2012 Dec 14 - 16 ハラフロムヘル, きのこ帝国, sgt.
2012.12.14 My flight reached Narita airport at 3:30pm. The show I wanted to go to most this day was in Otsu, Shiga near Kyoto. But by the time I checked through customs/security, picked up my luggage, took a train to Tokyo, bullet-trained it to Kyoto, then took another train to Shiga the show would have been over. tricot and jizue were playing at Shiga U-stone and both bands are being considered for NMFT5.
Last month at the Neutral Nation music festival, as soon as I arrived I headed to the main stage to watch envy who were great but on the outdoor tent stage, jizue were playing and at least half a dozen people (Jessica, Ymane aka substance, Yukako Shiba of chiina, sgt's manager Kitazawa, my friend and show organizer Haruna... to name a few) highly recommended this band. I had come across jizue's music in the past on youtube and didn't pay it much attention but since so many people had great things to say about this band, especially their live performance, I decided to leave envy's set partway and check out jizue. I'm glad I did. The tent stage was PACKED and I could only watch from the periphery near the back. I couldn't actually see the band at all, but the sound alone was INTENSE. Not loud and distortion heavy but clean yet fiercely powerful with more impact than what I had just experienced watching envy. Current youtube videos of jizue don't do them justice and apparently it's just recently this year that their live performance dramatically improved. I talked with the band about coming to Canada and if things don't work out with Mouse on the Keys or haisuinonasa, jizue would be a more than adequate replacement. However, I've only seen them play two songs in which I didn't even have a view of the band so I'd like to see an entire set by them before making any kind of commitment. That's why I was choked that I wouldn't be able to see them play with tricot tonight.
BTW, I still haven't heard back from tricot about NMFT5 so they're obviously miffed about being dropped unceremoniously from NMFT4's roster earlier this year. I'll try to approach them with the offer again but it would have been ideal to talk to them in person (mainly the manager) at the show in Shiga.
Anyhow, getting to Shiga U-Stone for tricot/jizue was impossible so I went to Kichijoji WARP to watch ハラフロムヘル (harafromhell) instead. One of Maisa (Akai Koen)'s favorite bands, Bell Boy, also played tonight.
As always, harafromhell were solid but not as outstanding as when I first saw them. I guess I was disappointed it was the third show in a row where they didn't play my favorite song: "東京昆虫博物館." I have yet to see it played live in person or even on Youtube! However, this band plays with so much passion and energy every time they hit the stage it's practically impossible for me not to root for their success. It was also nice to see their old bassplayer, AGO, come to the show and support the band from the audience. Bell Boy are a fairly new band with a very emotionally intense guitar/vocalist. Their bassplayer is exceptionally good and although they primarily play garage-punk they're a bit more technical than the average punk band. はこモーフ also performed tonight. They're very similar to Chatmonchy and I'll leave it at that. The singer also plays in another band called Zippers with the guitarist from thai kick murph.
I was feeling tired/jetlagged so I left the show early but stopped by Nakamoto and challenged myself by eating their spiciest level of ramen: the infamous 北極ラーメン (North Pole ramen).
2012.12.15 I met up with a fan of NMFT from Toronto who is staying in Tokyo for a year. His name is Hirokazu and like me is of Japanese descent but born and raised in Canada. He's a huge fan of Akai Koen so it sucks that Akai Koen have been on indefinite hiatus since September and won't be playing shows again for the next few months. We watched a show curated by Hipland Music entitled HighApps vol.9.
But before that we checked out Zankyo Records.
Hirokazu, Tabata and I spent over an hour talking about bands. Then it was nearly time for the show so we had a quick bite to eat at *cough* TGIFridays *phlegm* and booted it to Shibuya WWW in time for Kinoko Teikoku who were the first band up.
Kinoko Teikoku's setlist:
1. 退屈しのぎ 2. new song 3. new song 4. ミュージシャン 5. 夜が明けたら
Hirokazu was enamored by Kinoko Teikoku's performance. I enjoyed it too but the set was too short (only 5 songs!) and the tone was excessively dark, earnest and brooding. They didn't play any of their more melodic, up-tempo songs like "WHIRLPOOL" or "国道スロープ" Also, recently they seemed to have stopped playing "足首" which is easily the most awe-inspiring song in their discography so I'll make sure they play it if/when they come to Canada. A-chan (lead Guitar) normally so loquacious you can't get her to shut up didn't even say a word the entire set. However, Chiaki's beautifully haunting vocals alone are worth the price of admission and when they go into beast-mode with their face-melting wall of noise, the two in combination is priceless.
It's just my assumption but Kinoko Teikoku may have purposely played a set darker and more serious than usual to contrast themselves from the three shiny, happy bands who were to follow.
パスピエ are a 5-pc band with female singer that has a cute, nasally voice like Yuki. The band is actually very skilled, particularly the bassplayer. Fans of soutaiseiriron seem to gravitate to this band as well. I checked out some of their music on Youtube prior to the show and it seemed "fluffy" but they're actually edgier than I expected. They seem to have a decent fanbase that was well represented at today's audience and the crowd got a lot livelier compared to Kinoko Teikoku. Having said that, Hirokazu and I snuck out halfway to sit down and drink some of Sapporo's finest.
If you don't count Perfume, BiS was my first exposure to watching an idol group perform live. Although, according to friends Ryotaro and Niwata, BiS are more of an anti-idol group whose appeal crosses over to the indie hipster crowd. Verdict: They were surprisingly entertaining. Actually, the crowd reacting, choreographed dancing, crowdsurfing, throwing their shirts off as a display of affection etc was an even greater spectacle than what transpired on stage. It was one big, silly dance party with four plain-looking girls lip-synching on stage and a legion of predominantly male fans going berserk down below. I totally comprehend the appeal of idol groups and their music towards the "otaku" demographic and even the general public as a whole but it's disheartening to see the lack of appreciation directed towards artists and bands that put considerably more effort into honing their skill and talent as true musicians.
Even though BiS are tongue-in-cheek in their"idolness" with a more DIY, down to earth character than their AKB and Kpop peers, I can't really appreciate a group that doesn't write any of their own music and lip synchs on stage. Idol groups are essentially back-up dancers pretending to sing and getting paid to look pretty and I don't see how that should merit any of my time and attention when there are hard-working bands making music with much greater substance.
Sebastian X were the main act. They are incredibly skilled and polished as musicians. The music is festive and cheery to an almost absurd degree and they crank up the volume LOUD. Manatsu has an inhumanly powerful voice with great range for someone of such diminutive stature. They put on an intense show but all of their songs fall into three categories: "genki" "more genki" and "full-on maximum genki" Most of the crowd didn't mind and thoroughly enjoyed the performance. Hirokazu liked Sebastian X quite a lot too but I would have preferred less non-stop jiggy and some more variety in tone/mood.
2012.12.16 sgt held a one-man show at Shimokitazawa ERA early in the afternoon with wooderd chiarie as the opening act. This is one of the primary shows I was looking forward to on this trip. Narui Mikiko (sgt. violin) and I even made a promise on Facebook that she would stagedive/crowdsurf and I would be the one to catch her and protect her from falling. Another reason I promised to go to this show was to meet Kiyota Atsushi of Mouse on The Keys and discuss their participation in NMFT vol5. It's unfortunate timing that otori were also playing at the same time at Sound Studio Dom in Koenji because it was my last chance to see otori before their drummer quits and returns to Kyoto. I contemplated missing the beginning of sgt's set (they'd be playing for 2+ hours) and watching a bit of otori but decided against it. wooderd chiarie play mellow post-rock-ish music with vocals. They are a top-notch band but their style of music doesn't quite fit my tastes. I kept looking at my watch, thinking if I should sneak out to Koenji in time for otori but stayed put. I'm glad I didn't because missing even a second of sgt's powerfully sublime performance would have been the gravest sin. They started off with "cosgoda" followed by "ライマンアルファの森" and played 8 songs in total. Makamura Keisaku (kowloon/toe/wuja binbin/hotel new tokyo) played keyboards, Yuichiro (Natsumen) joined peridically on sax and Kim from uhnellys lent his emcee skills for a rare performance of "Zweiter Weltkrieg." Again the highlight for me was the last song during which they played my favorite: "銀河を壊して発電所を創れ." This is also when Mikiko decided to put down her violin and crowd surf:
Of course I couldn't catch her and continue filming. I wish someone could have documented her awesome crowdsurfing antics on film for posterity.
Here are some more clips of sgt (click on title for hyperlink)
They played one song for an encore and I suck because I forget which song it was (it's an obscure one... at least that's my excuse).
sgt KILLED IT. Absolutely breathtaking performance that ranks as one of the best shows I've seen in my life. I was standing right up front and sgt played for over 2 hours and it went by so quickly that I would have liked two hours more.
Kiyota Atsushi of Mouse on The Keys never did show up for sgt's live but apparently he would show up later during the uchiage. I stayed at the uchiage until 6:30pm when it was time to catch harafromhell a short walk away at Shimokita Daisy Bar.
You would think after sgt, harafromhell would be majorly anticlimactic but they carried the torch magnificently with an ass-kicking set. They basically played the exact same set as at Kichijoji WARP but when they announced they had 3 songs left and proceeded to play アパート銀河, followed by the song they always play last: れない。 I KNEW they were going to make my day and play my favorite song: 東京昆虫博物館
I love Takemaru's drumming. It's a little sloppy but incredibly powerful and fast with a ton of character like andymori's original drummer Goto Hiroki. He went all out playing Renai and for him to follow with an even more exhausting 東京昆虫博物館 took stamina and guts. Up until this point, the shows had been decent but watching sgt and harafromhell today reminded me how awesome watching shows in Japan can be and why I want to bring such great bands and atmosphere to Canada.