2013.12.19: sgt. (one-man show) @ o-nest
sgt are an instrumental band who blend together numerous musical genres but primarily post-rock, jazz, classical and noise. Their sound is majestic and extremely powerful and is distinguished by the use of electric violin as the primary source of melody. They were one of four bands to take part in NMFT vol 2 back in Oct 2010 along with susquatch, uhnellys and MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS. It's been over a year since I last saw them perform and last night I was reminded how truly elite they are as one of the best live bands in Japan.
On Dec 19, 2013 they held a one-man show at Tsutaya O-nest with a number of guest musicians playing support including:
Mukaiyama Toshitaka (nego) on guitar Nakamura Keisaku (kowloon, Kimura Kaela, toe) on keyboards Kato Yuichiro (Natsumen) on alto sax Sotoma Masami (M.A.S) on trumpet
As I mentioned in my previous post, the CD/DVD/game-rental & bookstore chain Tsutaya bought out Shibuya O-group's family of live houses: O-EAST, O-Crest, O-WEST, O-nest and Burrow. Each of these live houses has it's own character and booking tendencies. O-EAST is the largest venue (cap:1300) and books bigger acts of all genres; O-WEST (cap:600) is the 2nd largest and focuses on Visual Kei, hard-rock and idol acts; O-Crest (cap:200) caters to generic rock and pop-punk while Burrow, the newest and smallest venue (cap:?100) seems to book lesser known hard rock acts. Occasionally I'll go to O-east to see a bigger name band like toe or a festival like Zankyo Matsuri, but out of the five livehouses the only one that really matters to me is O-nest. O-nest books the type of indie/underground bands you'd find on an NMFT roster. Although.. they've caved into the uber-popular J-idol movement and now book lesser known J-idol groups as well to be remain competitive. Shibuya O-nest is still one of my favorite livehouses in Tokyo so I hope the takeover by Tsutaya doesn't affect booking practices too much. Oh and the food at O-nest is fantastic. I highly recommend the thai green curry!!
I was invited to attend this show by Akashi Koji, sgt's bassist. I asked Akashi to put me and Jess on the guest list the night before and he said sure. But when we arrived he told me he couldn't actually get us on the list so I ended up paying 6000 yen ($60) for entry and two mandatory drink tickets. It was a little bit of a sketch move on Akashi's part but I let it slide.
Prior to the start of the show we also ran into Ohno Hitoshi (drummer) who gave me a big hug and Narui Mikiko (violin) who told me she would stage dive tonight and needed me to catch her when she did. This is a bit of a tradition. Mikiko was impressed by how much I dove and crowd surfed at the NMFT shows in Canada so whenever I attend an sgt show she reciprocates in appreciation by doing the same. She never stage dives when I'm not around so it's pretty cool we have this "thing" esoteric between us.
O-nest consists of a bar on the top floor with the livespace below. Jess and I made our way downstairs and positioned ourselves near the front and to the right near Narui Mikiko's spot on stage. The show was supposed to start at 8pm but the room was fairly empty so they pushed the start time by 20 min. Later when I looked behind me all of a sudden the venue was 2/3 packed. I wish I could tell you the setlist but I lost track of the songs as they played a few obscure ones and new ones during the first half. My friends Hiro and Midori went to a recent sgt show where they played for 2 hours and they found it difficult to stay engaged as the show went on. However, for me, at this particular show they were fairly solid throughout and really elevated their game towards the end when they played their best songs. sgt performed roughly ten songs over 90 min followed by an encore. I definitely remember them playing all their PV songs: "cosgoda," "Apollo Program" and "再生と密室" However the climax at the end consisting of "銀河の車窓から" (from the galaxy's car window)
followed by a new song and then my favorite "銀河を壊して発電所を創れ" (Destroy the galaxy and create the power plant) was nothing short of mind-blowing. It's rare that sgt plays both of the "銀河" (galaxy) songs. They're both very long songs (~12-15 min each) that sound like orchestral masterpieces that Mozart or Beethoven would have been happy to have composed. And of course Narui Mikiko jumped into my arms and crowd surfed at the end of "銀河を壊して発電所を創れ" :)
The live videos on Youtube don't do the band justice especially regarding how freaking LOUD they are. Jess said her eardrums were completely destroyed. But what's great about this band is that's it's not just pure distortion and noise they gradually and gracefully bring you to a crescendo of unparalleled beauty that's also loud and powerful enough to make your face melt. When sgt came to Canada Taoka Hironori's guitars admittedly were barely audible but current support guitarist Mukaiyama (who happens to be sgt's original guitarist) is not ashamed to crank up the gain on his amp and volume pedal.
For me watching Hitoshi's incredibly creative and powerful drumming alone was worth the price of admission and having the classy yet sexy Narui-chan dive onto me was icing on the cake. It was $60 well spent.
I asked Jess for her verdict and despite the fact her ears will be ringing for another week sgt easily overtook Uchuu Konbini as the best band she's seen in her life. However sgt have been at it for 10 years and Uchuu Konbini are a young band that have time to polish their craft and develop more stage presence with added experience.
Only 2 days in on our trip to Tokyo and we've been to 2 great shows. Jess took a bunch of photos of sgt but she didn't bring her laptop so I might be able to add some pics from the show in a couple weeks. I'll try to work on reviews on Kinoko Teikoku's Tower Records in-store event and group_inou's late night performance at Club Asia in the next couple days. I also bought a 50mm f/1.8 lens yesterday and can take some great low-light photos of my own now. Last night we watched Merpeoples, mother coat, Owarikara and Harafromhell and I managed to get some decent photos. So stay tuned for more reviews.