone out watching folk artists. To be honest, I actually like some of He Luck Door's earlier songs which have an Owlights-esque spazziness and chaotic element to them but their newer stuff seems rather generic.

グッバイフジヤマ (Good-bye Fujiyama) were the 2nd band up. The members used to live in the Yamanashi prefecture near Mt Fuji but have since relocated to Tokyo. Hence the band name Good Bye Fujiyama (Fujiyama = Mt Fuji). This band plays pop/folk similar to THEラブ人間 (the love ningen) that is admittedly too 'genki' (shiny & happy) for my tastes. However, their brand new support guitarist is ridiculously talented giving the band a little Maps & Atlases feel to them when they let him roam freely on guitar.

Third up were Day and Buffalo. Apparently they've been around for quite a while with numerous line-up changes and instrumental set-ups. They took me by surprise when I saw them at Basement Bar in April. Back then the singerébassist wore a white dress shirt and black slacks and his hair was slicked up like out of an episode of the Happy Days. I figured they would play some form of rockabilly or garage rock but was blown away by their incredibly tight musicianship, diverse musical style and brilliant song arrangements.

This night the singer/bassist wore a regular T-shirt but his hair had the same `doo. Anyhow, they opened with the same song as they did back in April. It starts off dub-reggae but veers off into rock with chaotic hardcore freak-outs. Each of their songs have unusual, brilliant song arrangements and the drummer is spectacular in both creativity and power. Back in April I remember the singer putting down his bass and reciting spoken word/hip hop freestyle. For the most part, the band plays as a regularly structured 4-pc rock unit but they have these surprise elements that come out of left field that make them intriguing and awesome to watch.

Their next show was going to be on Oct 5 (a day where there were at least 4 other shows I wanted to see. To my previous list of three you could add goomi in Chiba). Apparently, this time they would be joined by a female singer. I wonder if it's the cute singer in this video:

Neither my live clip or the video immediately above give you an idea of how diverse and powerful Day and Buffalo's music is especially when performed live. And it seems the band is constantly evolving and experimenting with its sound. They're a veteran band but one to keep an eye on since they haven't lost their edge for creativity.

Next up were my reason for going to the gig in the first place: harafromhell. They're from Chiba just like グーミ (goomi) and play underground emo-tinged pop similar to goomi. I love abrasive post-punk/HC like hyacca, Yolz in the Sky, Praha Depart but I'm also a sucker for soulful pop with great melodies and an intense, underground/punk edge to them. That's exactly what harafromhell are like. In fact they're very similar in sound and style to another favorite band of mine: thai kick murph. <-- this video rules, watch it till the end! The drumming is insane!

Both thai kick murph and harafromhell play extremely melodic indie pop with beautiful female vocals but they have an agressive side to them on stage and their performances ooze with emotion, intensity and power. TKM's Yo Miyao has a more angelic voice and more advanced singing talent but harafromhell's Tatejima Yoko (real name: Sugawara Misato) has a sweet voice of her own, is incredibly charismatic and passionate and... she's gorgeous. Not HOT but more of a subtle beauty in a girl-next-door kind of way.

How does Toshi (ランランランズ) always end up in harafromhell's photos? I guess because ランランランズ are from Chiba too and good friends with harafromhell.

harafromhell played: 1. エイプリル 2. 最終回 3. クラスメイト 4. アパート銀河 5. ?new song 6. れない。

This is by memory and the order may be off in the middle and there might have been one more song.

I took footage of them playing "最終回"

I love the drumming. So many bands in Japan have great drummers it's ridiculous.

This is the song I don't know the title of. I think it's relatively new:

Here is the intro and outro of "れない。" The video someone else took at a different show is much better but I think my clips show more clearly the power and intensity with which they can play:

It's too bad they didn't play the 1st song "東京昆虫博物館" off their demo because it's my favorite. I asked one of the guitarists why they rarely seem to perform it and he said because it tires the drummer out too much. Indeed, the drumming on that song is powerfully sick and I can imagine being exhausted from playing it.

If you can't tell already, I really like this band. They're still young and very raw. They're talented but will never be elite musicians; however, they have something unique about them that I don't see in a lot of other bands. Unfortunately, the bass player, AGO, who has been with the band from the beginning as a support player will be replaced with a permanent bassist. AGO is arguably the member who stands out the most because he plays with so much emotion but apparently the guy taking his place is supposed to be incredibly talented.

I'm strongly considering bringing harafromhell to Canada for NMFT. Geoff might be rolling his eyes but it will depend on balancing the line-up of bands between variety of styles and mellow vs aggressive. I've found a lot of new bands I think would put on great performances in Canada and harafromhell is one of them. The fact they have 5 members is a knock against them though. Also, they only have one rough demo and very little in terms of photos/video that I could use to promote.

Anyhow, the final band to perform was The Mashiko. I saw them play last year at Shinjuku Motion with a great young band that broke up way too early, Shiila. What I remembered from that show was that both Shiila and the Mashiko have incredible bassists.

The Mashiko are similar to Sparta Locals in style and when I talked to the band after the show they admitted they were huge fans of them. Thankfully, they're nowhere near a carbon copy but you can notice the influence.

The singer-guitarist is f*cking hilarious. During the first emcee break the 2nd guitarist initiated the talking. He named and thanked all the four other bands that performed and then awkwardly asked the singer-guitarist to say something.... but he wouldn`t. So the 2nd Gt complained, "why are you being so cold all of a sudden! Just say something to the audience" Again the singer just ignored him so the 2nd Gt pulled the singer and kicked him in the ass and demanded that he say something. So finally, the singer takes the mic and proceeds to name the four other bands that performed and thanks them.... (the audience groans.. what? again?) BUT not only that he gives detailed impressions and anecdotes about the four other bands...for instance he mentions that he has a crush on harafromhell's Tatejima Yoko... AND he even looked up and memorized the next shows for each of the four other bands... encouraging the audience to go to these shows... except harafromhell's next show because it's the same night as the Mashiko's next gig. THAT was f*cking hilarious.

It was a great show. Particularly impressed with harafromhell and Day and Buffalo. The Mashiko were solid but a bit too mainstream rock. I can see them getting fairly popular though. The following night I saw THE★米騒動 and HINTO which was also fantastic followed the next night by amazing performances by otori and kinoko teikoku. Three great nights of music in a row reassured me that the music scene in Tokyo still has plenty of great bands to watch and enjoy.