List of Concerts Reviewed (alphabetical by band):
**NEW** Live Show Short List :
Most recent concert review (descending in reverse chronological order):
Afro Labyrinth (1), Afro Labyrinth (2), Afro Labyrinth (3), ...and young , APREM , Aska Temple , Ather Feels , Aube (1), Aube (2), Aube (3), Aube (4), AXA , Baby Zen , Bad Boys , Battcho, Bears Anniversary , Beat Electric , Beirut 5 , Bery Neck , Betles , Bipod Jimmy (Tripod Jimmy Unplugged), Boiled Fish Paste , Boris , Boss of Naked , Bringer of War , Burl , the Cadets (U.S.A.), Capitalist Casualties (U.S.A), los Cappuccinos, C love R , Coa (1), Coa (2), Coa (3), Coa (4), Coa (5), Coa (6), Coa (7), Coa (8), Communication Brain Buster , Cornershop (U.K.), Corrupted , Cowpers , Creep (1), Creep (2), Creep (3), Creep (4), Daimyo Gyoretsu , the Damones (1), the Damones (2), the Damones (3), Depth (1), Depth (2), Depth (3), Depth (4), Depth (5), Depth (6), Depth (7), Depth (8), Dew Under , Dharma Punch , Diffuse , Dig A Hole , Djamra , DJ Anon , Jimmy Dowd , Drillman (1), Drillman (2), Drillman (3), Drowned Mind , earwax , Eggplant Reunion , El Caminos , Empty Orchestra , the Fartknockers , Flaming Boo , Framzie , Fuji Tatsuhiko , Funky Chick , the Futures , Fuzz Tone , Gaji (1), Gaji (2), Garadama , GaraGara Hebi , Gladiator , Go-Devils (1), Go-Devils (2), Goggles , Go Kitty , Golden Syrup Lovers , Godspeed , Grind Orchestra , Guitar Wolf , Haco (1), Haco (2), Haco (3), Half Japanese, Hallucination , Happy Under River , Harogen Lump , Helicoid 0222MB , Henricoots, Hijo Kaidan , Hot Buttered Pool , I Destroyed , Iede Shonen, Indian No Echo Sign Bine No (1), Indian No Echo Sign Bine No (2), the Invisiblemen (U.S.A.), Jackie and the Cedrics , Jahangir , Jakarantan , Jesus Fever (1), Jesus Fever (2), Jesus Fever (3), Jet Liners , John Holmez , Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 1 (KB*CC I), Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 2 (KB*CC II), Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 3 (KB*CC III), Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 4 (KB*CC IV), Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 5 (KB*CC V), Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 6 (KB*CC VI), Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 7 (KBCC VII), Karma Stench , Katakaruta , Kirihito , Klingon , Knuckles , Kobe earthquake charity concert 1 , Kobe earthquake charity concert 2 , Kobe earthquake charity concert 3 , Kozo Inada , Lili no kuruma , Loco Loco Festival 2001 (Nakanoshima Festival), Love Beach , Love Is Dead , Love Love , Love Or Die , LSD March , Mach Kung-Fu , Yngwie J. Malmsteen (Sweden) (1), Yngwie J. Malmsteen (2), Masatsu Genin , Masonna , Melt Banana (1), Melt Banana (2), Merzbow , Mimi , Mimi no Koto , Miru , Moga the 5 Yen (1), Moga the 5 Yen (2), Molybdan Mosh , Morgue Side Cinema , Motor Humming , Music Start Against Young Assault (1), Music Start Against Young Assault (2), Music Start Against Young Assault (3), Music Start Against Young Assault (4), Music Start Against Young Assault (5), Nagisa Nite (1), Nagisa Nite (2), Nagisa Ni te (3), Nagisa Ni Te (4), Naht , NASCA Car (1), NASCA Car (2), Natural Punch Drunker , Neko Mushi , Nendo , Nonpareil , Toodles O'Hara , Okarejime kamerareta koibitotachi e , Tim Olive (1), Tim Olive (2), Tim Olive (3), Omoide Hatoba , ON OFF (1), ON OFF (2), Onse , OOIOO (2), OOIOO (2), Osaka Stainless , Ossan Alpha , Permanent Voltage , Pet (1), Pet (2), Pet (3), Pet (4), Plastic Mode , Poem Circles, the Port (1), Port (2), Mike Port’s Bongos , P-Shirts , Rashinban , Razor's Edge , Real Reggae , Rise From The Dead , Rock Byoin , Roi-Tan , Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock , Saboten Kyodai , Alice Sailor and Hide, Sawaguchi Miki (1), Sawaguchi Miki (2), Shimura Koji + Kawaguchi Masami + Nishimura Takuya , Slight Slappers , Sly Stone , Solid Eye , Solmania (1), Solmania (2), Songs About Fucking , Sonic Youth (U.S.A.), Soul Fire , Space Machine , Spanner , Speedway Baby , Spicy Fat Bros , Star Star Star , Sub-Dude , Suicidal Tendencies (U.S.A), Summer , Superliner , the Surfers of Romantica (1), the Surfers of Romantica (2), SwaRRRm (1), SwaRRRm (2), Takayama Kenichi , Tamio , TEEM (1), TEEM (2), Thee Bossmen , Third Organ , 3.6 Milk , TLIZI , Trance Former , Tripod Jimmy (1), Tripod Jimmy (2), Tripod Jimmy (3), Tripod Jimmy (4) , Tripod Jimmy (5), Tsurubami , U. (1), U. (2), Ultimate Space Machine Null Sonic (K.K. Null and Masonna), Ultra Bide, Ultra Fuckers (1), Ultra Fuckers (2), Ultra Fuckers (3), Ultra Fuckers (4), Ultra Fuckers (5), Ultra Fuckers (6), Ultra Fuckers (7), Ultra Fuckers (8), Ultra Fuckers (9), Uni-que , Unknown Frequencies , Uxumaki , Vita Sexualis , the Volume Dealers , VooDooBrooYou , Joe Wade , DJ Matt Walsh , We Are The World , Dave Wesson , Woody West Wood , XOYO , Steve Yamaguchi , Yamamoto Seiichi , Yamamoto Seiichi + Phillip Sanartzis , Yamamoto Seiichi + Tim Olive , Yellow Machine Gun (1), Yellow Machine Gun (2), Young Boogies, Zombie Watusi, Zushi Naoki (1), Zushi Naoki (2), etc.
Do you live in/near Osaka and want to be informed about upcoming live shows? Send me an email and I'll put you on the Live House Crew Emailer list.
Osaka's 2 entertainment districts are Umeda and Namba. Umeda is near the bullet train stop for Osaka and it is the business district with eating and drinking for the office crowd among others, and Namba (four stops of Umeda on the main Midosuji subway artery) is the real trendy shopping/clubbing area. Rockets and Bears, as well as countless other clubs, are in Namba. Bears is about the size of a 3-car garage, and Rockets is a respectable mini-club. Club Quattro is a bit north of Bears and sometimes has moderately successful international pop, dance and alternative acts. Fandango is in Juso, the red-light district (cabarets and hostess bars, hotels, karaoke pubs, as well as legitimate businesses like restaurants, boutiques, pachinko, and one excellent live house) just one stop north of Umeda on the Hankyu (not the subway) line. See above for links to their websites, which usually have maps - essential for finding anything in Japan. Bayside Jenny's is way out in the harbor area, so I try not to mess with it, but they sometimes have good all night events and successful international touring bands. Star Club is in Kobe, just under the train tracks in a neighborhood full of car and motorcycle repair shops, it is gritts and full of young people and young bands, feels like the Cavern Club in Liverpool must have in1961.
Don't forget Kobe. The Star Club in Kobe is a cool place to see shows. Located under the train tracks a 10-15 minute walk from the Sannomiya stations, the Star Club is a long narrow space with a tall stage at the end, with a feeling reminiscent perhaps to the Cavern Club that the Beatles played in Liverpool in their young days a very long time ago.
For anyone interested in coming to Japan to check out live shows, be warned that live shows almost never cost less than 2000 yen (US$20) unless it is the rare free show (summer festivals may be free, the odd free event, even international touring bands like Chumbawumpa have been known to give the odd free show in Japan...). Still, for the money you get intimate venues and 3 to 6 quality bands.
Check the Fandango and Bears and Mushroom and Art House live schedule pages for details. For more Club and Band Links and tape and CD reviews, visit the Japan Music page or go to the comprehensive Kansai club house site . If you are interested in Tokyo, check here .
April 27th , 2003 – Coa, Ultra Bide, Battcho, Poem Circles , Iede Shonen.
April 18th , 2003 – Namba Bears: Half Japanese, Ultra Fuckers, and TEEM.
April 10th, 2003 – Namba Bears: Coa , Young Boogies, Alice Sailor and Hide, and Zombie Watusi.
February 15th , 2003 – Tocca a Te: KTO’s Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 6 (KB*CC 6), featuring Dave Wesson, Ossan Alpha, Love Or Die, Ultra Fuckers, Saboten Kyodai, Go Kitty, Tripod Jimmy, and Love Beach
January 18th , 2003 – OTO-YA: DJ Anon, dg , Dj-(underline), symphony space, 10/g (u:)m , 精神中央 etc.
January 18th , 2003 – Namba Bears: Beat Electric , Bad Boys , and Boris
Friday December 13th , 2002 – IMP Hall: Yngwie J. Malmsteen
October 20th, 2002 , Namba Bears: Jesus Fever , Onse , and Rashinban
September 28th , 2002 – Sky Bar: Osaka Stainless , Joe Wade, Bipod Jimmy (Tripod Jimmy Unplugged), Diffuse , and Sub-Dude
September 21st , 2002 – Sam and Dave’s 5: KTO’s Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 6 (KB*CC 6), featuring bands Lili no kuruma , Framzie, Afro Labyrinth , Flaming Boo, and Uni-que
June 16th, 2002 , Namba Bears: Ultra Fuckers , I Destroyed , Junk Headd, Doddodo and TEEM
June 1st and 2nd 2002 : Yodogawa Free Festival (in lieu of Dance on the Banks). Unknown Frequencies, Soul Fire , the Mike Port Bongo Experience , DJ Matt Walsh , and many more.
May 26th, 2002 , Namba Bears: Masonna , Aube , Third Organ, Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock , Solid Eye
May 3rd, 2002 , Yamamura Salon: Aube , Nagisa Ni Te , and Takayama Kenichi , Kobe Earthquake Charity Benefit
April 29th, 2002 , at Sam and Dave’s 5: Afro Labyrinth, Superliner , Molybdan Mosh, and Funky Chick
April 3, 2002 , at Kobe Star Club: Fuzz Tone , Googles, and Guitar Wolf
March 9, 2002 , at Juso Fandango: Music Start Against Young Assault, Drillman , and Port
February 11th, 2002 at Namba Bears : Ultra Fuckers , the Surfers of Romantica , Vita Sexualis and Solmania
January 12th, 2002 , at M-Cube, Osaka: Burl , Knuckles, Pet , and 3.6 Milk
November 7, 2001 , at Oguni Byoin, Himeji: Baby Zen
October 16, 2001 , at Juso Fandango: Go Devils , Mach Kung-Fu , Jackie and the Cedrics, and the Invisiblemen (the U.S.A.)
September 23, 2001 , at the Kobe Star Club: Trance Former , Speedway Baby, Morgue Side Cinema , Coa , Death Surf 2000, 25m Floater, Port Cuss, DJs, etc.
September 6, 2001 at the Art House in Kobe: Harogen Lump, TLIZI , Creep, Depth , and earwax
August 25, 2001 at the Mushroom Club in Himeji: Tsurubami , Neko Mushi, Rock Byoin , Mimi no Koto
August 11, 2001 in Juso Fandango : the Futures , Beirut 5, SwaRRRm , and Melt Banana
July 29th, 2001 at Namba Bears : Ultra Fuckers , Bringer Of War, GaraGara Hebi , and Aska Temple . Scum Nite at Bears.
July 19th, 2001 , Rockets in Namba: Tripod Jimmy , Drowned Mind, Love Is Dead, Songs About Fucking , Gladiator, and Woody West Wood .
June 10th, 2001 , Nakanoshima Park: Loco Loco 2001 Music Festival: Music Start Against Young Assault , Tripod Jimmy , the Cadets, Summer , Pet , etc.
June 3rd, 2001 , Club Quattro in Shinsaibashi: VooDooBrooYou , Jesus Fever, Nagisa Ni te, Yamamoto Seiichi with Tim Olive, and Drillman
May 18th, 2001 at Namba Bears : Dharma Punch , Coa, Indian No Echo Sign Bine No , Mimi
May 6, 2001 in Juso Fandango : ...and young , Music Start Against Young Assault , ON OFF , the Port
May 5, 2001 in Yamamura Salon in Ashiya: Aube , Nagisa Nite, and Zushi Naoki Kobe Earthquake Charity Benefit
April 21st, 2001 at Sam and Daves 5: the Fartknockers , Tripod Jimmy , APREM
April 6th, 2001 at Namba Bears : Love Love , Ather Feels, Hallucination , and P-Shirts
March 10, 2001 at Club Water in Namba: Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 5 ( KB*CC V) with Plastic Mode, the Damones , Coa , Depth , and Afro Labyrinth .
February 23rd, 2001 at Zepp Osaka : Sonic Youth , OOIOO, and Tamio
February 17th, 2001 at Star Club : Some Hot Seets vol. 6 - Nendo , Boss of Naked, Pet , Natural Punch Drunker, and Spicy Fat Bros .
February 11th, 2001 at Namba Bears : Okarejime kamerareta koibitotachi e , Indian No Echo Sign Bine No. , Music Start Against Young Assault
January 28th, 2001 at Namba Bears : Tim Olive , Kozo Inada, Ultimate Space Machine Null Sonic (K.K. Null and Masonna), Yamamoto Seiichi and Phillip Sanartzis
January 14th, 2001 at Namba Bears : Space Machine , Shimura Koji (of White Heaven ) + Kawaguchi Masami (from Broombusters) + Nishimura Takuya (from Che-shizu ) and LSD March
December 28, 2000 in Juso Fandango : AXA (Aube and Sekiri), Garadama, Sawaguchi Miki and Jojo and Ono and Itani , and Merzbow
December 26, 2000 in Juso Fandango : Karma Stench , Depth, Pet , and Dig A Hole
November 30 - December 2, 2000 in Juso Fandango: Tag Rag Nite Vol. 29-31: XOYO , Kirihito, Grind Orchestra , Rise From the Dead, On/Off, Drillman , NASCA Car , Gaji , Jesus Fever
November 18th, 2000 at Namba Bears : Sly Stone , Boiled Fish Paste, Bery Neck, Creep , Moga the 5 Yen
November 5, 2000 in Juso Fandango : Music Start Against Young Assault , Solmania, Gaji , and Coa
October 15, 2000 in Juso Fandango : Dew Under , Depth, Razor's Edge , and Cowpers
September 30, 2000 at Club Water in Namba: Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 4 ( KB*CC IV) with Tim Olive, Katakuruta , El Caminos , Permanent Voltage, Tripod Jimmy , and Empty Orchestra
August 25, 2000 at the El Macombo in Toronto, Canada: Jimmy Dowd, with Alexis O'Hara
July 7, 2000 at Club Water in Namba: Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 3 (KB*CC III) with Roi-Tan , C love R , Haco, UltraFuckers , Daimyo Gyoretsu
June 4, 2000 in Juso Fandango : Djamra , Motor Humming, and Melt Banana
May 5, 2000 in Yamamura Salon in Ashiya: Aube , Nagisa Nite, and Zushi Naoki Kobe Earthquake charity concert
April 22, 2000 at Namba Bears: the Ultra Fuckers ,NASCA Car , the Surfers of Romantica
March 20, 2000 at Namba Bears: "ladies night" with Sawaguchi Miki, Miru , Haco, Coa
February 24, 2000 at Fandango in Juso: Star Star Star , Helicoid 0222MB, Communication Brain Buster , Ultra Fuckers
February 19th, 2000 at Club Water in Namba: Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 2 (KB*CC II) with Roi-Tan , Depth , the Damones, Masatsu Genin, los Cappuccinos
January 28th, 2000 at Namba Bears : Haco , Yamamoto Seiichi, and Spanner
January 15th, 2000 at Fandango in Juso: Creep, Naht, Swarrrm , Moga the 5 Yen
November 27th, 1999 at Fandango in Juso: Eggplant Reunion: Omoide Hatoba , Godspeed, Hijo Kaidan
November 25th, 1999 at Fandango in Juso: Depth , Nonpareil, Betles
November 25th, 1999 at Koseininkinkaikan Dai Hall: Yngwie J. Malmsteen
September 18th, 1999 at Club Water in Namba: Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 1 (KB*CC I) with Thee Bossmen , the Damones , Go-Devils, Permanent Voltage and Masatsu Genin
September 11th, 1999 at Fandango in Juso: Yellow Machine Gun, Depth , Uxumaki, and Creep
August 20th, 1999 at Namba Bears: Ultra Fuckers , Jahangir , Jet Liners, We Are The World
July 18th, 1999 , Fandango in Juso: Corrupted , Slight Slappers, Real Reggae, and Capitalist Casualties
May 5th, 1999 , Fandango in Juso: U. , Depth , Coa, Volume Dealers
April 29th, 1999 , Club Quattro in Shinsaibashi: OOIOO with guests Kiyoshi Izmi and GJ:GUITOO
April 25th, 1999 , Rockets in Namba: U. , Golden Syrup Lovers, Henricoots, Happy Under River , Hot Buttered Pool, Klingon , and Jakarantan .
April, 16th, 1999 , at Namba Bears: Bears anniversary show :
August 11th, 1998 , Bayside Jenny's in Tenpozan: Suicidal Tendencies with Yellow Machinegun and John Holmez
April 19th, 1998 , Club Quattro in Shinasibashi: Cornershop
Note: concerts are listed in reverse chronological order!
April 27th, 2003 – Mushroom Club, Himeji: Coa, Ultra Bide, Battcho , Poem Circles, Iede Shonen. Well, nearly a month has gone by and I have not written about this show yet. I thought that the April 18th show at Bears would be my last in Japan before I moved to Singapore, but then I found out that this show was going to happen just after my move to Himeji (but before the move to Singapore, I know – confusing). Naoko and Zen and I head downtown in the afternoon to meet Ian Masters and Hidemi to hang out together and visit the Himeji castle grounds and garden. It is a great day and we have fun hanging out. Go off to the show and see a big of the Coa soundcheck. I wanted to go early and hang out and intervie Coa, but then I find out that the show is starting at 6 instead of 7! Wow, good thing we were early, although no interview happened before the show. Coa were up first and they launched into their usual nasty fervor. I have seen their heavy mental show so many times now, I am losing the ability to describe it correctly, but it sure was intense and cool. Bill on drums, Eddie on bass, and a sinister bespectacled special guest on a musical grind box that made strange sounds. He also provided angry vocals to match Eddie’s, which is quite a feat. Bizarre! The set was short, just over fifteen minutes. Next up were Pormm Circles, the band with the mysterious name with Kazuo from Love Love playing bass. They did their first song with the noise box, then continued on on their own. The sound – psychadelic rock with more emphasis on the rock except for one wild psych-out jam – or maybe two. OK group, but the vocalist is a bit weak I though. They were followed by Iede Shonen, three shirtless guys came out and played a nasty heavy hardcore intro – very tight. I was amazed that not one of them had a single tattoo. Then the guitarist and the bassist turned their back on the audience and the lead singer came out – a dandy wearing black jeans, and some sort of flamboyant shirt. Nice hair too. We all thought to ourselves “narcissist.” He sang angry vocals for a song, then told us that he was hot, so he took off his shirt. Another pouty song with mock Morrissey moves. Then he started taking off his pants. Ian said to me “this guy is going to be get naked,” and sure enough he did! He played at least three songs totally buck naked, even chatted for long spells between songs, before finally going offstage. What a weirdo. Battcho were up next, but we were not too into their brand of rock and roll, so we hung out backstage. Hide from Ultra Bide came and sat with us for a while, since he has met Ian before and I had just seen him play with Alice Sailor at Bears a few weeks earlier (Coa also played that show). Later he and Okazawa went off to get read for their set and we hit the front row of the audience with our video cameras. This is Ultra Bide mark III, it seems that they have played about five shows together, and they are all about Hide’s bass and vocals, Okazawa’s heavily distorted guitar riffs and effects, and snazzy rock drumming from the funky drummer. They launched into a spooky dirge to start it off, then they pulled out the stops and played some nasty, tooth-gnashing rock and roll!! Hide is quite a showman, grimacing and posing and looking like he’s having the time of his life, Okazawa gaunt and hunched over and totally in a blissful world of his own – him and his Rickenbacker!! The drummer was great too, and Ultra Bide really put on a great, steamy, rock and roll show! Ian and Hidemi left mid-set to catch the train back to Amagasaki, but I hung around a bit after the show to hang out with the people and to see how the noise box worked. An irregularly-shaped cylinder inside the box is attached to a crank. Contact mics are somehow connected to the cylinder. Cones set into the top of the box rub against the cylinder producing a grating noise that the contact mics pick up. Objects with various weights are put on top of the cones to alter the type of sound produced, and they are changed about. It is a pretty cool random system and it sure made strange sounds!! I bought the star-shaped Coa single for 1000 yen, even though I don’t have a turntable, and then we all went off to the after-party. Ate and drank a bit, talked for a long time with Okazawa-san and Hide, and then did my interview with Coa! Hide told me about the tour in America Ultra Bide is going to do with some of the bands like Coa, Oshiri Pen Pens, Ni Haos, and some others. He said I should try to find a way to get the bands to play Singapore – maybe with grant funding – and they will go. Cool, sounds like a plan. Talking to Coa, I was surprised to find out that Bill doesn’t even have a drumkit of her own to practice on, she just slaps her legs to practice!! Man…
April 18th , 2003 – Namba Bears: Half Japanese, Ultra Fuckers, and TEEM. My last night at Bears before the imminent move to Singapore in May. Went downtown early and bought 4 CDs at Alchemy Records – the new Masonna, Space Machine, and Acid Mothers Temple and Sekiri CDs. Talked to Masonna a bit, seems like he only sold one of my zines – to Philhomena, whom I had told by email that they were available there. They aren’t displayed, I don’t see how he will ever sell any more. Got to Bears early so I could interview Jeff Bell and Nana like we’d been talking about for ages, but the interview didn’t happen because sound checks were taking place. Watched Half Japanese sound check, talked a bit to some of the guys. Later gave Jad Fair directions how to get to Den Den Town. Went for beers, and then Jeff and Nana and I finally did the interview backstage at Bears, Kawai from Ultra Fuckers sat in on it too. Got my seat near the front so I could do some filming – good thing too, it was warming up to be a full crowd. Ultra Fuckers were up first. Kawai came out and asked everybody to stand up, because although having people sitting on the floor for a punk show is lame it is what people at Bears always do anywya. The band blasted away at a few funky numbers, some new things that were silly and spare. Kawai apologized for sounding so bad, that they didn’t know their new songs so well. He spoke in English mostly through the set, but broke into Japanese when he wanted to make a point. Many foreigners in the crowd heckling him back in English, so the usual effect he has of babbling in English to a Japanese audience that doesn’t understand him was lost somewhat. “Do you like Shiina Ringo?” Cool toy guitar noise, funny air thump thump thump. Toward the end of the show he asked “Do you know the King of Hearts?” We said “no, we don’t know the king of hearts,” and he explained something about Gundam and anime, or something. Very funny. Rousing final number with the Butthole Surfers reprise, then he jumps from the stepladder and rolls through the air, landing on his shoulder. He takes a long time to get up, and looks like he’s in terrible pain. The band picks up and walks offstage. TEEM are up next. Nana starts it off with his bass blompings, Yamamoto taking it easy with some simple guitar themes, China keeping it going on drums, and Jeff Bell standing around wondering what to do – turn on his pocket radio, manipulate it with an old electric toothbrush, or twang away on his Vietnamese Jews harp. Nana’s bass is the most fluid element to it all, it is burbling like a mountain stream, and China’s slick drums keep it all together. Yamamoto is having a hard time picking up on a theme, and Jeff doesn’t have much to say. Actually, his mic doesn’t seem to be working very well either and we can’t quite make out what he’s saying. Maybe he meant it to be that way! Jeff is a pretty mellow guy. On the other hand, Yamamoto’s mic works and has a ferocious echo, but he doesn’t barely use it. This band is definitely not as fierce as they were the last time I saw them when they snarled “we are TEEM!” and “eat my pussies.” After a while Yamamoto walked offstage toward the sound deck, came back and stopped the jazz fusion experiment, then picked up with some funky numbers that had some steam to them, fierce punching and nutty energy. This was the band we had come to see!! From the backstage door I could see the happy faces of the Half Japanese guitarist poking his head in to see what was going on. After a few more minutes of loud, aggressive sounds, the band finished up and walked offstage. After some time to mellow out and get ready for the headliners, it was time for Half Japanese. The band came onstage, set up the equipment a bit, and launched into the first song – the guitarist pounding away on a mini-drumkit, the drummer banging away, and Jason Willett looking really cool puffing away at slim hand-rolled cigarettes and working strange electronic pads (he looks kind of like Gary Sinise, doesn’t he?). Jad went nuts singing strange ditties. They played three numbers, experimenting with the equipment, before they stopped it all and said they’d take a break to solve a few equipment problems. Okay. We sat back and waited, then promptly it picked up again. Lots of cool funky sounds and a great pulse, the song that stuck out the most for me was the Monster Island song and all the different monster roars – King Kong, Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera – R-RRROOOAHRRRR!!!!! Another song about Frankenstein, another song about this and that and, well I should really watch the video to refresh my memory. The band looked like it was having a lot of fun and there was lots of goofy grins back and forth between Jason and the drummer. Jad worked with a little microphone he held in his fist that made his voice sound extra sharp and freaky. After a while the guitarist walked off and we didn’t see him for a while. Later on the band took a short break, then came back in full rock and roll gear – the guitarist banging away at the sweet beautiful guitar sounds, Jason on a slinky bass, and the drummer still working away. Some songs were just Jad and the drummer, Jad sang two Calvin Johnston songs including “Caspar,” and then he did a babble-solo on the city of Chicago. Chris from Chicago was standing next to me. I don’t know how he felt about it, but Bob from Minnesota behind me got brave enough to heckle at that point. Don back in the middle of the room began to mosh around and went a little crazy – I worried a bit for the petite damsels crowding the front because, well, Don is a big, sweaty guy! The tape ran out in my camera, which meant that the band had been playing for over an hour, and I could just enjoy the show without bothering to film it. Jad did great versions of “Red Dress,” proving he wasn’t bothered by Bob’s heckling, and lots of great, tight, fast, loud, guitar rock numbers that were really solid. Everyone in the audience loved every song the band played and played and played. I can’t believe I have seen a band play a ninety minute set at Bears, where twenty minute sets are the norm (on a five band night anyway). The three bands tonight gave us one hell of a ride. Half Japanese finished up, went off, the lights came up and the recorded music came up, but they were back immediately for an encore with an incredible version of “Angel.” Amazing stuff!! I wish I had gotten that on video! After the show we hung around and Jad came out and talked to everybody. I gave him copies of my zine, took a pic with him, chatted about this and that. Jad signed books, CDs, and a copy of “The Band That Would Be King.” The guitarist and drummer came out too and talked to Don and Susan about Texas. We had a hard time saying goodbye and getting out the door to catch our last trains, I wish I could have stayed out late and partied with the bands afterwards, but it was not to be. I talked to Jeff Bell and found out that Kawai had actually broken his collar bone in that jump at the end of the Ultra Fuckers and was taken away to hospital. In an ambulance? Not sure. Thanks to Don and Susan and Bob and Chris and Philhomena and everyone else for coming out!
April 10th, 2003 – Namba Bears: Coa, Young Boogies , Alice Sailor and Hide, and Zombie Watusi. Wanted to see Coa again one last time before I flee the great Kansai underground scene and go to Singapore, where there might not be a scene at all, but was also curious to see what Alice Sailor is all about since I just saw her host the “Music For Psychological Liberation” video with Dave Hopkins recently. Met John Ubel (Yuuba Muneharu) of Aska Temple, who I met a long time ago at another gig, and we talked for a while. Nice guy, I gave him a copy of the zine and he seemed very happy. Coa were up first and did a long piece for their 20 minute set. Can’t say much about Coa, except that their furious bass playing and incredible drumming leaves me breathless, out cold, a grin from ear to ear. This is music!! Standing near stock still, Eddie with her side to the audience, gaunt and statuesque flailing away at her instrument – that bass guitar receives some incredible punishment from those nimble fingers. Pausing the intensity of the performance for a minute or so with mellow jazzy wandering, then more hideous punishment. Great! After the show I found out that near the beginning of the set the drumstick tip from one of Bill’s drumsticks broke off and shot up and hit her right between the eyes leaving a red mark – ouch!! Also found out that they called their latest CD “Sea Urchin Character” after themselves – hard on the outside, soft (squishy?) in the middle. Also found out that they also have English last names – Eddie Corman and Bill Ave (as in “ave Maria”). I wonder what their real names are, but somehow I don’t really know if I should ask. Asked Eddie for her email so I can get her in touch with Bryan Day so he can help them work on a tour of the States, I hope that happens. Eddie told me she might go on tour with Ultra Bide and Zombie Watusi this year, but nothing’s really for sure yet. Wow, I hope it happens, more people need to catch the Coa experience – this was my 7th time seeing them and if I can catch them on April 27th with Ultra Bide in Himeji that will make 8! The only bands I have seen more often than Coa are Depth and the Ultra Fuckers. Young Boogies were up next – two guitarists, a bass player, and a drummer – standard rock setup and they put out standard, albeit blistering rock and roll. The hippy guitarist sand, the other guy with the C.H.I.P.s shades cranked out some wicked, wicked twisted blazing guitar licks and worked his many many pedals like a pro, the bass player did his job admirable and stood there like a statue, and the shaggy drummer provided visual amusement. He looked like Nick Cave, but when I told him that after the set he gave me a blank look and asked me who Nick Cave is. Great, tight rock numbers and some mighty mighty stage shakings. Cool guys too – I congratulated them later for a great set and we had a lot of laughs talking about the twisted manga of Yoshida Sensha, the Hanshin Tigers, and blistering ROCK ‘N’ ROLL!! They were followed by Alice Sailor and Hide of the band Ultra Bide. Alice Sailor has been on the scene for 20 years as a member of Amariris and Ultra Bide is a long-running touring band well known even outside Japan, but I know nothing about either band and was curious. Hide played guitar with so many twisted and strange effects, he made so many strange sounds to provide music to the set of twisted pop songs I don’t really know quite where to begin – multiple guitar loops, guitar that sounded like an orchesta, sounded like a piano, or something! Alice sang songs, kicked the mic stand into the audience, told funny stories between songs (like the one for the ad she saw for “Men’s Nonno – Women’s Edition” – isn’t that just Nonno?), apologized sheepishly for kicking the mic stand, and did more music. She played a sax – blurt blurt – and made strange electronic percussive noises from a sampler. Hide spoke a lot in English between songs, but did a long anti-war rant in English. Seems like a very cool guy. I want to meet him again, maybe I can talk to him more at the Mushroom show. Between bands I also got up and introduced myself to the only other foreigner at the show, a German guy called Flo (Forence?). He was there with his friend Nori, of the band Rise From The Dead, and they were there to see Hide. Flo didn’t even know Coa, but still got to see them – although I don’t think he was too impressed. Told me a bit about the bad music scene in Munich and the cool scene in Berlin, where he runs some sort of record label. Seems like an interesting guy, same with Nori. Last up were the insane power trio Zombie Watusi. Oh, man – ouch! – can these guys make some huge rock and roll noise!! Nutty guy in frilly Purple Raini-era Prince or gay swinging London/Austin Powers, who knows, but those two guitars and that drum made some huge rock noise. Half way between the set, the frustrations of the day got the better of me (or maybe it was that flask of whiskey I drank with a can of coke), but I pushed my way to the front and began moshing in time with those freaks and had a great time. The King Brothers/Guitar Wolf-inspired garage rock noise kept on and on, finally at the end of the set the drummer pulled his kit offstage and set I up in the middle of the audience and finished off the set with a drum attack right there. Jumped around, smashed the heads, then stabbed one of the snares with both drumsticks – bang, dead. I’ve never seen that before. Plus it was cool having a drum kit in the middle of the room to play with a bit afterwards. Hung around for a while talking. I noticed that now it is a lot easier to communicate without feeling like a fool, I guess somehow, unnoticed to myself, my Japanese has finally and after five years I am finally intelligible. Check me out – I am typing this with one hand as I use the other to pat myself on the back!
February 15th , 2003 – Tocca a Te: KTO’s Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 6 (KB*CC 6), featuring Dave Wesson, Ossan Alpha, Love Or Die, Ultra Fuckers, Saboten Kyodai, Go Kitty, Tripod Jimmy, and Love Beach. Got to Tocca a Te early and watched sound checks, ate, drank, hung out. I brought 20 kilos of books and magazines and tapes for people to take home free and was glad to dump it on a table under a “TAKE FREE” sign. Lots of little kids milling about and playing, including a chubby little one-year-old with a mohican! After some schedule and sound check confusion, Jeff Lee (formerly of Roy Tan) and his new outfit Ossan Alpha were ready to go on. At the last minute Dave Wesson walked in the door, he went on first instead. Can’t blame a guy for arriving late – his wife had just had a baby boy on Monday! Great acoustic finger picking with harmonica and vocals, his covers of Grateful Dead and Dylan songs were great and set the right tone to start the evening. After him were Ossan Alpha, a great stomping shredding dirty guitar and drum band. Fun howling tunes from a dynamo of energy, the strings on Jeff’s guitar were shredded after. Funny trio cover “Ja Ja Ja,” righteous original songs like “Snake Farm” were great too (it reminded me of “Whole Lotta Rosie” somehow), and a little bit of “Let There Be Rock” Much better than the Doors with Ian Astbury singing any day! Jeff’s sweet 18 month old daughter Eliza was watching with her mom and seemed enthralled, so were the other kids who had come with their mommies and daddies. Priceless. Between sets, DJs like KTO’s Dominic and Aidan played album tracks, among them the peerless Gil Scot Heron classic “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Saboten Kyodai were next playing furious rock covers. A tight band with lots of onstage energy, the tall lead singer also wore a cowboy hat. Stylish!! I danced my ass off to their set and I think the band was amused. I yelled out “aniki” to them. When I met them after the set they were extra friendly to me as we danced around to the bands. I love making friends that way at shows. Love Or Die followed with their dirty screaming short freakout songs. Love Or Die have been scheduled to play KBCC events before, but always had to cancel for one reason or other. Finally our chance to see the legends, playing again after being on hiatus for five years! Tight fasty nasty rock just the way we like it. The kids loved it too, and mohican-boy was almost constantly being filmed by the squad of Osaka underground documentarians and archivists (myself included). Ultra Fuckers followed with their trademarked scum noise crap. Kawai seems to have a new vocal effect box since he was making his vocals sound particularly gnarly. No toy guitar to play or ladder to jump off of, but the “BB Gun song,” “Prince of the Rising Sun,” and a “we hate love, we hate marriage, we love money” rap similar to the one from the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie (?!). Plenty of English mumbling too! After Ultra Fuckers, Go Kitty launched into their set of short, fast, pop songs. Three very cute young girls playing the traditional instruments and singing sweet songs. They said a polite “thank you” after each song, we all said “you’re welcome.” Apparently they also did a Beach Boys cover. Next up were Tripod Jimmy trying out their new drummer for his first live shows. The guy lives in Shiga!! Came a long way to play without pay. Plenty of fast tight stompin’ songs from their new CD, plus a fun “Automated System.” What a great band. Last up was the wildly unpredictable Love Beach . They started their set near 1:00 (late!) by climbing onstage, casually, one by one, and tuned up. The lead singer leaned on the mic stand, lit up a cigarette, and babbled freeform garbage to the sounds of “the Song Remains The Same” and other songs coming from the DJs as the other guys sound checked and got ready. Finally they started up – wanky distorted guitar/solos over pulsing snakey bass and drum lines. The lead singer went into some kind of psychotic trance and glared at the audience, making eye contact and screaming. I got too close with a video camera and he made a grab for it. E.T. finger touches. Nutty. Beats thrown in too. Finished the set with a great cover of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Seven bands, whew! Only complaint was that nobody tried a Black Sabbath cover, but I’m sure some day a KBCC band will do just that. After Love Beach finished, the DJs played a while, after which Dave Wesson came back to sing a few more Dylan songs. “(Take Me Home) Country Roads” failed to please the crowd, but a nice version of “Blackbird” was touching. Attempts to play “Desperado,” “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Out Of The Black, Into The Blue” failed, but “Lay Lady Lay” was fun, especially with guest vocalists like Shane and Don, who sang the Dylan classic the Ministry way. Things mellowed, the club shut down bit by bit, and we drank until 5 in the morning. Thanks to Torsten and Mami (congratulations on their engagement!), Don and Sue, Grant and friend, Steve, Philomena and Masayuki, Mitch, and all the others who showed up, not to mention the great bands that volunteered their time to the charity. Bravo.
January 26th , 2003 – OTO-YA: DJ Anon, dg, Dj-(underline), symphony space, 10/g (u:)m, 精神中央 etc. Cool place OTO-YA was found easily in Sannomiya backstreets and I caught up with Mick, a.k.a. DJ Anon. Some breezy drippy sounds were playing already while we talked. Heard a bass line (i.e. simplest bass line ever) from “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” then “La Isla Bonita” briefly before it was distorted around and became something else. Lots of soundscapes throughout the evening with strange voices, sounds, beats, and Masonna noise filtering around all evening. Nice tatami mats to chill out on to enjoy the sound of chainsaws coming through the incredible system. It sounded beautiful and those inclined to dance had tons of space to get crazy in the brief moments when there were the beats to shake your ass to. Mick ended his set with a strange Swedish trip-hop cover of “Purple Rain,” some crazy mellow beats happened and there was real long-term dancing. Then it was time to go home. Excellent!
January 18th , 2003 – Namba Bears: Beat Electric , Bad Boys, and Boris. My first live show of 2003, first show in 3 months, and my first time seeing Boris after wanting to see the great band for ages. Asked everybody I knew if they would go with me, nobody responded so it looked like I was going alone, then at the last minute Don came through – thanks Don! First up were Beat Electric. An electric three-piece, composed of female bassist male guitarist and male drummer/vocalist, they burned through 5 or 6 numbers in a short set – good, punchy tunes with cool guitar sounds and competent vocals. Varied guitar sounds made the band sound like ten bands. Apparently their first gig, they must all be fairly seasoned musicians considering their confidence and ease with their instruments. Bravo. Bad Boys followed – four musicians (the cool dude bass player wore a fur-lined jacket – he must have roasted under the lights) played openers, out came the two lead singers – two shirtless guys (one paunchy, one buff) with black pants and thick wrestling belts. One of them brought out a blow-up toy and beat him up WWF style with piledrivers and full nelsons. Ouch! They worked through a long set of old blues standards done a la Wrestlemania and it was pretty funny for a while, with the buff guy flexing and posing and working his routine. The schtick got old as the set dragged and most of us were wondering when Boris would be on. Near the end of the set when they did thie “get your mojo working,” the buff dude stripped down to his socks and got up on the bass drums and gave the whole world a view of his pecker. And I got it on video. Between sets Don and I met Alex, a guy from Wurzburg Germany who was in Kyoto for three months studying for his dissertation. He had been in Kyoto earlier that day watching Noh drama for three hours, left it to see Boris, his idols. Very tall and with long black hair and dressed all in black (with an “And They Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead” t-shirt), he was a little intimidating but a very nice guy. Boris finally hit the stage and assaulted the halls with wild tight heavy sounds. Melvins and Kyuss come to mind, but Boris are incredibly cool to watch. The bass player had a Gibson twin-neck bass and guitar combo (I’ve only ever seen Geddy Lee of Rush play one), the drummer had a huge gong behind him, and the gorgeous female guitarist froze onstage with her Gibson glued to her hip – very sexy. Most of the songs were heavy and dark, one was a long mellow-ish guitar amble that was almost bluesy. I was grinning from ear to ear for the whole set – I couldn’t help myself – and as I looked around I noticed that most everybody else was doing the same thing. After the show was over I hung out and met the drummer Atsuo, also bought three Boris CDs. Saw China from Rashinban/Shonen Knife/Jesus Fever/Music Start Against Young Assault. Walking to the subway we saw the Bad Boys carrying their inflatable wrestling dummy with them, yelled after them “get your mojo working!” Fun night.
Friday December 13th , 2002 – IMP Hall: Yngwie J. Malmsteen. The second time I claim to have seen Yngwie J. Malmsteen, but didn’t. This time Matt and I went to IMP Hall with the intentions of filming the crowds going to see the concert before they go in, sort of a Yngwie Malmsteen Parking Lot-type tribute to the legendary Heavy Metal Parking Lot short film. Lots of guys in the line-up, most of them have seen Yngwie many many times. Some young kids too, a pair of plain-jane 40-something female metalheads, a Russian guy Olaf, and a mysterious black dude dressed head to toe in black leather and wearing a cowboy hat. Wish we had the guts to interview him. Some of the bleached/feathered long hair and mullets and spandex tights, heeled boots, black leather jackets, studded bracelets were straight out of an old Motley Crue video. Biggest turn-off of the evening – watching a scraggly death-warmed-over roadie cruising around for cute chicks, finding one and leading her into the hall. Yuck!!
October 20th, 2002 , Namba Bears: Jesus Fever , Onse, and Rashinban. Rashinban plays seven nights in a row and we go the last night. Seven nights in a row – is that unprecedented in such a small live house as Bears? We get there early enough to get a seat close to the stage. Jesus Fever comes up first and plays short, slow, simple repetitive tunes, plinking and plunking along, Non singing a big in her beautiful, wailing voice. I notice for the first time that they both play Rickenbocker guitars. After eight minutes the song seems to end, but without missing a beat Okazawa turns on the feedback and electrifies the song and the club at once with some fierce energy. The song drones on for a trance-inducing twelve minutes, when things quiet down and they go back to playing mellow stuff. None of the three songs seem to be from their CD, “Dozens of Great Views.” We go out to get more beers, when we get back there is only room standing on our tippie-toes at the back of the club, everybody is sitting on the floor and taking up space. Stand up, people! The ex-drummer from U. is sitting on stool, dressed in black, with an iMac in front of him. This is Onse. He plays a big of mellow acoustic guitar, then suddenly walls of noise start shredding through the walls of Bears like Masonna. It was nutso. I stayed in the ticket area since I didn’t want to stand on my toes throughout the set, which couldn’t be very engaging, and chatted with a guy who was also standing there smoking cigarettes. Nice guy. He bought a zine off of me. And we could hear the noise fine from there. Last up was Rashinban, the mellow Yamamoto pop outfit. Last of seven nights. Playing light pop music, the band was tight and – at times – even a little funky. The guitar hit feedback notes from time to time, but the music was a blur of warm, fuzzy notes. Yamamoto has a cool singing voice – low and even and soft, rather like Shibayama from Nagisa Nite. After playing three long songs, the band went offstage. I yelled out “Robinson,” the name of a Spitz song that Rashinban play on a recent Spitz tribute album called “Ichigo Ichie” (only once chance ever). Yamamoto said “I’m not going to play that shit song,” and went offstage, I yelled out “Ichigo Ichie.” A few minutes later they were back and Yamamoto explained that Okazawa from Jesus Fever was going to play a song with them, and they were going to take requests. After a long minute of painful silence, I yelled out “Pale Blue Eyes.” “What?” says Yamamoto. I yell it again. “I don’t know that song.” So I sing the opening lyrics. Oops! Then after another long pause, I yell out again “How about Black Sabbath?” Yamamoto asks “who are you?” I reply “I am the walrus.” I can’t believe I was so disrespectful, I don’t know what came over me!! Maybe I was a little drunk. It might have been funny, but nobody laughed. Nobody said anything. So the band launched into another long Rashinban song, with Okazawa laying down some restrained feedback, two generations of guitar masters on the same stage. After the song, Yamamoto came back with special presents for people who had been to all seven nights of Rashinban. A few shy people finally stepped forward after much urging and took the strange little clay dolls he had made. Then he began giving away Rashinban master tapes. Amazing, how many musicians would do something like that? We left right away to avoid an embarrassing meeting with Yamamoto or perhaps someone whose live recording of the show I had ruined with my heckling. Still, a fun night! And walking to the station was when I realized that Yamamoto was probably asking for Rashinban requests, not for requests from the entire history of recorded music!
September 28th , 2002 – Sky Bar: Osaka Stainless, Joe Wade, Bipod Jimmy (Tripod Jimmy Unplugged), Diffuse, and Sub-Dude . A very fun nite of acoustic bands playing on the roof of the JR Namba building in the heart of downtown Osaka at the amazing Sky Bar rooftop garden bar. Check us out sitting under the open sky, drinking draft beer and cocktails, dozens of gaijin regulars from Osaka’s thriving music scene as well as all the funky Japanese people who go to musical events, beautiful singles along with funky families with small kids and babies, all sitting on deck chairs or on the grass (yes, grass) with beach mats enjoying awesome acoustic music. First on was Osaka Stainless, two guys playing guitar and 6-string bass (!?!) and singing cool mellow tunes. These guys have to be pros. Joe Wade follows with his set of masterful covers drawn from the best of Bowie, Crowded House, the Beatles, the Who, etc. Cool accompaniment by big bald bearded Jason, who plays an electric modified to sound like an acoustic. Shane and Simon from Tripod Jimmy are up next to play as the acoustic duo Bipod Jimmy. Playing mostly from the band’s new CD, their second ever acoustic live show, they snazzed up their witty between-song repartee and launched into the tunes, sounding more like a sweet Britpop than their usual punk selves. Played acoustic, though, it is certainly easier to make out the lyrics and figure out how funny they really are. Great version of ABBA’s “Does Your Mother Know”, but with dirty lyrics. Diffuse played next – Simon and Mark and others playing with a great gaijin female vocalist singing Pretenders songs and originals (I think – I was deep in conversation and didn’t pay enough attention, unfortunately). Sub-Dude finished up the great evening with a fun set, Simon and Mark (now on fretless 4-string bass!!) playing again, with Andy singing and a bongo player and another guitar, great showman-like songs that were hoarse and cheery and great. Wild night. A malfunction in the elevators kept us on the roof a little past ten, but who cares. Every summer in every city should have cool events like this one.
September 21st , 2002 – Sam and Dave’s 5: KTO’s Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 6 (KB*CC 6), featuring bands Lili no kuruma, Framzie, Afro Labyrinth , Flaming Boo, and Uni-que. Bands followed by DJs such as Energy Dai, Fuji Tatsuhiko , Yoku, and Steve Yamaguchi. A long, long evening with the KB*CC’s first benefit show outside of the tiny Club Water. A bigger, funkier venue with a built-in after-midnight crowd made this a pretty huge event. New band Lili no Kuruma started their deer-caught-in-the-headlights set of punky rock ‘n’ roll in the Blue Hearts tradition at 8:30. Playing their second gig ever, the band was nervous, but still pumped out a dozen songs in quick succession. Three brothers playing punchy rock with two guitarists and no bass gave them an interesting sound that had a sort of strange “Hi-Lows meets Sonic Youth” feel to it. Next up was a ladies three-piece, Framzie, who played sissy young girl-rock with cute songs and lots of da-da-da-da-da. Cute, fun songs played tight and proficiently, marred somewhat by long talky breaks between songs. Stars-in-the-making Afro Labyrinth , also a female trio, followed with a powerful set of bluesy rock crunchers that strip paint. Guitarist Fragi’s blistering guitarwork is breathtaking, surely making her one of the best in Kansai. This band has come a long way since their last KB*CC show just over a year ago. They play regularly around Kansai, so try to catch them if you can! Flaming Boo is a new band composed of ex-members of Masatsu Genin and Permanent Voltage, two of Osaka’s best garage rock bands. With their new collaboration, Kou and friends pulled off an effortless set of fun rock songs, topped off by a great cover of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny Be Goode.” Great showmanship and energy from these old pros was a joy to watch. Last up was drumming duo Uni-que. Sure watching two guys playing drums together and grunting tribal slogans was unique enough, but so was dancing to it like a madman pretending it was monstrous hardcore! The iconic Steve Yamaguchi played punk nuggets between songs. Bands finished up at midnight and were followed by a bunch of DJ – whoever played first wasn’t too inspiring – background house and disco that was familiar old hat for people who grew up listening to Tangerine Dream, Paul Hardcastle, Jean Michel-Jarre, and Mike Oldfield. Starting around 3 AM, however, some genius began spinning, casting out freaky high BPM stuff that my untrained ears confused at first with ATR-style hardcore (and had me yelling out all the slogans like “destroy 2000 years of culture” and “your uniform does not impress me”). Wild slabs of thick sounds, working on an erratic pulse, it was music born to be played on a top quality sound system. Difficult to describe, it was energizing, shocking, surprising, inspiring, freaky wild, fun to dance to, yet still bizarre and erratic enough for me to be amazed that a whole dance floor of late-night partiers and self-styled they-only-come-out-at night beautiful people could be captivated and hypnotized into a drunken dancing trance. Aces. Various observations of the evening : G aijin guy slow-dancing with disinterested Japanese beauty to blistering techno. Voluptuous blond drags muscular Japanese guy into Sam and Dave's - less than five minutes later she drags him out and they head off towards Rakan. Lots of platinum blonde hair. Dumpy girl in Playboy Bunny tank top - saw her later at Rakan. Fifty-something gaijin guy, kinda square-looking, dancing stiffly and glassy-eyed, didn’t leave the dance floor all night! Seem to remember seeing him on another night doing same someplace else!! Japanese guy asking if there were tons of women inside. Old guy coming up stairs with two women. Handsome gaijin guy with one gorgeous Japanese woman, one gorgeous foreign woman on each arm. Owner of KTO coming up the stairs out of Rakan at 6 AM - so that's where he had been! "Is that the phone ringing?" Is that a man or a woman in those micro-pants? Nice boots, though.
June 16th, 2002 , Namba Bears: Ultra Fuckers , I Destroyed, Junk Headd, Doddodo and TEEM . Another perfect night at Bears. Ultra Fuckers play first this time, working through several songs, Kawai brings out the famous toy guitar out for two long-ish numbers, and they get off the stage. No jumping off the folding ladder, which is onstage but never used. Kawai asks the audience if they like “UFO or Die” and I yell out “NO!!” My request for the “BB Gun Song” is denied – rats! They get off and I Destroyed set up. While they are pulling out racks of keyboards and a huge Yamaha drum, some strange electro mix DJ weirdo music plays – twisted samples and bizarre sounds. I assume this is Junk Headd , although I have been taught never to assume. Oh, what the hell, just this once. Soon the electro dies down and a drone appears – this is I Destroyed . They come and space out, chanting like Buddhist monks, the dreadlocked-bearded lead singer/keyboardist comes out into the audience to groove, then the rest of the band explodes into noise. More drone, then the band explodes again, and a long jam starts. They work the bass, pound the drums, ring in digital beats, groove out with funky beats and yells, spacey effects, it was a mess. A drummer, a percussionist, drum, bass, keyboards, three of them doing vocals at various times, yeesh. They went on for over 50 minutes, which is pretty rare at Bears. A wild, fun, exciting band, that seems to incorporate moments from the entire Boredoms career, particularly Super Roots 5 and Vision Creation New Sun. Hey, if you can’t see the Boredoms play anymore, this and the Surfers of Romantica must be the next best thing. A surprise for most people in the audience too, who had never heard of them. Last up was fun monster TEEM , with their brash, loud orgy of huge supergroup sounds. Yamamoto Seiichi of the Boredoms (and about twenty other bands) on guitar; Nana of VooDooBrooYoo, Labcry, the Futures, Star Star and Star, and Grind Orchestra on bass; China of Music Start Against Young Assault, Jesus Fever, Rovo, Rashinban, and Shonen Knife on drums; and Canadian Jeff Bell of Empty Orchestra and Live Evil on vocals. Bombastic and near over-the top, the band assaulted the small room and the hundred people there with huge Fuji Rock Fest-level sounds and hyperkinetic energy as they tore through near-unrecognizable covers of songs by Soundgarden, Black Sabbath, White Zombie, and the Rollins Band as done by mid-career Butthole Surfers. At least that is what it sounded like to me. Live music and fun probably doesn’t get much better than this. Thanks to Chris and Thom and Anna and Philomena for coming out. Go to top…
June 1st and 2nd 2002 : Yodogawa Free Festival (in lieu of Dance on the Banks). Unknown Frequencies, Soul Fire , the Mike Port Bongo Experience, DJ Matt Walsh, and many more. Beaurocratic SNAFUs kept the regular Dance on the Banks from happening over the two days this year, but the artistic spirit kept at least a few performers out to the perfect location next to the Yodogawa river on one of the most beautiful weekends we’ve had yet this year. Mellow DJ tunes and fun performances kept the modest crowds happy, as they chatted and mingled and drank and ate and danced and played with their kids. I had just finished my Head Cheese Japan zine, so I brought down a bunch to sell or give away, and managed to unload about 60 copies in two days! Baby Zen came with me on the second day and we met Mark and baby Kyle and mellowed out picnic-like. Unknown Frequencies unloaded some splintered Nine Inch Nails-type music on audiences the first day, as did Mike Port and his funky drum ensemble. On the second day, DJ Matt Walsh spun tracks, as did cool dub trippers Soul Fire. What a great weekend event. Of course, a full Dance On The Banks (three stages, food, promotions, dozens of bands, thousands of screaming fans) experience was denied us by forces out of control, but the consolation prize was not too shabby at all! Thanks Matt and Matt, for keeping the ball rolling, and thanks to Jason and Yukiko for coming out. Go to top…
May 26th, 2002 , Namba Bears: Masonna, Aube, Third Organ, Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock , Solid Eye. Another fantastic Bears event – Noise May Day 2002, day 2. I missed day 1, but day 2 with a rare show by Masonna and Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock were the ones I wanted to see. First up were Third Organ, two guys who clicked away at their Apple Powerbooks for 25 minutes, creating sheets of sheer white noise. I liked it enough, although maybe it went on a bit too long. Lots of people hate seeing people working with PCs to make music, though. Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock were up next. Swiss weirdo Rudolf Eb.er came out with two women. A disturbing loop of strange yelling distorto music was played as Rudolf, shaved bald with a goatee and dressed rather like an SS officer, approached the one woman menacingly and made her scream in terror. How? The other woman ceremoniously swallowed first red, then white, then blue liquids. Each time she did so, she had a mic near her throat so that the sounds of her swallowing came over the speakers – quite disgusting. At last, she pulled a feather out of her hair arrangement, put it down her throat, and vomited on the stage. The tape loop had played and replayed about three times. That was it. Up next was Aube with Ohnishi Aya supporting him on drums. I had just seen Aube at a charity concert a few weeks ago, so I was wondering what I would make of his minimal noises after such a short break, but he turned it all on his head and played something like wild techno making his act the real surprise of the evening – an evening of surprised to be sure. Ohnishi Aya’s worked perfectly with the beats and brought it out amazingly. I was surprised how fun and energetic it was! Unfortunately I was at the back and couldn’t see anything, but with Aube and his Powerbook there probably wasn’t much to see. Between sets, I was very lucky to spot Shibayama-san and Masako from Nagisa Nite in the audience!! The core of my favorite band in the audience at Bears!!! We chatted a bit, and I discovered that Shibayama-san actually speaks pretty good English. During the Solid Eye set I stayed out in the ticket area and talked with my friend Matt, catching up on things. Shibayama-san and Masako-san drifted through, and we got caught up in conversation. It was so great to meet these really cool people I had admired for so long. I didn’t even say so much, just happy to be with them. We were looking at the poster for the Fuji Rock Fest and we were asking them which stage they would like to be playing with Nagisa Nite – definitely the Patti Smith and Television stages. Shibayama-san told me that he wears a new Hawaiian shirt for every Nagisa Nite show. Interesting. It made me wonder if he has a closet with all sorts of labeled shirts that he has only worn once or something. Solid Eye played strange noise and sampled stuff. According to Shibayama-san, he was playing old, unusual analog equipment. It would have probably been interesting to see what he was doing, but again from being near the back of the club we just gave up. Last up was Masonna, so after Solid Eye finished we made sure to start pushing as near to the front of the stage as we could. Besides, I needed to get it on video. Some people were wondering if his intensely physical set would only last a minute. Masonna sets are usually very short, never more then eight or nine minutes, but since he so severely injured his hip at his last show over a year ago Masonna has been in semi-retirement and not in the right shape for one of his shows. After some sound checking, Masonna pumped up the volume and flew about, yelling and screeching, producing his incredibly intense noise. After the first 45 seconds or so something came unplugged, so he stopped everything, checked his equipment, and launched into his set again. The whole thing lasted about four minutes. Then he backed up to the end of the stage, went flying into the audience, and stormed off the stage. Wild! Thanks to Matt and Thom and Jeff for coming out. Go to top…
May 3rd, 2002 , Yamamura Salon: Aube , Nagisa Ni Te, and Takayama Kenichi. Our third year in a row at the Ashiya charity event that always features Aube and Nagisa Ni Te. No Zush i Naoki this year, but Takayama Kenichi played instead. Starting late and after a long introduction from Yamamura-san, Aube came out and did a trippy twenty minute set, manipulating the sound of chiming bells into various strange beats and rhythms. Very interesting, mesmerizing, complete. Nagisa Ni Te followed with a long one-hour set that seemed to feature mostly new songs! Lucky us – a preview. Banging on drums and singing together, or playing the guitar and humming and manipulating the theremin, here’s hoping a new album isn’t far off. Last two songs were “We” and a ten minute version of their signature “the True World.” Next up was an old rocker, now sick with cancer, who gave a long inspiration speech in a weak voice. I couldn’t follow it, but I hope the poor guy has a chance to recover. Last was Takayama Kenichi¸ who sang sad songs as he plucked away at an electric guitar. Poignant songs and extremely mellow, parts of which reminded me very exactly of Alice in Chains (R.I.P. Layne Staley) from the mellow “Jar of Flies” release. Also very drawn out. The long sets had stretched the afternoon into the evening and the salon was getting hot and we were pretty worn out, so we had to ditch the last half of his nine song set. Maybe another time. Thanks to Naoko, Zen, Ian, Jeff, Spongy and Non for coming out! Go to top…
April 29th, 2002 , at Sam and Dave’s 5: Afro Labyrinth, Superliner, Molybdan Mosh, and Funky Chick. A Battle of the Bands cmpetition, and I was a judge! Cool and fun and a first for me. Afro Labyrinth were old faves, so I enjoyed their punchy four-song set with solid bluesy grungy songs and lead singer/vocalist’s solid guitar work. Bought a 3-song demo CD after the show for 100 yen, great stuff too and definitely worth much more than 100 yen!! Superliner were up next with their retro fun act. Slick as hell and decked out in suits, they looked more like the A and R reps than the band itself. They intro-ed with a groovy swing “Fur Elise” that they blended into Billy Idol’s “White Wedding,” followed by “Got You Under My Skin,” “Imagine,” and “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Although the musicians were excellent and their act was pretty polished (despite only being a band for 6 months), they ultimately got on my nerves. Had to think of Vince Vaughn in “Swingers” too much, too. None of the songs were really that much fun as swing numbers, least of all the Ricky Martin one. Much too early to revive that one, I’m afraid. This sort of a thing is another stake in the coffin for “Imagine,” too, a great song that is quickly becoming another “Stairway to Heaven.” Molybdan Mosh came on and did strange guitar grind/DJ spaz/visual kei stuff. These guys are radio ready, which makes it strange to hear them in such a small club. Not a huge fan of the vocalists, but they had great songs and a huge sound. Will certainly go far if they keep at it. Funky Chick came up last doing fun original number in a sassy classic R and B style. Lead singer belted out the self-titled opener “I’m a Funky Chick” and everyone was boogying. All great bands, but the best had really been saved for last as Funky Chick won the contest. On to the finals, which will be held at – oops… the Dance on the Banks. Cancelled. Maybe another venue can be found for it, though. Go to top…
April 3, 2002 , at Kobe Star Club: Fuzz Tone, Googles, and Guitar Wolf. What a party - Guitar Wolf playing in the teeny weeny Star Club. Got there early, just in time to see dual guitar/drum trio Fuzz Tone hit the stage at 7 on the nose. Not much to be said about these guys, except they play their guitars as if they were masturbating and made a helluva lotta noise. No songs or stage presence to back them up, although second giutarist did look amazingly like Sean Penn in Carlito's Way. At least they played the Stooges "Search and Destroy" ably, as well as what might have been the Stones' "Under My Thumb." Googles were the middle band, coming onstage with hilarious "Land Shark" costumes. They played a dozen Ramones songs in quick succession, the Ventures "Pipeline", "Louie Louie," and an R.C. Succession song that everybody in the audience knew (but I didn't). Good, punchy covers, and a very fun band. In my experience Japanese bands rarely play covers, but this was a band (that was not a tribute band) whose schtick was to cover songs. I wonder if this has anything to do with the Guitar Wolf tradition of covering songs - their version of the Beatles' "Slow Down" is arguably the way the song really should have been played - to its ultimate rock and roll potential. With the opening bands out of the way, there was nothing to do but wait for Guitar Wolf. Soon it was time and the drum wolf and bass wolf came out and began banging away. After a few minutes out came guitar wolf himself and the band jumped around, posed nastily in their shades and leather jackets. Bass wolf combed his hair, guitar wolf chugged a beer, and then they started whipping up a storm. The audience quickly began spazzing out and stage divers threw themselves at the audience. The songs were a blur and you could never really be sure if Guitar Wolf were just jamming or actually playing a track from one of their studio albums, although once I'm pretty sure I heard guitar wolf howl the words "Jet Generation" and I could say to myself "ah, I have that CD." The band played a full hour, and there was plenty of onstage chaos to watch: bass wolf took off his jacket to play in his tank top, thus showing off his cool tattoos. Guitar wolf took off his jacket and shirt, then put his jacket back on. This man sweat more than any human I have ever seen, a constant spray off of his hair as he jerked around onstage. It was like the guy in the movie Airplane! as he's trying to land the plain and streams of water flow down his face. Guitar and bass wolf posed on the stage edge so that the short people in the audience (and there were many - some people's heads were at my mid-chest), guitar wolf stage dived, or pulled a guy out of the audience and let him play on his guitar for a while, guitar wolf went out into the audience and let them hold him up as he crunched out huge sounds, and later one guy had to be ripped off of them by the roadies as he tried to jump all over the three guys and dry hump them - all this havoc and the band didn't miss a beat. After the show ended, they walked up the stairs to the offstage area, guitar wolf barely able to feel his way up the rickety steps. They came back for two encores before the lights came on and the P.A. picked up with some Ramones. Helluvan evening. Thanks to Naoko and Tomo for coming out! Go to top…
March 9, 2002 , at Juso Fandango: Music Start Against Young Assault, Drillman , and Port. The night of the amazing drone trios with the snap drummers and another fun night with MSAYA and two other great like-minded bands. First up were Music Start Against Youn Assault, they started in slow with bass and guitar plickings and pluckings and doodlings and booblings and gurgling building and picking up steam into great urban assault full of pedal effects, loops, and feedback, drummer China unflappable keeping the beat for the full 45 minutes of their great, long set. Wow. The jam seemed about to end at several points, teasing the Fandango audience who are used to shorter sets, before picking up and grooving out again most mightily. Second up were Drillman, the new improved three-piece Drillman with the cute new female bass player and no keyboards, grooving out cool tunes with wild guitar spazzing. Nice, much better than I remember them, a band to start paying more attention to. Port were the surprise of the evening, although they shouldn't really have been since looking into the records I note that I had already seen them play with MSAYA last may for their CD release party and really loved them then too. Am I weird? This time Port, who seem to have changed their name from the Port, made me a believer - wild squealing blues guitar and crisp picking loops from the bald man in the Neil Young t-shirt, cool Roland (etc.) organs and keyboard and sequencers from the wild keyboard genius, cool drum splashes from she drummer with the shades on. Port started off bluesy with some cool guitar sounds, then proceeded to pump up the volume getting into a rendition of what I thought was live band techno (although my friend Sebastian, who didn't feel like dancing to it, thought it more like "modern jazz") with thumping beats, wild loops, and long inspiring jams. About a dozen of us were jumping up and down at the front having a ball, the rest of the audience content to just watch the magic. Check out their cool homepage osaka.cool.ne.jp/port333/ to find out who these cool cats are, what instruments they play, and what books and LPs and films they like, etc. Send them an email. After the show hung out and bought a Port CD, talk with the musicians, have a beer, and relax. People lingered later than other Fandango events. Nana was in attendance handing out flyers for his next three upcoming gigs in cluding his April 22nd birthday party at Bears when he is going to play in four of his bands (MC7, Labcry, Grind Orchestra , the Futures , etc.). Met Ian Masters there too, the former bass player of the Pale Saints now living in Japan, new friend of the MSAYA/Jesus Fever crew, and a very cool guy. Thanks also to Sebastian for coming out. Go to top…
February 11th, 2002 at Namba Bears : Ultra Fuckers , the Surfers of Romantica , Vita Sexualis and Solmania. Scum Nite 10 and the Ultra Fuckers 10th anniversary (that's what it says on the bill, but it also says that UxFx are from Texas on the bill). Ultra Fuckers were up first and sang their "I Hate Winter" and "Anti-Marriage Song," both new apparently, and "Shiina Ringo Song" and "Silent Song." Great stuff. No "Human Cannonball" or "Prince of the Land of the Rising Sun." What a band. Kawaii kept his bag on his head for the whole show this time, playing shirtless and jumping around, drummer and guitarist filling in around the edges. I requested "B.B. Gun Song" and they played it!!! After the show I bought a few CDs and also got the limited editon (of two!!!) "Musical Mayhem" box set with 4 tapes, got it signed too. Glad to finally have a limited edition something of personal value to myself. Who cares about the limited edition Swatch anyway? Swapped a Nina Hagen CD ("Freud Euch", with Dee Dee Ramone) with Kawaii for the "Beyond the Fuckless" CD so I saved 1000 yen there. That always feels pretty good. At this point we also discovered the free sochu that they had on the counter - yum. The Surfers of Romantica came out next - a drummer, guitarist, bass player, and vocalist. Guitarist wearing a black body suit like a Mexican wrestler, they jumped around and screamed. The guitarist had troubles with his pedals, he ripped off his mask and picked up a mic, and the band was a drummer and bass player making huge slabs of bad noise. The shirtless lead singer wearing the funny tights looks like he's over fifty!! This is a completely different band than the one I saw last time . Next were Vita Sexualis, a goth rock band that owes a debt to the Velvet Underground. Playing pop songs for a while as the sunglass-wearing dandy lead singer dangled around the mic stand. Just okay, wonder if they'll be better another time. Last up were Solmania . I'm glad I got a chance to see this group again from up close - one guy playing a Rickenbocker (?) and another guy playing a custom guitar with all sorts of strange things stuck to it. The floor was littered with pedals that they were always banging or bending down to adjust. Crazy noise. Turned out great on video too! Hung out with the musicians briefly afterwards and made some friends and finished off the sochu - feeling pretty good at this point. Roco from Helicoid 0222MB was there too, I joked with her that I liked her Gara Gara Hebi project much better than Helicoid 0222MB , I don't think she was very happy I said that. Thanks to Matt and Thom and Jeff, Johnny and Amy (?) from Hamilton who I met there. No I just wonder who that angry-looking anti-social guy was. Go to top…
January 12th, 2002 , at M-Cube, Osaka - Burl, Knuckles, Pet, and 3.6 Milk. My first time in M-Cube, located above a well-known record shop and just down the street from Club Quattro, this was my first journalistic event where I was on duty as a journalist, helping the JapanZine come up with a cover story on a cool young Osaka band - 3.6 Milk. I'd seen them before at live festivals like Mukogawa and Loco Loco and I knew they were a lot of fun. We did a photo shoot with the guys, chatted, I did and interview, and then we just let the show happen. The show was a wild, fun event. The crowd were young and excited, the air filled with a good, strong vibe. Leather and hair product galore, pins and patches, metal queens in spandex and spikes, and not a few well-coiffed damsels in heels and trendy winter coats to add some color. A slick intro on a large movie screen opened up Osaka Burning 2 and set up the bands. First up were Knuckles , a tense punk group that flirted with jazz and pop and calypso styles, oi oi oi, then the second band Burl with an intense, nasty hardcore assault. I liked Burl a lot better than Knuckles, but knew that the Pet and 3.6 Milk to come were going to be way better. Raging glam mobsters Pet were introduced by that clip from Pulp Fiction (“I love you honey bunny”), whence they proceeded to pump up the mood with their infectious, raunchy, blistering party attack. My fourth time seeing them and they are just as good every time. Finally, the crowd was warmed up enough for 3.6 Milk, who came out shirtless and hit the audience with everything they had. Wiry bass player Satoshi had shaved his head since the afternoon and his smoothe pate bobbed with the music as his whole body contorted and bounced around. Good time ska and good guitar punk kept the set lively, the group then changed things up when they introduced their recent collaborator Barry Micron, a legendary reggae singer from Jamaica who now lives in Japan. Larger than life with hat and shades and long long dreads and beard, in a cool green Jamaica suit, Barry delivered a fast reggae rap to give the punky ska a brilliant crossover feel. Viva l’internazionalization musicale! To round out the evening after the 3.6 Milk set, the members of the four bands came onstage to sing a big group version of the Sex Pistols’ “Friggin’ In The Rigging.” It felt like an Osaka LiveAid. Or maybe hearin’ aid! Thanks to Shane and Simon and Carter for coming out. Go to top…
November 7, 2001 , at Oguni Byoin, Himeji - Baby Zen. Not a conventional live show with bass drums guitars and amps, this is a live show in the sense of "llive", "living" and "being alive." Yes, this is the day I didn't go to see live music and I saw my son Zen born instead. Welcome to the world, Baby Zen, I can't wait until we go to see our first concert together. I wonder who it will be... To see more of what I am talking about, view pictures at www.zen.hoflich.com .
October 16, 2001 , at Juso Fandango – Go Devils, Mach Kung-Fu, Jackie and the Cedrics, and the Invisiblemen (the U.S.A.). The band we aimed to see that night was the Go-Devils. Getting there at 7:05, the Go-Devils were already tuning up. Whipped out the video camera, just caught the opening chords. Dressed in decorated leather bikinis, wearing trademark knee-high boots, the thought on everybody’s minds was “why on earth aren’t the Go-Devils one of the most popular bands around? The music was cool, funky garage rock, seeming Joan Jett vocals, fun and crunchy. New bass player played a Paul McCartney style violin-body bass. Wonderful. Next up, Mach Kung-Fu , had a long intro, went on with some no-nonsense surf rock, fun and wild. Jackie and the Cedrics , not quite as ferocious as I remembered them last time, also had fun playing their wonky nastiness, including an instrumental version of “Sukiyaki.” Long set again. Last up were the (Legendary) Invisiblemen , four guys from L.A. that came out and played their brand of wrestle-rock, something akin to the sound of MC5 with the look of Iggy Pop singing/playing guitar for Black Flag in their last days. And that probably makes no sense. One song sounded like the Rutles “Goose-step Mama,” which I had just bought the day before coincidentally enough, and I heckled them with it – “huh?” they said. Oh well. For the expected encore the lead dude came out in a wrestling mask and sang that way, in character, his own fantasy wrestling anthem. Talked to the guys afterwards, nice guys all. I usually don’t see a lot of English-speaking touring bands, so it was even better. Thanks to Chris and Matt for coming out. Go to top…
September 23, 2001 , at the Kobe Star Club – Trance Former, Speedway Baby, Morgue Side Cinema , Coa, Death Surf 2000, 25m Floater, Port Cuss, DJs, etc. All-night party I could only see part of. Cool retro sound DJ-ing before the show. Only recognizable song was “Hungry Like The Wolf,” a groaner for me since I never liked that song even if I did like other Duran Duran songs. Then Trance Former (cool name) came out and a cover of “Hungry Like The Wolf” was their opening track!! I let out another groan, wondering aloud when a band is finally going to do a cool Black Sabbath or AC/DC song as a cover, and regretted that I was taping that particular song and not one of the band’s original songs. Only later, when watching the video, did I realize that they do a good version of it, they sound better than the original (Simon LeBon’s whiny vocals really don’t suit up-tempo songs), and reveal the fact that “Hungry Like The Wolf” is actually a pretty decent song. I had it in my head for a few days afterwards. Trance Former originals were OK, but nothing really stuck out. Good rockin’ sounds with an occasional good groove building up some steam. The band will probably be remembered as “that ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ band.” More DJ, then Speedway Baby, the surprise of the evening. Even before they started playing the bass player was giving us big grins and showing off his bass as if we were his new best friends. Then they pick up with some cool dissonant mellow-core. Sounded like Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth and Helmet altogether, but most impressive besides their fully developed sound was their energy and song writing. A band to watch. And none of them disgustingly self-conscious of their appearances too. A week later, I saw that they were listed opening for the King Brothers, local rising stars. Excellent. Morgue Side Cinema were up next, but it was hard to be impressed with them – hoarse vocals, posing, uninteresting music, clearly into themselves. A strange guy we met in the audience was obviously their biggest fan, he called them the best band in Osaka. I know tons of bands better than them, although they were pretty thoroughly rawkin’roll! Coa followed these three bands, none of which had anything in common with the intense drawn-out buildup and merciless thrust of the grandmasters of scary jazz-core (whatever that is). In the shortish two-song set, the first song was one of those buildups that becomes a fury, the second was a relatively catchy number from the first CD. It is always so amazing watching these two women thrash the life out of their instruments, bass and drums, like coke-addled Jedi knights. Amazing. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stick around for Death Surf 2000, a band I’ve been wanting to see for a while, and the other bands – I bet they were good. Thanks to John, who came all the way from Canada to see the show, and managed to find two Coa CDs at Tower before he went back. Enjoy, John. Go to top…
September 6, 2001 at the Art House in Kobe : Harogen Lump, TLIZI, Creep, Depth, and earwax . My first time in the Art House in Kobe, cool place. Wide stage across the long part of the room means that there's a great view of the stage from anywhere in the room. Vending machines in the room sell beers for 150 yen, just a little more than the all-Japan low of 120 yen I paid at a little liquor store outside the club. I got a stage-side spot and video-taped the whole show. Harogen Lump (no typo - that's how the band want to keep their name!) were up first, all-girl hardcore band that had crunchy Helmet-like riffs that rocked out, with plenty of Sonic Youth-ish minor chord blastings. The women all put everything they had into their set and looked like they were having lots of fun. Fresh and energetic, all the members talented and positive, a band I'd gladly see again. Standing at the end of the stage was a guy wearing a Helmet t-shirt, really getting into their set. After they finished and TLIZI set up, it was the Helmet guy who played the guitar and sang. The name TLIZI may remind of Thin Lizzy, but their sound was through and through Helmet. Can this guy broadcast his sympathies or what? Good solid crunchy Helmet activity. For fans of the band that never got to see them. TLIZI are tight, solid, and a lot of fun. Creep were up after with a long jokey intro and six songs including a new one, ending the set with their bombastic energy-draining "Wall." They were followed by Depth , playing for the first time after a long hiatus as they looked for a new bass-player to replace the outgoing Karina. This was the first gig with new bass player Saburo, a very tall man who played somewhat hunched over and squinting out from behind thick glasses, he must be three times the size of fireball lead guitarist You-ko. Playing five songs, including a new song, the semi-new "Maggots," and a Nirvana cover song, they only had time for two of their old nuggets and I found myself counting on both hands all the great songs that they've done before that they didn't have time for today. This band is so good, why aren't they known all over Japan? Still clearly Osaka underground music's best kept secret. Earwax were up last, and after four draining bands there wasn't much energy left in the audience for the, but they put out a fast tight set that reminded a lot of Creep and Harogen Lump. Wild guitar/vocalist really went nuts! Go to top…
August 25, 2001 at the Mushroom Club in Himeji : Tsurubami , Neko Mushi, Rock Byoin , Mimi no Koto . First time at the Mushroom in ages and ages, after several aborted attempts to go, went there on my own as I couldn't get anyone to come with. Tsurubami is an improvisational psychadelic band, with members from Acid Mothers Temple, AMT, and Drop Pow. They came onstage, tweaked the guitars a bit, then opened up with a ferocious explosion of white hot feedbacked intensity, instrumental, like the MC5 at a really intense moment. Roared like an inferno for 25 minutes, then dropped the guitars and walked offstage. Wow! Neko Mushi was one of the strangest bands I've ever seen - a bassist, a drum/percussionist, and a woman in a kimono playing the accordion and singing in a scary cute voice. Non-rock music, traditional Japanese instruments, quirky performances, odd movements, shuffling back and forth like zombies, the accordion girl wandered into the audience, fell over into someone's lap (twice) and continued singing and playing her accordion, bloody babies, all sorts of creepy stuff. I wish I knew what they were saying, they clearly had a message. Rock Byoin (Rock hospital) were quite different from Neko Mushi - starting off with a very lame cover of "Across the Universe" (the drummer, singing, obviously hadn't memorized the English lyrics, and the word soup sounded like Doctor Seuss) that developped into a pretty cool bluesy feedback riff groove-out. Following songs were pretty loud and crashing - the band was improving - but I had to catch a train. Bummer, I missed Mimi no Koto . I hope I get another chance. Go to top…
August 11, 2001 in Juso Fandango : the Futures , Beirut 5, SwaRRRm, and Melt Banana. First time back at Fandango since May, this time to see the mighty Melt Banana again. First up were the Futures, yet another band with the omnipresent Nana (Labcry, VooDooBrooHoo, Star Star Star, Grind Orchestra, etc.) on bass. Not just famous for being in half the bands in Kansai, Nana is also known for his many changing hairstyles - tonight a bright orange mullet! Starting out with a funky sixties psychadelic Stooges fun drum and riff, they picked it up quick and declared themselves a hardcore band. Fun, punchy numbers, a surf band from hell, good humor, full-on energy, between-song-patter. The Futures are great. Beirut 5 followed the Futures with a bit of Shellac-inspired uber-serious hardcore. Sounding at various times like ten or more bands that I like (the vocals of Ed Hall, the jams Sonic Youth or Godflesh or Helmet, or who-knows-what), they seem like a cool if somewhat humorless band. Near the end of the set the guitarist broke a string, the guitarist from the Futures came out with his guitar strung up, did a switch, then came back after a song with Beirut 5's original guitar now fixed with a new string. Solidarity! SwaRRRm came onstage and fiddled around with their guitars, told the sound guys to put the levels up, up, way up, up up up, then started with a smash playing their crazy hardcore. The shirtless lead singer came out like G.G. Allin, thrashing blindly about the stage, storming the crowd, his voice completely distorted into scary groans and annoying squeals. How do these guys come up with song ideas or lyrics if their songs are atonal blurs? Great energy, but even the cherrful strawberry girl in the crowd couldn't keep up with them for the whole set and began to droop. Heading the evening in style and substance was Melt Banana, storming the stage and just going nuts. Their sound is tight and impeccable, the band is able to turn on a dime. Wild as hell drumming, fat solid bass flanging, sharp riffs and impossible effects from the masked guitarist, and hald-mad chirpy raps from the lead singer with the wise grin and the crazy look in her eyes. Melt Banana have the sound and the act that can make you feel ten feet tall, I'll never miss a chance to see them live again. I still can't believe I willfully passed up a chance to see them open for the Melvins - what a show that must have been!! And the drummer even kind of looks like me! Go to top…
July 29th, 2001 at Namba Bears : Ultra Fuckers , Bringer Of War, GaraGara Hebi , and Aska Temple. Scum Nite at Bears. The Ultra Fuckers were up first. Mellowing out a bit or what, with a kick-ass new drummer and bass/keyboardist, they were more of a blend of the Doors and a hardcore band than their weird usual selves. Even Kawai gave up the bag-over-the-head and kneepads thing. Everyone knows what he looks like now anyway. Kicking ass in more ways than one, their crunchy freaky numbers had real oomph to them. Starting off with their cool track from the UMMO Records Tribute To Japan compilation, they went into nuggets like "the Shiina Ringo Song," and by special audience request also "B.B. Gun Song." with Kawai diving out into the audience. I got it all on video too. Surprisingly, they now have a blues number in their set. Cool. Bringers of War followed with their Prong meets Deep Purple/E.L.P. insanity. A little heavy on the cheezy keyboards, their one long jam was still tight as hell in the rhythm section, particularly that incredible bass player! GaraGara Hebi were the surprise of the evening. Three women in wide skirts playing accordion, pianica (there's that pianica again!), and guitar. Weird funky harmonics from a great sweet voice, singing funny nothing lyrics like "my favorite summer" over and over again. Switching instruments around, picking up the drums, a programmed disco beat, skull-shaped maracas, and who knows what else. Very sweet fun. The guitar player seems to be a member of Hellacoid 0.222 MB, I wonder how many groups she is in. Last up was the mind-blowing Aska Temple , playing with the lights off and the only light coming from the micro-biology film being shown against the strage. Their music can be best described as psychadelic feedback and was mind-poppingly unbelievable. I had a grin on my face from ear to ear for the whole set. Wonderful. Went out drinking with the musicians after the gig, always fun, but the boys and the girls sat divided at different tables and I was at the girls table for some reason! Hellacoid girl started talking about making a band with me as a vocalist! Possible name: the Emperors. I'm game. Sounds cool, but I wonder if anything will come of it... Go to top…
July 19th, 2001 , Rockets in Namba: Tripod Jimmy, Drowned Mind, Love Is Dead, Songs About Fucking, Gladiator, and Woody West Wood . A night of thrashy intense sounds with 6 consistently excellent bands. I got there late and missed Songs About Fucking and Gladiator, but friends who saw them told me that they were really great. I cought a few songs from Woody West Wood (before I went outside to hang out with local bar owners Mito and Guido), raunchy crunchy metallers with cool hair and tight, smart songs. Tripod Jimmy were up next, starting the evening off in frenzied mode in what appeared to be a medly of their fastest songs, all done with rage and tight precision, kind of like the Misfits on their "Live Evil" live document, recorded when they were at the height of their abilities. Drowned Mind came out wearing Love Is Dead t-shirts, confusing everybody as to who they were. Wicked, tight songs just like Woody West Wood to keep the evening swinging fast. Love Is Dead were up last, going totally nuts. Probably akin to C.O.C. at the height of their abilities, wicked thrashy hardcore that flirted none too subtly with death metal stylings, the bass player bouncing his nasty distorto-vocals off against the guitarist's hardcore yell. Awesome, I'd see any of these bands again. Thanks to Kym and Eriko for coming out. Go to top…
June 10th, 2001 , Nakanoshima Park: Loco Loco 2001 Music Festival: Music Start Against Young Assault , Tripod Jimmy, the Cadets, Summer, Pet, etc. A lovely afternoon on Nananoshima in a park in the downtown heart of bustling Osaka, perfect weather, and an assembly of some of the best bands in Japan - no joke! Early in the afternoon were light, easy, crowd pleasing blues-rock, Peruvian/Andes traditional music and local busking faves, and a sensational troupe of traditional Japanese drummers. Huge! I regret the time I spent circulating and catching up with friends so not getting a better look. The Cadets, in Japan on a mini-tour, played surf rock to a small crowd. Not very many people were really into their sound, maybe the taiko was tough to follow up, but they played a smooth, tight set. Following them were local mind-blowers Music Start Against Young Assault, starting the set off right with their ultra catchy, crescendoing, staticky feedbacky groovy steamroller monster "pit inn," then launching into other long jams that developped into a solid wall of inpenetrable feedback before it writhed and noodled and became a truly funky jam. One guy in front of the stage with me tapped me on the shoulder and asked me indignantly "is this music? This is not music, this is terrible." I told him to be patient and see what happened, and sure enough the jam worked itself out of the maelstrom and he went away tapping his fingers, grinning from ear to ear. You sometimes have to hold people's hand and show them the path... Next up was Pet , the screeching Ramones/glammy Bowie/Stooges spaz party rock band, the men of the coveralls and the stringy insane lead singer with the energy of ten strong men. Loud, shrieking, crunchy guitars, tough guy choruses and tons of great fun. Unfortunately, they played a bit too long, pissing off the last two bands by cutting into their onstage time. Summer had the next go and they built up a complicated mix of strange sounds produced by guitar pedals and effects, building up a groovy jam that sounded a lot like Music Start Against Young Assault at times. Nice. Last up were headliners and organizers Tripod Jimmy. Birthday boy guitarist Shane showing off his snazzy new guitar. First song a rare punk nugget sung by bassist Tomoko, then lots of snazzy guitar rock, onstage beer drinking, standup comedy, heckling from the crowd, and good time favorites "Automated System," and "Funky Monkey." Excellent set, lots of drunken moshing among the ten people in the pit, and a good time that finished at 7:00 on the nose. Thanks guys, for the great set, and for organizing such a fun day. Thanks also to everybody who came out and accepted a Head Cheese flyer page from me. Go to top…
June 3rd, 2001 , Club Quattro in Shinsaibashi: VooDooBrooYou, Jesus Fever, Nagisa Ni te, Yamamoto Seiichi with Tim Olive, and Drillman - A night I had been looking forward to for some time, and a CD Release party for the "Tone Poem Archives" CD. Nana and Gonzo and VooDooBrooYou started off the evening with trippy psychadelic tunes and a stream-of-consciousness poem in Nana's deep voice to the power of Brian Jones. The tunes lifted off and rocked around, the beat being provided by Nana's voice or his bass or both. Some of the trippy Sixties riffs seemed mighty familiar. Good job. Jesus Fever followed with a set of their very mellow shoe-gazer pop, each song a lulling sweet song that built up into a snarling orchestra of popping feedback from shred meister Okazawa, also of Music Start Against Young Assault. Naturally the most vicious sonic assault was saved for last. Great, great, great. This was followed by an extremely spare, minimal noise set by Yamamoto Seiichi and Tim Olive, as they fiddled with hidden things on stage to make spooky noises and play a bit of accoustic guitar. So intensely concentrated at times, there were long moments of complete silence where you could hear doors opening, people coughing or lighting cigarettes... It was interesting enough, but also a little boring. I particularly liked the ironic afterthought of Yamamoto to let a throbbing techno beat fade in just slightly, then fade out again. Subtle. Following them were the mighty husband wife team of Nagisa Ni te playing their raw folk tunes. This time with Masako sitting behind the drums and Shibayama-san in his traditional place working the guitar, the pair plodded peacefully through three of their longer numbers, not forgetting their most memorable song "the True World" of course, plus a cool new tune from their upcoming CD. Previous times seeing the band, they had been drumless so Masako manipulated other instruments and Shibayama-san pounded the stage with his feet to provide a bit of percussion at just the right moments. This time they were louder, but even more stripped down (if that were possible). I was surprised at one point when Shibayama-san's 12-string accoustic suddenly went distorto-electric for a brief guitar solo in "the True World." Billed as an "accoustic version" of Nagisa Ni te, it seems that they have a third incarnation with a full band too! We left after this band to have some beers at Pooka Pooka and didn't actually see Drillman , maybe another time. Thanks to Matt, Chris, Eriko, Mick, and Jim for coming out, and for Torsten and friends, who nearly made it. Go to top…
May 18th, 2001 at Namba Bears : Dharma Punch, Coa, Indian No Echo Sign Bine No , Mimi - Funny mood before the show, like lots of music school classmates all came out to see their buddies. People eating sandwiches, drinking red wine, goofing around, not the usual mellow Bears crowd. Dharma Punch came out first, four guys sitting on chairs. A bass player, an electric giutarist, a singer, and a classical guitarist. Mainly backed by the simple bass line and classical guitar virtuosity and chords, with just a hint of electric guitar turned down low, the premier instrument was in fact the husky vocal chords of the lead singer. They went through a bunch of mellow numbers that were crafty and sweet, but if they didn't remind you of Nirvana unplugged then you didn't notice how similar the refrain to "over a hill" was to "on a plain." Coa was up second with their usual mellow kickoff that slowly builds up to a maelstrom of fantastic musical violence. I can still hear that bass line flailing away in my head like some primordial thing unleashed. Great as always, you can never see Coa too often, and they were in fine, fine, fine form tongiht. Next was Indian No Echo Sign Bine No , the band I had specifically come tonight to have a second look at to confirm whether or not they really had one of the finest rhythm sections in Japan. Yep, they're that good. The bass and drum picked up, the violinist starting out with odd Siouxie-like vocal nonsense, she used some harmonica, some handbells, before taking up the violin to launch into broad chords and strangeness. The drummer did songs with pianica and white noise generations in the background before the song leapt off the map with John Bonham drums and incredible nastiness. What the violinist can do with an echo box! Oddly enough, one of the short tracks that they experimented with was reggae. Everything these people touch turns to gold, everything they attempt they do well. Like U2 in their rawest moments but without a singer, or the Jimi Hendrix Experience with Jimi on violin! I especially like the drummers vocalists - she isn't just a master of the skins, she has the chords as well! Indian No Sign... are inspired musicians, they are also very inspiring. Don't pass up a chance to see them. Anyone who passed up a chance of seeing them play with Coa for a night at the pub obviously doesn't know any better. Closing the evening was Mimi, a loose collective of relaxed musicians - a DJ guy working a sample deck and beat box, a bassist helping with the beat, a guitarist providing sonic flourishes, a bongo player, and a cute female vocalist. Mr. DJ opened the night with some pianica while the bongo guy did hid drum-ditty-drum-ditty-drum-drum-drum. What is it about the pianica - two bands in one evening. And it sounds fine too! The DJ beat picked up, the band wonked around, and the lead singer sang her sweet Kahimi Karie-like vocals. The band was pretty good, even if they weren't exciting. I should have bought their CD. Talked to Bill and Eddie of Coa after the show, maybe my longest conversation with them ever, drew pictures. They had their new CD, a compilation with Haino Keiji, scooped it up. I asked them if they have ever heard of the German singer Haino, seems like they haven't. Stood around for a while drawing pictures together, then it was time to go home. Thanks to Steve and Eriko for coming out, and to Julien who nearly made it. Go to top…
May 6, 2001 in Juso Fandango : ...and young, Music Start Against Young Assault, ON OFF , the Port - the Port CD release party - Live music two nights in a row, oh la la! ...and young were already playing when we got there at 7:00, early start! Two prong attack from dual guitar/vocalists and a drummer, crunching out fairly noisy frantic rock and roll energy that is - dare I say it? - also qiurky and angular . Good noisy angry fun, even if it's not too memorable. One of the guitarists is a Fandango staffer and all-around familiar face. Music Start Against Young Assault assulted the stage next with a bit of chair-sitting bass pondering with guitar squonking drum dribbling here and there. Ponderous and slightly wanky startoff from the mighty MSAYA raised its sleepy head, stretched, then sauntered around like a thing alive making people in the crowd wonder how these three musicians can make guitar jazz sound so much like blues and techno all at the same time. Simple the music ain't. Lacking in the set was a memorable riff or head-nodding beat, but watching three musicians do their own thing and yet still cohere is a pretty amazing thing. With only a brief moment of whispered vocals from bass player Koji, it was a near-instrumental set, cool. Next up were ON OFF, a photonegative of MSAYA with female bass and guitar/vocalist, male drums. They also leaped into the fray with nasty bass mutterings and guitar splayed out all over the damn place, only brief moments of vocal ooooh-ing and aaaaaah -ing as ON OFF's set leapt into the stratosphere. It didn't seem at all like the mid-80s retro band I saw back last autumn , but with the guitar band approximations of a techno thread I was beginning to sense a theme of the evening. Sure enough, when the Port hit the stage and worked the keyboard, drum, guitar thing it was exactly more of the same - spare vocals and massive musical theme development that was all WRIT LARGE ALL OVER SPACE AND TIME! The Port were pretty spectacular and somehow they sounded like an orchestra coming through the ace Fandango sound system. My ears are still ringing! First show I've been to at Fandango this year, I can't believe over four months have gone by! Thanks to Eriko for coming out. Go to top…
May 5, 2001 in Yamamura Salon in Ashiya: Aube, Nagisa Nite, and Zushi Naoki Kobe Benefit charity concert - When I got a postcard in the mail advertising a repeat of last year's Orbital Confluence charity concert with the exact same line up, I knew what the highlight of this year's Golden Week was likely to be. This yearZushiNaoki started it off again, but unlike last year he opened it by sitting in front of a mysterious white box of electronic equiptment that belched forth a hellstorm of white noise! Not like the folky Zushi we've known and loved from last year's Orbital Confluence CD sampler. His second number was paced by an electronic sample loop that sounded like it was recorded from a primitive nailbox instrument. Strumming on the guitar in time to the beat and singing in his low, haunting voice, a long number was highlighted with the mysterious little flute that he wore around his neck - i.e. the Zushi that we've known and loved form last year's sampler CD. Cool set. Aube followed with iMac music, in contrast to last year's archaic monophonic analogue sequencer music (a beautifully made - as always - CD-R of that performance was on sale at the show). Lots of samples floating out, eventually woven and modulated into a song. Fading in and out, he played about three songs, then shut the systems down, bowed, walked off stage. Loud exhales from everyone in the audience. Nagisa Nite were up last with their delicate, clumsy, autistic folk. Again with the dual guitars and voices of husband-wife team Shibayama Shinji and Takeda Masako, they played four songs from their recent double CD "the True World" and a few new songs from their soon-to-be released fourth CD. Nagisa Nite's undescribable dynamic is made up of Shibayama's strong chords and Takeda's frail hovering stage presence. Appearing nearly helpless and practically unable to play her guitar, Takeda-san's voice is haunting and magnificent in its child-like purity and rushing clarity. Shibayama-san's strong voice is earthy and rich, and the protective care he displays in aiding his wife onstage through the performance is so touching, it is impossible not to be moved. Highlight of their show is still a performance of the title track to "the True World," this time clocking in at a brief eight minutes, so touching it brought tears to the eyes of the converted. Had fun talking to Aube and Takeda Masako between sets, and meeting Canadian kazoo player/artist John Bloom of the Nihilistic Spasm Band. Thanks to Naoko, Dave, and Steve for coming out. Go to top…
April 21st, 2001 at Sam and Daves 5: the Fartknockers, Tripod Jimmy , APREM. A celebration for Tripod Jimmy's guitarist Simon with friends and family and great bands. The Fartknockers kicked off the evening with racous tight melodic hardcore and their big noises kept things lively and whipping up a storm. A good NOFX cover with guest vocalist Shane from Tripod Jimmy worked well for a while before it fell apart - aah, what the hell. The female vocalist chattered in English between sets, apologizing profusely for their bad form, they hadn't played for six months, etc. - all unnecessary, because they were great. Near the end of the set the band fell on the old West Coast hardcore crutch of taking a cheezy '80s song and punking it up, in this case it was Culture Club and "Karma Chamaleon." Fun tune, though, and the MTV video showing in the background was even perfectly choreographed for the fast beat of their cover. After a short DJ set where Matt played early '90s nostalgia ballads by Ministry ("Stigmata")and the Cure ("Fascination Street") that had at least one person (me) stomping, Tripod Jimmy hit the stage starting with their monster party tune "Junky Monkey." A true Osaka party anthem if there ever was one. Unfortunately Shane's guitar strap broke in the first chords and they had to stop while he got taped up. In the second song, the strap broke again, so Shane got a stool to play a la Eric Clapton unplugged or Jeff Healey. The band tore through a half dozen fast numbers and even a few slow numbers like the rousing "Kiss My Ass." At least half a dozen drunken dancers were boogying at this point. All right! A nihilistic DJ took over at that point, proceeding to play the harshest, most abrasive sounds he had, setting the next band up perfectly. APREM were up then, starting the set with a cover - in this case a grungier version of Jane Childe's "God." With the audience at that point thinking they might be in store for a set of pub rock, APREM kicked out the jams and ripped out some ferocious noise, a grindcore exposion that was quite fearsome to behold. Now there was no more restraint among the dancers up front and the whole evening blasted into outer space! Unfortunately, I had the proverbial last train to catch, so I was out of there with the rest of the APREM set and second sets by both other bands and some DJing still to go. Bummer. I'm sure it was a blow out. Maybe next time I'll get a chance to hear Tripod Jimmy's Ramones and Duran Duran cover of "Save a Prayer." Go to top…
April 6th, 2001 at Namba Bears : Love Love, Ather Feels, Hallucination, and P-Shirts . When I saw Love Love in the Bears listings (with three bands I knew nothing about), I vowed that I would not miss this show - I've been a Love Love fan for a long time, ever since I saw them play live in Himeji in the Mushroom Club about 4 years ago, and their 1998 garage scum CD "Overfeed" is one of my favorite CDs by any Japanees band. First up, the four members of Love Love took the stage with a slow noodly psychadelic song. Just as we were starting to relax a bit, the volume hit 11 and the band cut loose with some seriously wild music. Playing five tracks in their set, they did two from the CD "5th" and "vomit," mixed between three new psychadelic numbers. A wild time and great, fuzzy sounds, inventive changes, quirky chords and big fat waves of distortion. Love Love barely ever play in Osaka these days, making this rare occasion a special treat indeed. Ather Feels are five young baby-faced kids who look like they should be busking in a train station. Not very impressive when their first song fell apart (intentional?), they definitely seemed to lack the confidence to really play their instruments or sing well, but the band seemed to improve as their performance went on, and by the end of the show their perfect pop/Radiohead songs had won us over. It helped that they have excellent songwriting chops, and wisely saved their best song for last. Just like Natural Punch Drunker, this is a band just waiting to be snapped up by a major label and shipped off to Tokyo. Hallucination provided the pleasant surprise of the evening with their punked out rocking roadhouse blues - we weren't sure if we were seeing a classic performance by the Animals or Cream or Golden Earring or Them or the Troggs or MC5 or the Stooges or Blue Cheer, or if it was the year 2001 and we were in Nanba Bears watching a band nobody had ever heard of before. An excellent rhythm section and a guitarist who knew all of the tricks in the book and even had a decent singing voice, the drummer's high backing vocals gave their act a finishing touch. All of their songs were originals, although the also sounded achingly familiar - it lay purely in the style, not the substance. One song started off like Golden Earring's "Radar Love" before it took off and became something different, but when questioned after the show the band claimed to have never heard of them! I couldn't resist asking them which their favorite '60s band was - the unanimous answer was the Velvet Undergrount, ironically a band whose style they did not mimic one bit!! Last up were P-Shirts - musicians working with guitars, drums, percussion, stand-up bass, and a dijeridoo, they made a farty blend of strange sounds, kept the pace slow, didn't build up any steam, just going, going, going. We couldn't stick around for the end of their set, I wonder if it got any better... Thanks to Dave Hale for coming out with me. Go to top…
March 10, 2001 at Club Water in Namba: Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 5 ( KB*CC V) with Plastic Mode, the Damones, Coa , Depth, and Afro Labyrinth. Another KB*CC party at Club Water, the first of the new year/decade/century/millenium, all right! Plastic Mode opened it up with crunchy rock 'n' roll the way it always should be - tight, fast, melodic, energetic, riffy, hooky and infectious. The trio of Japanese musicians were a great start-off band, and even if none of their individual songs were instantly memorable they proved themselves a fantastic band to see either once or a thousand times. Second up were the Damones, appearing earlier in the bill than they have at previous concerts (KB*CC 1 and 2) and bringing with them five newly prepared Ramones cover tunes including the essential nuggets "Commando", "Bonzo Goes To Bitburg" and "We Want The Airwaves." The band were in fine form, with members more and more closely resembling the Ramones with each concert, with lead Damone's vocals stronger and throatier than in past appearances, albeit a bit hoarser than the real Joey Ramone's. They played to an excited house and even came back for an encore - a repeat performance of the German-themed "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "Bonzo Goes To Bitburg." Coa followed the Damones with a short set that consisted of one long song that jammed along a slow bass riff - the riff escalated and picked up a bit of Edie's scary vocals before winding down and out. Playing with their hair in their faces and hardly moving about the stage, they were certainly the band with the most ominous stage presence of the evening. Following Coa was the crunchy metal of Depth. The three women came out, piled out the sludge and ferocity, hammering out most of the tracks from their debut CD plus an unrecorded number. They were in fine form, never missing a cue - perfect for the three slam-dancers who had formed a mini-pit in front of the stage. Awesome! Unforunately, they made the announcement that it would be one of the band's last performances with bass player Karina, hopefully that won't stop the band from playing on and on and living up to their promise of international stardom. Last up were Afro Labyrinth , also three women who came out and played riffy guitar rock similar in a way to Plastic Mode (neatly making them perfect bookend bands for the evening). The women played swathes of broad guitar chords over a quick rhythm with good wild vocals. Somehow poppy in structure, the songs seemed to flow together seamlessly - I only realized at the end of the set that I had never noticed them breaking between songs. Did they play several pop songs or was it one long pop song? It could have been either, I'll have to make sure to see them again and pay better attention. Between the sets the nimble KTO all-star DJs kept the mood alive with their wisely selected tracks representing the best from a variety of musical genres. Already looking forward to the next KB*CC! Thanks to Jake and Torsten and Colin and everybody at the KTO for coming out. Go to top…
February 23rd, 2001 at Zepp Osaka : Sonic Youth, OOIOO, and Tamio. The mighty Sonic Youth at Zepp Osaka, in the boonies near ATC Osaka in the harbor area. Nothing for miles around except the odd high rise, with the Tenpozan ferris wheel (and Bayside Jenny's) way off in the distance. A big hall with a nice stage, terraces with dividing bars to keep the crowd from swelling too massively, the crowd spread out evenly so you could move around. Tamio had a ten minute set at the beginning of the night, he did some solo singing and feedback-laden guitar picking - nice, tough. This man was not Okuda Tamio, though. OOIOO had nearly an hour to play around onstage. They played songs from all three of their releases plus some new songs. No costumes, no make-up, just t-shirts and music. A wild drummer kept the rhythm fierce, a bassist laid down the rule, and Yoshimi and another guitarist made strange noises, recreating the tribal techno feel of their recorded music. At times raw and primitive, at times sounding like Yes in the early '70s (with the tweedly guitar feedback of Steve Howe), at times like an electronic outfit, they always kept things just a little strange. Yoshimi pulled out the trumpet a few times in the set, nice. Last song was "Mountain Book," the ultra-hypnotic charmer from the new release, which (after a mis-start) began a bit uneven but finally managed to build up a nice head of steam and carve a nice patch to make way for the headlining act. Sonic Youth hit the stage at 8:30 and played to about 10:00 with one encore of two songs. They came out like old friends, with Thurston saying hi to the audience, chatting, introducing songs. A very energetic crowd reaction, some people yelling out "Thurston!" like he was an old friend too. The band launched into their set, mixing older songs with four from the new "New York City Songs and Flowers" CD, starting the night off with a song from their self-titled first release (1983, SST Records) "She is not alone." Next up was a song more people were probably familiar with, "Bull in the Heather." That was followed by their first song from the new CD, called "Free City Rhymes." Amazingly, after that they played yet another song from the first Sonic Youth release, "the Burning Spear." As this was my first time seeing Sonic Youth, I got a chance to see the group actually make the strange songs that I had only ever heard on CDs. It also made me re-examine why I like them, the minor cords, the guitar furies, the build-up, the three voices, the beat poetry, the unique seperateness from any other band at all. I was on the same side of the stage as Thurston, I got to see most of him - switching back and forth with the guitars, technicians helping him back and forth. He stuck the drum stick under the strings and wheedled away, and with "the Burning Spear" he picked up a second drum stick and whacked away at the one stuck under the strings making some really goofy sounds. Kim Gordon kept up a bass line. Lee Ranaldo worked on guitars or mystery boxes, another guitarist whacked away at his own guitar. We later found out that guy was Jim O'Rourke. Also lots of insane drumming from Steve Shelley. In the background they played a scene filmed from ground level of a New York street - a camera was kept stationary and people were filmed walking or driving past it, the buildings just right there. That changed later to scenes on a subway, the camera staring at people sitting opposite, kids playing, etc. One of the women filmed had a super mean mullet - spiky dark hair on top, long, fluffy, dyed hair down the back of the head. Later the films merged. Lots of young people in the audience, most of the Japanese people I talked to were in bands. Some English teachers I met at the show were ten years younger than me, making them as old as the band itself, which leads me to wonder - is Sonic Youth the Rolling Stones of our generation? After "the Burning Spear," they did a short noise jam that they dedicated to Yamamoto. I wonder if that is Yamamoto Seiichi, guitarist in the Boredoms and dozens of other bands. Then "nevermind (what was it anyway)" and "small flowers crack concrete," both from the new CD, the former being a song by Kim and the latter a spaced out beat rant about the cops and narcs busting up a jazz beatnik love nest. This was followed by a wild version of "Kool Thing," with Kim giving the bass duties to Jim O'Rourke. Someone threw a crumpled cup and hit Kim on the shoulder, she winced defensively but didn't miss a beat - what a pro. Then a bit of "White Cross," then the song "New York City Ghosts and Flowers," dedicated to John Fahey, a musician friend of theirs who they had recieved word had died that same day. That was the end of the night, but the lights stayed off, the crowd stuck around for the expected encore, and within minutes they were back. Thurston set up a step ladder, climbed up it so that he could tower over the crowd even more than usual, and they did the ultra-minimalistic "lightning," the last track on the new album, with Kim doing vocals and a bit of trumpet blasting. Another song, "Drunken Butterly," from Dirty, and that was it for Sonic Youth's most recent Osaka live performance. Thanks guys. Go to top…
February 17th, 2001 at Star Club : Some Hot Seets vol. 6 - Nendo, Boss of Naked, Pet , Natural Punch Drunker, and Spicy Fat Bros. Our first night at the Star Club, located centrally in downtown Kobe (in a slightly seedy area) in a shop under the JR/Hankyu tracks near some auto shops. The place is long and narrow and feels somewhat like the Cavern Club in Liverpool the way it must have been way back when. For some reason the audience was made up largely of young women, a little different from other shows where men are clearly in the majority. Nendo were first up, a punchy fun band that fused a bit of Red Hot Chili Peppers with J-rap, not a bad band and pretty tight. Next up were Boss of Naked (cool name), they were a moody emo band that kept it slow and a little grungy. The lead singer had a fine voice, somewhat reminiscent of Bono of U2, he had a cool set of pedals and effects for his mic that he played with through out the set. Pet were third up, the band we had come to see. The opening cut from Pulp Fiction ("Everybody Freeze, this is a robbery," and the Dick Dale song) was played over the PA and then four musicians came out, all wearing the matching Pet overalls with blue bandanas over their faces like stagecoach robbers. They cranked out some wicked chops and power chords, then the lead singer came out and stormed the stage with his infections energy. A guy from the audience jumped up on stage and showed off some of the CDs that Pet was selling at the door. Pet have a super energetic show and the band is really tight, the self-professed "party band" plays a bunch of demented rock and roll, always fast and furious, at times sounding like Sha-Na-Na if Sha-Na-Na had been a death metal band. The lead singer, looking somewhat like a fuel-injected Shane MacGowan, has energy to spare and his act was full on, working together with the music and belting out husky, throaty lines. Definitely a fun band to see again and again. They will release their debut CD at the end of March, something to look forward to. Natural Punch Drunker followed the hard-act-to-follow Pet with their own version of J-Pop, perhaps that should be Power J-pop since they could crank out the decibels at times. With a lead singer cuter than a teddy bear, Spitz-like song crafting, and a dedication to really getting into playing their instruments , I thought for a second that I had turned on the TV and was watching footage from some big-name J-Pop band playing to thousands of screaming fans in Tokyo. But instead, I was in a smelly pit watching Narutal Punch Drunker. If anybody ever signs they guys, they'll jump right into superstardom like all the other J-pop bands. Very tight, very professional, very pop! Lively patter and joking between songs had the crowd guffawing, proving that the band's fan-base (the large number of women, perhaps?) was very present that night. Good stuff... that is except the song that was done like a sea shanty! Last up was Spicy Fat Bros ., which sounded to me mostly like funky rap. It wasn't very loud and it wasn't too interesting, so we called it a night and went to a pub after saying goodbye to our new friends in Pet. Rock on, guys. Thanks to Simon and Sara and Mick for coming out. Go to top…
February 11th, 2001 at Namba Bears : Okarejime kamerareta koibitotachi e, Indian No Echo Sign Bine No., Music Start Against Young Assault - the night of the bands with the long names. The band that my friends and I had come to see was Music Start Against Young Assault. They were up third, so it was up to Okarejime kamerareta koibitotachi e to warm things up. A guy behind an I-Mac, a woman twiddling knobs, and a guy playing clarinet. They started off with some goofy sound effects and samples from old songs before cutting loose and getting into some real noise, manipulated samples and odd effects. A clarinet player came out and blew some hard sounds, shrieks. Then a strange man wearing swimming goggles and head phones came out and flailed around. He looked like he was trying to shake a cockroach out from under his clothes or something. Picked up the microphone and began to holler, occasionally going spastic. He was occasionally synchronized with the music, occasionally cutting loose. Pretending to do theremin movements where there was no theremin, just theremin samples, ha ha. His hollering was fun and fine, and the strangely disparate parts did gel nicely to make good noise. The guy at the iMac would occasionally let a printout come out of the printer, usually saying deep meaningful things...? Up next were Indian No Echo Sign Bine No. , a bass/drum/electric violin trio of noise-makers. Walking basslines and snaky drumming at the beginning with furious violin sqruonking. The occasional harmonica, flute, pianica, and percussion instrument could be thrown into the mix in the quieter moments. The music built and built, up and up, until we realized that we were actually watching one of the best rhythm sections we'd ever seen in hellish action - word's can't describe. The female drummer was like a Kieth Moon, a John Bonham, and the groups interaction was magical to see happening when it really came together at its most furious and emotional. For some songs they had a white noise generator going behind the music, which proves even more how well thought-out their musical direction is. I was reserving my opinion about the electric violin action until I heard the odd Jimmy Page/the Edge-type guitar magic/mayhem being created with a violin, it was pretty amazing. Classical elements were combined with Jazz, hardcore, emo, and all else. The drummer and violinist broke in for some vocals occasionally. It was a haunting, powerful performance that none of us would soon forget. The band also had lots of cheering and clapping after their songs, something that's a little rare at Bears, and proof that people were impressed. Music Start Against Young Assault hit the stage near 9:00, starting with their "Rabbit Express" CD track Pit Inn, a joyful hopping number with a great guitar riff and hypnotic bass lines, then a slow build to a huge drum and feedback climax. By this time half of the audience picked themselves up off of the floor and began acting like they were at a rave, bopping around, screaming out in ecstasy, roaring and applauding. After a shortened version of "Pit Inn," they picked up with newer songs and kept the wild groove going on and on and on - tight drumming, excellent basslines, wild feedback and other guitar effects, occasional muttered vocals that did nothing to detract from the music. From the moment they began until the moment they left the stage, the band was on!! When the set ended, they left the stage, but the crowd refused to leave, calling out for an encore - a first in my experience at Bears. They came out and played a short, thrashy CD track, and the whole place began to mosh - yet another Bears first for me. Unbelievable - possibly the best band playing in Kansai right now. Thanks to Torsten, Shane, Jad, Matt, Jake, Yuki, Chris, Dave, Jeff and Kym for coming out. Go to top…
January 28th, 2001 at Namba Bears : Tim Olive, Kozo Inada, Ultimate Space Machine Null Sonic (K.K. Null and Masonna), Yamamoto Seiichi and Phillip Sanartzis - A fun electronic nite of pregnant pauses and Power Macs, with more foreign faces in the crowd than I have ever seen crowd the tiny Bears space before. Tim Olive started the nite, as he did KB*CC IV, with a very similar set. Laying his guitar flat, and manipulating the strings with various objects, he used his guitar to make sounds like a guitar has never made before. If it sounds like it was a Jimi Hendrix thing, it wasn't - Tim made his guitar sound like open-heart surgery, a man suffering, gasping, trying to stay alive. It was strange and beautiful. Following Tim was Kozo Inada , who partially sampled Tim's strange guitar sounds, but also built up his own set with strange bloopy noises that he altered from time to time to sound like waves or a field of crickets, often coming to a complete pause before picking it up again. Crescendo after crescendo before he finally cut it short. This sound was so quiet that its loudness was appreciated when it built up, it was like life itself. Ultimate Space Machine Null Sonic was K.K. Null of Zeni Geva fame and Masonna of Space Machine fame working the electronic equiptment. Masonna stood without moving at his console, K.K. Null manipulated an electric whistle and a bunch of knobs and switches and a speaker beat. There were always 3 or 4 sounds happening at the same time, it was a sonic swirl of crazy noise. Space 1999 meets Dr. Who in a John Carpenter movie. It was a long set and produced fine wicked phases. Yamamoto Seiichi and Phillip Sanartzis were last up and they did a set of subtle cricket noises, beats, and blurted bloops. Yamamoto, like Masonna, perched at his machine and seemed not to move while Phillip jumped around, changed CDs, pulled plugs. It was mesmerizing, it was fine, it was a nite at Bears. Thanks to Mick for coming out. Go to top…
January 14th, 2001 at Namba Bears : Space Machine, Shimura Koji (of White Heaven ) + Kawaguchi Masami (from Broombusters) + Nishimura Takuya (from Che-shizu) and LSD March - Seventies night at bears. Yamazaki Mazo, a.k.a. Masonna, started off the evening alone with his Space Machine outfit, wherein he twiddles knobs on a box and makes funny sounds. In this case there was a dijeridoo drone and a constant bleeping sound, over which he layered space-age special effects and distortion. Twenty minutes went by, he looked at his watch, and shut it down. Two overhead projectors lit up the backstage wall with yellow and blue images, and occasionally a live overhead image of what he his hands were actually doing in that box. The unnamed (super?) group of Shimure Kawaguchi and Nishimura came out and did a long set of 4 or 5 dischordant/shattered jazz/blues songs. They were for me so reminiscent of early Nick Cave songs that I was just waiting for the singer to say "I stepped into an avalanche." Drifting between bluesy gitar and freeform jazz, the folky group did a good job of working over our emotions. LSD March was a psychadelic band that reminded my friend Mick of Can so much, he dubbed the night "Seventies night." I guess that's what it was. I dug the LSD March style of laying down a bass and drum rhythm, then layering it with distortion and sonics - the guitarist was good, and in some ways the most dazzling musician of the evening. Thanks to Mick for coming out. Go to top…
December 28, 2000 in Juso Fandango : AXA (Aube and Sekiri), Garadama, Sawaguchi Miki and Jojo and Ono and Itani, and Merzbow: A night of Alchemy bands at Fandango, pretty full, lots of underground celebrities present like David Hopkins of Public Bath records and Seymour Glass of Bananafish magazine, plus all the local talent. AXA hit the stage first with Aube attacking a laptop computer to make trippy sounds, while an unidentified woman tooted away on a long tin horn that sounded like a kazoo. It was a study in contrasts to be sure, and I could have done without the toot-tooting, but if this is the intent, this is what we got. AXA was billed to perform with Sekiri, an old all-women punk band, but that didn't happen. Next up was Garadama , a power trio of scary-looking guys who pounded hell out of their instruments to produce a horrifying, deathly sludge. They sounded like Black Sabbath playing at quarter speed, loud and nasty, perhaps like early Rollins Band stuff if those guys had ever gotten really aggressive. The bass player had a beard and long straight hair down to his ass. This was the real thing. All of their songs seemed different - some repetitive, some speeding up and slowing down, some mellow, some faster, some getting loud and quiet, but they were all nasty. I want to see these guys again. Sawaguchi Miki and band followed them. First the band came out and played some crazy noise, then Miki came out in a red and white Christmas kimono and sang a ballad, then Jojo and Ohno cranked up the feedback and noise while Miki laughed like a warped little girl. It was a strange combination and not truly gripping. Merzbow ended the night with thirty minutes of strange and groovy noise distortion sounds from his laptop and a little box he twiddled knobs on. It was a fun and interesting night. Met a lot of cool people at this show, especially Mick, Nick and Rudolf. Go to top…
December 26, 2000 in Juso Fandango : Karma Stench, Depth, Pet, and Dig A Hole . Another night at Fandango, this time because Depth is on the bill but also to see the other 3 bands - heard good things about them all, never seen them. Karma Stench began the evening with their brand of spastic hardcore. They were fine, good songs, good stage presence, and plenty of shaking and wiggling about. I don't know how the lead singer manages to screech that high throughout the set, it was pretty scary. He's a good singer. The mighty Depth were up next and they are still the best-kept secret in Japan. This time they were tighter than last time I saw them, steam-rolling through a half-dozen cool songs and showcasing a bit of a new song as an intro for one of their older tunes. Pet were up there right after Depth. They were five guys in mechanics overalls playing psychobilly Las Vegas hardcore... or something like that. They were the surprise of the evening for me and I didn't stop dancing for their whole set. Lead singer is probably insane, swinging his arms on cue. Everyone else pretty mean. The best way I can describe them is the Ventures meet Guitar Wolf. Last up were Dig A Hole, who I can probably say sound exactly like Fugazi. They were quite good. If they had sped up a bit and bounced around the stage more they would have been Creep. Good songs, tight, nice. Thanks to Kym and Jake for coming out. Go to top…
November 30 - December 2, 2000 in Juso Fandango : Tag Rag Nite Vol. 29-31: XOYO, Kirihito, Grind Orchestra , Rise From the Dead, On/Off, Drillman , NASCA Car , Gaji, Jesus Fever . Nine bands in three nights, wow. I bought the advance ticket for all three nights, which was half the same-day cost, also got a cool T-shirt and stickers. I bought the Raggle Taggle 2 CD which has music from 7 of the 9 bands appearing, plus songs by Spasmom and U. Night 1: November 30: XOYO started the night. A drummer, a giutarist, and some guy playing a KORG keyboard (funky backbeats and early Depeche Mode sounds), they worked it together creating a prog rock feel. Vocals and funky guitarrings creating a strange space. Kirihito were like XOYO sans the KORG. Superdrummer Imakita is huge, bearded, shaved head, plays standing up, and looks like a biker beating the shit out of someone. His accomplice plays the guitar and kicks bass pedals and sound effects bars. To me they sounded like an angry mid-'70s Yes on long, squeaky, trancy jams. Grind Orchestra capped it off. Quite different than I thought they would be, they started with reggae and salsa world-beat jams, before snaking off into totally different directions altogether. The band had a drummer and 2 percussionists, a guitarist and a bass player (the omnipresent underground superstar Nana in his live debut with GO), all incredible musicians working a tight groove. Most impressive was the vocalist Yoshikawa, who seems like he can do just about anything with his voice even as he bangs up a percussion fury on a number of mysterious objects. Once a vocalist for the Boredoms, the group has apparently never been the same. At this show it is easy to see why. Night 2: December 1st. Wow, it's December already. Rise From the Dead start things off, a funky dangerous act that mix mellow psychadelic jams with the hard and crunchy. Trance mantra vocals hypnotized the crowd for a while. I missed half of their set, so I'll have to make a point of seeing them again. Onoff are a women's three-piece that play long spacy jams. While the echo effects on the guitars and vocals give their sound a bit of an '80s feel (Psychadelic Furs, Simple Minds, etc.), they had a full, loud sound and went on long, tight, competent, trancy jams. All three women are excellent musicians, and the bass player seemed particularly into her role as she fondled her bass as if it were a loving dance partner over her prominent bass lines. Drillman , with a new CD out, finished off the evening. With a drummer, a percussionist, guitar/bass/keyboard setup, the stage was crowded with people. They noodled around a bit at the begninning of their set before busting out with a tight, edgy full-on explosive. The songs were fine, but somehow the chemistry of the band members didn't work well as they forged ahead into alternative prog rock territory. The percussionist seemed confused about what his role was, and the keyboardist occasionally wrecked the mood of the songs. The band might be better of as a three-piece. Night 3: December 2nd. Gaji started off the set. I want to like Gaji, since they are a tight band with strong songs, but I still think the lead singer needs to work on her act a little... no, she needs to work on her act a lot! Maybe a gimmick or a robot suit or something. Jesus Fever, two guitarists and a drummer with female guitarist on vocals, revived the evening in fine style. Opening with their song from the Raggle Taggle 2 CD, "Ghost on the Bookshelf," they were like a melodic shoe-gazer band playing a long mournful tune until half-way through the show guitarist Okazawa hit the Mega-distorto pedal and drowned the tune with death metal riffs. It was a pretty cool effect. The band is all about sad, mellow, relaxing music, amplified with experimental guitar sounds. Try to see them with you can, optimally with sister group Music Start Against Young Assault. NASCA Car closed the night as well as the series of Tag Rag concerts with their hyper set. They opened it with a video intro over the club's closed-circuit TV system, all old yakuza film trailers spliced together, cool. Then the music started with Sample master ojisan Nakaya working a theremin and pushing out the wildest, funniest samples around, accompanied by live drums. Cool disco "Jumping Jack Flash" riffs were buried in the mix, but I heard them. After a long intro, rap master Yoshida came out and rocked the house. All of Fandango was grooving to the party beats and great times, it felt pretty much like a monster disco inferno, man, it was great. Most impressive was Nakaya, who had real stage presence even behind his bank of electronics, who came out and rapped a bit along, walked into the crowd, and boomed out frantic announcements. Great, great, great. Can't wait for the next Tag Rag night. Go to top…
November 18th, 2000 at Namba Bears : Sly Stone, Boiled Fish Paste, Bery Neck, Creep , Moga the 5 Yen - A fine night of punk and hardcore at Bears, the smallest live house in Osaka. Starting off was Sly Stone , sans family, a cool punk outfit with vicious songs and hard riffs. While they often sounded a lot like Nirvana, Pixies, Radiohead, etc., most of their songs were very strong, augmented by a talented lead singer. In a scene where very few lead singers can actually sing, this kind of thing is a rare treat and maybe the sign of a good new thing. If they get any bigger, though, they might be forced to change their name - wait and see. Boiled Fish Paste were up next, but since we got stalled while on a beer hunt, we missed all but a few cords of their set. Maybe next time. Bery Neck (from Nagoya) was a good band to come back from a beer hunt to - a trio that reminded us in nearly every way of P.J. Harvey, they busted out with plenty of tight songs. The standing drummer was a neat trick, and the lead singer strained the pipes more than once. Creep followed their set with a very Creep set - blinding sheets of noise and frantic drumming, screamed vocals. They weren't falling all over themselves like they were last time I saw them at Fandango, but they were tight, hard, and too big for the little club. Moga the 5 Yen ended up the evening with their tight hardcore - it all went by so fast I was barely sure what I was listening too. Tight and with a full sound, I'll look forward to seeing them again. Go to top…
November 5, 2000 in Juso Fandango : Music Start Against Young Assault , Solmania, Gaji, and Coa - Another
flawless Fandango line-up. Coa started things off right with one of
their long jams, this one seeming to be an greatest hits mix of all their
styles, wow. They started it off with the slow low bass beats piling on
and on, adding noise and feedback layers to the top of it, hitting new
dimensions, building, building, adding the hoarse terrified vocals, then
changing it again. A live video would have been great. A lot of new
faces in the crowd, plus a lot of old faces like Jeff Bell (of Solmania), Nana
(from Star, Star, Star, sporting a new Alladin Sane hair-do, new since the
October 15th gig at Fandango anyway), and Matt Exile. Next up were Solmania
, two guitarists, one of them (Ohno, who also played with Sawaguchi
Miki in Bears earlier this year) holding the strangest instrument I've ever
seen. It was like a big spoon, but it had two bass wires strung over the
arm of the guitar, looking like a pulley, there was a mic stand built into the
head of the guitar, which is also where the cord from the amp plugged in.
Wow. They got started after some fiddling with their instruments (we were
holding their breaths), they began - to recreate the sound of Godzilla
destroying Tokyo again. And again! And again!! And Again!!!
Loud waves of distortion hit the audience, knocking the wind out, and continued
to pummel us for over 20 minutes. The sound moved and changed, sometimes
picking up a beat or an effect, the enjoyment came from hearing changes in the
sound - there were some. At the end of the set, someone hit a button, and
electronic bleeps and bloops joined, the sound, then Ohno finally hits the bass
strings - boom, boom, boom, boom - and the walked off the stage leaving them
humming. Gaji followed with their loud full band action - bass, guitar,
drum and vocals. They produced noisy fury, tight and crunchy, that had us
thinking about Melt Banana
(not as precise), Shellac, and Nonpareil
. For my money, I'd have to say that their bass and guitar were tight,
professional, and very very good, but the band might be better with a better
drummer and lead singer. Gaji were still a loud, surprising, and
inspiring onstage act, and one to watch in months to come. Last up were Music
Start Against Young Assault, the band I had come to see. Since
hearing their CD one late night in a bar, I had been very interested in hearing
more - buying the CD was not possible, sold out all over town. Then I
found out about this show, and no more needed to be said. Bought the CD
right off the bat, then waited in anticipation. The band did not
disappoint, they started their set off with smooth, groovy bass and guitar
sounds, light drums, no vocals. They jammed endlessly over the same
groove before letting it build and get snazzier and snazzier. The song
changed and the whole club was alive with an electric hum produced by this
band, intoxicating like the best groove come alive. The whole crowd
should have been bouncing up and down uncontrollable, in fact I was the only
one. The bass player worked on some wheaty vocals for one short part of
one song, the rest of their set was instrumental. And what a set.
Each musician was superb, and together they were exemplary. This is
another band to watch on the Kansai scene. After the show I got the band
to sign my CD. Nice people, all of them. Lots of cool people came
out to the show, thanks to Grant, Colin, Eric, Torsten and the rest.
MSAYA band photo . Go to top…
October 15, 2000 in Juso Fandango : Dew Under, Depth, Razor's Edge, and Cowpers - Part of a week of special concerts to celebrate Fandango's 13th anniversary, yet only two days after Friday the 13th (and a full moon), four great acts hit the stage. Starting it all off were Dew Under , an Osaka band. As it was my first time seeing them, I was allowed to be pleasantly surprised by their tight playing and great songs. While nothing really stuck out about their set in general, their tight set with all their great songs had me grinning from ear to ear the whole time. Somehow unique and familiar all at the same time, I was thinking Elastica and Lush and I-don't-know-what. My friends and I all managed to get a copy of the band's 200 yen demo tape before their set had even ended. They may have a boring name, but they could be a band to watch. Depth took over the stage next. People who hadn't seen them before were wiped out by their ferocious set, and I was enjoying my fifth time seeing my favorite Osaka band. Guitarist You-ko broke some strings in the first son, so she spent a bit of time to solve the problem, which led to some anti-climax, but they were back and raged through six more songs, including a new one called "Maggots" that had Youko and bassist Ryo doing more metal-rap interplay. They'll be working on that one in the next few months. Razor's Edge followed Depth with even more intense hardcore. They were start and stop tight, reaching near Melt Banana speeds. Blistering guitar attacks that were particularly relentless, if a little tuneless, kept the crowd on the edge of their toes. I like the forced bark of the lead singer, it worked a lot better than former headliners like Wrench , etc. Unfortunately, the set was a little short, so that by the time I was ready to really fly through the roof, they were walking offstage. Talk about a cock-tease. Last up were Cowpers , who has come all the way from Sapporo to play. Sapporo is really far away, and in Japanese indie terms that's almost like saying that they had come all the way from Columbia to play bars in Austin. Nevertheless, I couldn't really say I liked their set. It went on a bit too long (sure, they had come all that way, but...), and their song-writing really wasn't too inspired. They had great stage presence and knew how to maintain noise and intensity, they could even have benefitted from a killer laser light show, but unfortunately there was nothing really interesting going on. Dew Under, with their bright somewhat subdued sound, had done all that Cowpers couldn't at the beginning of the evening already. Depth band photo . Go to top…
September 30, 2000 at Club Water in Namba: Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 4 ( KB*CC IV) with Tim Olive, Katakuruta, El Caminos , Permanent Voltage, Tripod Jimmy, and Empty Orchestra - The latest installment in the mighty and worthy KB*CC charity concert series had a large crowd in eager anticipation of its many suprises. Tim Olive, a Canadian noise artist formerly of Nimrod filling in at the last minute for Love Or Die who had to cancel (one member living in Tokyo couldn't get off work), began the show at 7:30 with his performance piece. He made noise by placing objects near the pickups of a guitar. The tin foil and brillo pad made a nice warm fuzzy sound, while strings and gloves and sticks and bells made or muted other noises. There was a hush in the audience, certainly it must have been the subtlest opener for a KB*CC show ever. Between sets, the KTO celebrity DJs spun tracks, usually keeping a theme with the upcoming bands and always playing great stuff. Hitting the stage next was Kata Karuta, a lively Pogues-esque band, with banjo and accordian and washboard, etc. They all came out wearing white shirts and hats, strumming and drumming, male and female vocalists pairing off in guttural/sweet harmonies respectively. There was some dancing in the audience and a lot of good cheer. Up next, the El Caminos : a surf instrumental band, obviously inspired by greatness, they performed a dozen cheerful and excellently interpreted/recreated surf songs, including a Ventures cover. Apparently they are the sixth best surf band in Japan (Jackie and the Cedrics being number one), but for the night they were number one. Nearly the whole audience was dancing to them, some even imitating their surf riffs, etc. Permanent Voltage , a garage rock duo were next. This is the band that was supposed to play two previous charity concerts but never did due to their original drummer being overworked/unavailable. They made up for this by replacing the guy with the drummer from Masatsu Genin (a veteran of all former KB*CCs), hitting him up for a contribution to the charity, and committing themselves properly to their mission in life - our entertainment. As a bonus, Masatsu Genin leader and friendly KB*CC celebrity roustabout Kiyoshi played as a guest guitarist. Starting the show, out came the original guitarist and the new drummer: the guitarist had a fake Olympic gold medal around his neck to jump around and play a few licks/10 second songs, the medal fell off of the neck loop immediately. Then Kiyoshi came out in his underwear, his saffron socks matching his saffron t-shirt! First thing he did was empty his beer onto his white cowboy hat, beer dripping all over the stage, amps, guitars. The two guitarists tuned up, then did their songs - all thrashy punkabilly. It was fun and lots of people were dancing again and feeling the savage beat. Unfortunately, with two new members the set could only be a short one. They were followed by the local "gaijin band" Tripod Jimmy (although these days they are half gaijin, half Japanese). Now while it is true that Tripod Jimmy has plenty of ardent supporters (many of whom had come to cheer them on that night), some of the jaded rock critics in the audience were a bit skeptical: from personal experience, the only other time I had ever seen them (at the Nakanojima festival in Osaka) they were laughable. This time they had shed their lead singer and changed drummers (and weren't quite as drunk) and surprised the non-believers with a tight, rockin' show - furious guitar sounds, massive dance-ability, friendly charisma and wonky humor. I will never doubt again, what a makeover! Ironically, there were only three people dancing at this point - maybe the previous bands had tired everybody out. Audience members heckled the band to do some AC/DC or Motorhead covers. They just heckled back. The last band was Empty Orchestra. They're formed around Canadian avant garde electronicist, Jeff Bell. He came out solo and worked a table full of electronic toys and "little black boxes," looking all the part of the a mad scientist. At one point he let his machines run on their own and dived into the drum kit. Eventually, he was joined by other musicians - a digeridoo player, an electric cello/stand-up bass player, a guitarist, and the three Baby Q modern dancers all dressed in saffron outfits (the color of the evening?). The musicians did bizarre noise manipulation while Baby Q interpreted, swaying and moving around mechanically as if they were Sadako from the Ring. At some point they crawled over the divider between the stage and the audience and danced in front of us. Survivors of the last few Mukogawa Dance on the Banks shows (side stage) may remember thse women, since they are certainly hard to miss. Kanami from Destroyed Robot as well as Daimyo Gyoretsu (who played KB*CC III) was also supposed to join the madness - he was seen sitting offstage sleeping. He eventually crawled onstage, sat in front of a little electronic black box of his own and sat there for the rest of the show. What almost nobody knew was that his headgear (hidden by a mask of plush snakes, a swipe at the wacky headgear favored by modern Japanese cults) was designed to pick up his alpha waves and send them to the black box to be manipulated into sound, hence his need to induce sleep. Talk about performance art! The show went on for a long time, the audience had no idea what was going to happen next. Baby Q left the stage, but then after some time two of them came back. Eventually, the performers let things wind down and left the stage one by one. The bass/cello player set aside his instrument, leaving only Kanami - he looked up and noticed that he was alone, then also crawled off the stage. That was 1:30. A great show and a great time was had by all, leaving many happy memories and the first seeds of a new curious anticipation for the next KB*CC... For pictures from KB*CC IV, check the Kansai Bangladesh Project KB*CC IV review page . Go to top…
August 25, 2000 at the El Macombo in Toronto, Canada: Jimmy Dowd, with Alexis O'Hara opening - I went to Canada for 5 weeks and all I saw was one lousy concert. This one was for the legendary Jimmy Dowd I had heard so much hootin' and hollerin' about on the Mekons chat group, playing at the legendary the-Rolling-Stones-Once-Recorded-a-Surprise-Live-Concert-There El Macombo. Opening for Jimmy Dowd was Alexis O'Hara and her side-kick keyboardist/clown guy doing an improv performance twee/precious/sardonic rant. This doesn't sound promising already, how does it sound when I say that she went on for over an hour? A modest twenty-minute set would have gone over much better. Even James Brown gets sharp looks if he stays onstage too long (so I've been told), and who is Miss O'Hara anyway (okay, so she's a cousin of Mary-Margaret and Catherine O'Hara, but who really cares)? I don't remember much of her set, really, except that it never seemed anything but pointless and my head was in a daze anyway. I am afraid to say that I also don't remember much of Jimmy Dowd's set (shame on me), except that it was pleasant, soulful, bluesy, folky, complex-yet-simple guitar riffing stuff played to a good-sized crowd. If he came to the Elmo again when I was in town, I would pay to see him again and build a proper opinion. I bought tickets for myself and two friends for the cost of a single concert ticket in Japan. And maybe he'll have a proper opening band next time. Go to top…
July 7, 2000 at Club Water in Namba: Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 3 (KB*CC III) with Roi-Tan, C love R, Haco, UltraFuckers , Daimyo Gyoretsu - The third Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert (KB*CC III) and perhaps the least attended gig... also the most radical and experimental, exciting nevertheless since it offered bands that had never played at the event before, as well as a rare appearance of the legendary Daimyo Groretsu. I got there after ROITAN 's set, but managed to catch all of C love R, a girl group that hit all of the marks of everyone's image of what all Japanese girl bands must sound like. They were great, with lots of energy and likeable infectiousness and good stage presence, not to mention spunky songs. They had two tapes of their music for sale, 100 yen each (a steal), with two and four songs on them respectively. Haco was up next solo, playing her unique nutty operatic techno like a modern-day Yoko Ono. Unfortunately the crowd took a while to warm up to her act, with the people who talked through the set making more sound than she was at point; she rallied forth near the end with one of her strong songs, and then a lot of loud strumming on her electric mandolin (?), so that people were feeling good enough at the end of her set that they called for an encore which she graciously gave us. Permanent Voltage were on the bill, but couldn't make it, so following Haco were the Ultra Fuckers , another Bears band just like Haco: they jumped into a set that sounded more hardcore than they ever had before. No unusual stage antics except for the obligatory muttering in English ("do you like Shiina Ringo?"), the foreign language irony/intimidation effect that works on Japanese audiences but was lost on the gaijin crowd due to the fact that many people were English-speaking anyway. They played the "BB Gun Song" and Kawai pulled out his trademark toy guitar, but didn't show it off for more than a minute or two. Final song was an adapted cover of the Butthole Surfers' "Human Cannonball", and one encore was granted us after all. A further "AC/DC encore" was refused, though, unfortunately. Last up were Daimyo Gyoretsu , the Bar Noise band and motley crew of strangers who grunt and groan, masked and costumed. Full throat, guitar and drum madness going on and on as people cavorted on the stage colliding with each other, tripping over the guitar pedals, smog machine, wacky percussion and gongs, a skateboard with sharp deer horns on it, and who knows what else. A chainsaw trick didn't work, but it didn't matter because the insane sound that was going on was more than enough to make anyone go utterly loopy. Is this what Mr. Bungle and Slipknot and Insane Clown Posse are all about? Happily, I had the honor of being able to take part in this momentous occasion: I wrapped myself up in a sumo mawashi loincloth, put a pair of my wife's panty-hose (with my socks stuffed into the toes) on my head, they bounced around as I did and the three of us had a lot of fun. I don't know how it looked, and I am unsure of my actual musical contribution. I guess I'll have to check out the video of the nite... Check out the Kansai Time Out magazine website for more info. Go to top…
June 4, 2000 in Juso Fandango : Djamra, Motor Humming, and Melt Banana - Good vibes at Fandango, long time no see. Not so crowded, and with several friends to chat with in the audience, soon it was time to watch Djamra . Shoeless freaks performing wild jazz fusion. Music school John Zorn nuts who could stop on a dime musically. Nutty tunes that changed every three seconds, jazzy and hard, with a nutty saxophone wailing on top of it. The vibe was elusive, and I am sorry but I don't really know what kind of contribution the lead sax really gave to the overall mix. I didn't buy the CD, but my friend did so some people really liked it. MotorHumming was also instrumental hardcore, but they had a thicker feel and were more streamlined (and less arty). I thought they reminded me of early Bad Brains without a singer. Lead guitar's wife sat in for an absent drummer, she was so much fun to watch - huge intense eyes and a perma-smile the size of a billboard on her face for the whole set. I'm still laughing. Melt Banana came out and took the stage and strormed all over it. Wow! The lead singer was nutty - maybe insane - and the whole band was tight as hell. I don't know how the guitarist made some of the sounds he did. Barking and chipping away at the sound, always stacatto, always fast, always intense and great fuel to push the audience past their limits. There was even a bit of moshing during this show. Go to top…
May 5, 2000 in Yamamura Salon in Ashiya: Aube , Nagisa Nite, and Zushi Naoki Kobe " Orbital Confluence " Earthquake charity concert - ZushiNaoki started off the evening by coming out with his guitar and playing solo. It was a nice, relaxing show, and the bohemian intellectual crowd were quiet and attentive. Naoki-san can really work his guitar to make it sound great. Aube was second and used old analog equiptment to make blips and bleeps fade in and out. Listeners were transported to other worlds, perhaps similar to the ones framed by memories of Star Trek and Space 1999 episodes. It was a fun ride. Nagisa Nite came out and and main dude Shinji Shibayama played guitar (sometimes mandolin) with the elegant Takeda Masako next to him. She played 12-string guitar, sang, worked a theremin, and tapped percussion, a triangle, bongos. Between songs they were a bit clumsy getting around each other and setting up for the next song, but once into the set they were confident and performed their slowed-down forlorn folk songs with great passion. Shibayama-san did strange things with his accoustic, strumming it in unusual ways, attacking it, and stomping slow, heavy beats on the stage with his big boots. It was a pretty unique concert. Go to top…
April 22, 2000 at Namba Bears: the Ultra Fuckers,NASCA Car, the Surfers of Romantica - My third time seeing the Ultra Fuckers was probably the best (last gig their set was plagued with technical problems), with bagged head, knee-pad wearing toy-sword slinging frontman Kawai Kazui wandering into the audience and yelling at them in English, handing out a b.b. gun and begging an audience member to shoot him. "This is a song about a b.b. gun. It is called b.b. gun song." He also said "this is a silent song" to introduce a solo number. The "highlight" of an Ultra Fuckers show is always when Kawai pulls out the toy guitar with the programmed beats and jams along. Musically, these guys are probably the worst band in Japan, but the falling-apart feeling of their music is probably what they want and what makes them different. Self-conscious hardcore scum deconstruction. NASCA Car were up next, starting off slowly with distorted noise before picking up some drums, then programmed insanity and tight rapping. A theremin was also present, although it was quite low in the mix and konked out a few times. One good thing the NASCA Cars did was ask the audience to stand up - the problem with shows at bears Bears is that the audience seat themselves on the floor, forcing the late arrivals standing in the back to crowd together or stand on tip-toes. The Surfers of Romantica were up last and blew the place apart with their long loud long jam. Starting off with a DJ and a bongo drummer, the other members slowly drifted in and began piling on the instruments and the noise on top of each other taking the jam higher and higher until the song had to change - it changed once, and changed again, and again, all of the members in glorious sync with each other. Just after the first climax, the crowd surged and for a short while there was a small mosh pit happening in Bears, a club no bigger than a 3-car garage. Somehow it all reminded me of the Boredoms and what they were doing on Super Roots 5, great to see it live! After the show the NASCA Cars and Kawai were selling t-shirts - the Ultra Fuckers tee was an obnoxious small-sized thing with "Ultra Fuckers" on it and a butt-shot of a horny naked anime teen. I thought about buying one, but unfortunately I don't know anyone brave enough to actually wear it in public. Check out the Lost Frog Records (Ultrafuckers, etc.) bulletin board . Go to top…
March 20, 2000 at Namba Bears: "ladies night" with Sawaguchi Miki, Miru , Haco, Coa - Sawaguchi Miki is on tour to support her new album. This show was a 20 minute performance piece with noise gitarists Ohno Masahiko of Solmania and Jojo of Hijo Kaidan. Mellow pre-recorded music was played over the PA and Miki sang along wistfully, giving the stage over twice to the band (the two guitarists and a drummer) who commenced to produce waves of harsh noise. Miki does have a nice voice but not much stage presence, and while the other musicians were doing their thing she seemed like she didn't know what she should be doing. The noise was great, though. Miru were up next and were as different from Sawaguchi Miki as any two acts could be. They had set up metronomes and primitive xylophone-piano and did sad, wistful music, full of nonsense repetitive nonsense lyrics/poetry. The two women performing were stately in long dark velvety dresses, both of them classic mysterious beauties. The music was odd, atmospheric, and the two metronomes going at irregular intervals sounded like drops of rain hitting a tin roof after a rain. Haco is one of the most professional performers I have seen in Bears. The previous time I saw her she put on a tight performance with a full band, this time she was solo, singing her wacky electronic songs while twiddling with electronic equipment, small percussion objects, an electric banjo (mandolin?), and foot pedals, beats, samples, etc. The wildest thing she did was put a pickup in a tin cup, then augment the distortion with the cap of the tin cup and a small mallet - it was mesmerizing. Coa went on last and blew the place apart with their drum and bass (i.e. one drummer, one bass player) set. I have seen Coa a few times before, but they were in their finest form that night, and seemed like they were in the mood to go to Woodstock and blow the Rollins Band, Metallica, Sepultura, and Pantera right off the stage. Eddie could teach Lemmy a thing or two about making the bass sound mightier than the sword, and Bill has what it takes to take away Bill Rieflin's will to live. Marvelous! Go to top…
February 24, 2000 at Fandango in Juso: Star Star Star, Helicoid 0222MB, Communication Brain Buster , Ultra Fuckers - Star Star Star have local superstar Nana on vocals with a guitarist and a drummer. Long, trippy songs that boom and yell, the jam twists and turns and defies description. Wow! That crazy guitarist, how did he produce so much noise with his guitar as he flailed around on his back? Helicoid have street cred, but they aren't very interesting to listen to. They produce rock and psychadelia that is good enough, just not too adventurous or even very adept. Nice stage outfits, though. Communication Brain Buster remind me of a bunch of serious music school students - they rip away at their instruments with technical perfection that is exciting and frantic, but somehow soulless. Still get wow points. Ultra Fuckers' set was marred with technical difficulties, to the point where even these famous deconstructionists appeared uncomfortable with the way that things were turning out. Considered by some a Bears band, Fandango may have been too big for them. I wonder if they will ever play there again. Go to top…
February 19th, 2000 at Club Water in Namba: Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 2 (KB*CC II) with Roi-Tan , Depth, the Damones, Masatsu Genin, los Cappuccinos - This event in a small club was organized by the Kansai Time Out magazine, as well as other friendly gaijin and Japanese enthusiasts, and they put together a great show. Roi-Tan started off the night with odd, angular, hyper music - crazy guitar and keyboards, sharp male and female vocals, all of it sharp and speedy. May have confused some of the people in the audience. Depth played second, announcing that their CD would be on sale already, a few days before the official release date. Some of the members in the audience had seen them before (it was my fifth time) and for others it was the first time, but everyone was universally blown away by their ferocity and tight set. They tore through a dozen songs in quick succession, You-ko the guitarist took a little wander on the dance floor during one of her solos (to my surprise, since I was the only one dancing there), then gave the stage over to theDamones , probably the band that the most people had come to see. The Damones have only been in existence for a short time, but already have a solid reputation as "Japan's best Ramones cover band." With the Ramones no more, this is as good as it's going to get for fans of their primal punk nuggets. Lots of good time vibes and dancing, fists in the air, hoarse yelling, and blisters on our feet. Masatsu Genin are a punkabilly trio that have a sound just right between Depth and the Ramones, harsh yet affable and punching out the cords and posing, stripping off the jeans-vests to show off the tattoos, etc. Definitely a good-time high energy band. The stylish and mellow Los Cappucinos provided some unexpected variety and surprised everybody in the room with their hypnotic charisma, except for the handful who had heard them before, and provided the perfect cap to the evening. "We're not heavy," the lead guitarist announced,"but we're groovy." Instrumental lounge funk and groovy vibes in a Pizzicata Five sense, the moddish guitarist and the big-hat lady keyboardist placed up a front, with other musicians in the back making the world a groovier place. For the last song, a brass section showed up too. All they needed was James Brown, or at least good times James Brown derivists Osaka Monorail ... Go to top…
January 28th, 2000 at Namba Bears : Haco, Yamamoto Seiichi, and Spanner - A mellow night at Bears. Yamamoto Seiichi pulling off yet another incarnation as a coffee-shop singer-songwriter, he had all of us drowsy at the end of his charming acoustic one-man set. For some it may be hard to believe that he is the insane guitarist of the avant-garde experimental tripped-out Boredoms, but the man is just proving that he is a musician - musicians make music. Haco is a long-time performer on the Osaka scene, and was performing to promote her new solo CD Happiness Proof with a celebrity-filled backup band that included Bill from Coa on drums (Eddie was in the audience), Tsuyama Atsushi of Omoide Hatoba filling the sound with his virtuoso guitar- and bass-playing, and husband Christopher Stevens providing musical distractions with guitar afterthoughts and black-box bleepings. Was this a Japanese underground super-group or what? Haco's energy and elecro-electronic operas filled the room and the hearts of the people in the audience, she reproduced the best songs from her CD, as well as something from her HOHAIO project, always adding something extra that you can't get from a CD playing in your living room. She was so good that I was a little confused - sometimes it is odd to hear someone this professional in a club this small, but it is always appreciated. Wow. Haco played similar songs a few months later in a solo show that was very different, but equally amazing (see the March 20, 2000 review Go to top…
January 15th, 2000 at Fandango in Juso: Creep, Naht, Swarrrm, Moga the 5 Yen - This was a night to see Creep. Creep are a tight, wacky group of Japanese punks who wear their influences on their sleeves - in this case the one guy with the Sonic Youth t-shirt and the other guy with the Nirvana cap. These guys are tight and wild, they also produce a mighty noise. Watching them is almost as much fun as hearing them - I'll never figure out how they can continue to play their instruments as they fall all over the stage and each other the way that they do. The other bands on the bill didn't make very much impression on me, though, so I would feel stupid saying any more at this point. I think that they played catchy, forgettable rock and hardcore. Go to top…
November 27th, 1999 at Fandango in Juso, Eggplant Reunion: Omoide Hatoba, Godspeed, Hijo Kaidan - Godspeed came on first and ripped through a bunch of great rock 'n' roll numbers. Lots of people in attendance thought that they sounded like Cream, and if this was their intention they sure did a great job. Omoide Hatoba were up next and they belted out several noisy, tight songs. Yoshikawa (ex Boredoms/Grind Orchestra) was on vocals and Nana (from Star Star Star, and just generally a superstar) on bass as special guests, with original member Yamamoto Seiichi (of the Boredoms and 30 other bands) on guitar. It was a tribute to 1989 Omoide Hatoba and each musician was totally on every cue and in sync, a well-oiled machine! Hijo Kaidan came on last - their set began instantly, as if a switch turning a light on, and for half an hour we heard waves and waves of dense noise - more like being in a howling snowstorm than having a tornado pass overhead and totally intense. Each of the onstage members was hacking away at his or her instrument, two vocalists were ripping away, but it was impossible to tell what each individual contribution was since they all swam together in a deafening array of total sonic assault. I had a grin on my face the whole half hour, playing with my ears themselves to distort the sound even more. Near the end of the set, the members ran offstage and let the noise and feedback just continue. By the end of it, we were all completely drained and had to go home, with our memories of this intoxicating night of powerful music to keep us happy for the rest of our lives... Go to top…
November 25th, 1999 at Fandango in Juso: Depth, Nonpareil, Betles - Depth were as mighty as always, the highlight of their earth-shattering set still being "Cage," which is catchy, heavy, horrifying, and climaxes and thunders at all the right places, mixing it up like "Smells Like Teen Spirit," but with two terrifying voices (a Godzilla growl provided by bassist Ryu, and a King Ghidra shriek from little You-ko, the guitarist) instead of one. Wow! Nonpareil also put on a great set - a strong lead singer backed by a tight band that produced a fiery mix of sounds that I thought reminded me of Godflesh meets Helmet - hardcore with just a touch of sinister industrial grindcore. Apparently, they are an old band, that only rarely plays live or makes recordings. I met the lead singer in the audience later, where he was lounging with his employer at the import/export business, and he gave me a free demo! Nice guy, he had one for everybody in the house and handed them out at the door. Nice golden paper, and taped music... that reminds me more of Rage Against the Machine than Helmet or Godflesh. Well, they were great live, though! Betles consisted of a solo female guitarist/vocalist singing sweet songs, like in a '60s coffee house, quite different from what the other 2 bands had to offer. Go to top…
November 25th, 1999 at Koseininkinkaikan Dai Hall: Yngwie J. Malmsteen - Although he was listed as Yngwie Malmsteen on the ticket (sans the "J."), it was definitely the guy - and he rocked! But surely I couldn't have been at two concerts on the same night (see above), right? Well, the truth is that I didn't see him... although a friend and I had intended to hang out in front of the hall to see the Yngwie fans drift in. I have always been fascinated by what comes out of the woodwork during certain types of shows (Van Halen, Judas Priest, Rush, Jethro Tull) and am not ashamed to admit that not only am I a proud owner of Yngwie's first (and only good) album, I also paid money to see him on the Trilogy tour, bought a tour shirt, and wore it to high school the next day! Anyway, I didn't see the Yngwie fans that day, but I will have plenty of chances to see the heavy metal otaku since the legendary axe-men make regular stops in Japan - Paul Gilbert, Zakk Wylde (of Wylde Stallyns?), Don Dokken, Billy Sheehan, Paul Gilbert, etc. Go to top…
September 18th, 1999 at Club Water in Namba: Kansai Bangladesh Charity Concert 1 (KB*CC I) with Thee Bossmen , the Damones, Go-Devils, Permanent Voltage and Masatsu Genin - The first (of what has successfully become several) charity events for the Kansai Bangladesh Project, organized by the Kansai Time Out English-language newspaper and other helpful souls. Thee Bossmen played funny hardcore, funny because they came out in skinny ties and looked like the Human League. They were noisy and funky and tight and started the evening off right. Next were the Go-Devils , three ladies in shocking leather outfits (short shorts and knee-boots, va-va-va-voom!) and produced fine surf music with their funky numbers. The Damones came out next for their live debut (over a year since their inspiration, the Ramones, had toured their last and broken up) and hit us with songs from the first four Ramones albums. I was particularly glad to hear "Warthog," known generally as the only song that Dee Dee Ramone sang instead of Joey, also sung by the bass player of the Damones instead of the lead singer. Nice. Unfortunately, the night ran late, so I couldn't stick around for Permanent Voltage, Masatsu Genin , or any of the late-nite DJs, but I heard that everything went great. Go to top…
September 11th, 1999 at Fandango in Juso: Yellow Machine Gun, Depth, Uxumaki, and Creep - Not many memories of this concert, but... I do remember that Depth were phenomenal as always, I was excited to be catching a repeat performance of the band that had come out of the blue and impressed me so much in April, and I was not disappointed. They were selling a comp CD that they were on, Ultra Coma , so I snapped one up - a deal at 1000 yen for 23 great punk tracks. Uxumaki and Creep left no impression me, strange considering that I can't forget Creep after their memorable January 15th performance. Headliners Yellow Machine Gun came on last and thrashed through miles of tight, fast, nasty hardcore noise. If you ever come across these three ladies in a deserted alley, you better turn tail and run - they are mean! Go to top…
August 20th, 1999 at Namba Bears: Ultra Fuckers, Jahangir, Jet Liners, We Are The World - We are the World did cool pop, Jet Liners did corny hardcore, and Ultra Fuckers did zombie spazz - it is their calculated ambition to be known as the worst band in Japan, but in fact they are one of the best... and one of the strangest. Confrontational lead singer Kawaii came out in knee-pads and with a bag over his head, talked English to the audience, and was generally incomprehensible in his language and his antics. Biggest surprise of the evening came from Jahangir , two guys playing ancient electronic equipment and singing nasty, edgy lyrics. They were as fun to watch as they were to listen to. Namba Bears rules. Go to top…
July 18th, 1999 , Fandango in Juso: Corrupted, Slight Slappers, Real Reggae, and Capitalist Casualties - I went to this show to witness Corrupted , they were indeed mighty. Grindcore at its slowest and sludgiest. It was slow, I could sometimes not pay attention to what I was witnessing. I want to see them again. They are all about atmosphere - a full, thick, suffocating atmosphere, making their set a total experience. Slight Slappers and Real Reggae didn't leave much of an impression on me, but the Capitalist Casualties were quite something to see. Very short songs, very fast, very heavy. Pointless? I don't know. They announced that they would do three songs for an encore, did the songs, then walked off the stages two minutes later. Go to top…
May 5th, 1999 , Fandango in Juso: U. , Depth, Coa, Volume Dealers - This is my version of a Japanese underground Woodstock, since it was the first time I saw Depth . They were the first band up that night, and they hit the stage with a wistful number. I didn't have any expectations for this band, since I hadn't ever heard of them, and neither had any of my other friends who were there that night. Their slow intro number didn't promise much, maybe weak Cocteau Twins. The song began to change and get faster and heavier, upon which Depth unleashed their "real" set: a bunch of tight, fast, frenzied numbers that left us with our jaws on the floor. I would have never believed that three unassuming women could produce such a hellish din, but they did it. We got the value of our tickets right then and there. Both Coa and U. were fantastic as always, but somehow my mind was on the new little band. I'd love to see those three bands together again, I can imagine no better lineup. My friends Matt and Dave were there with me, and multimedia maniac Stefan was taking pictures, all on the leading edge of an important new discovery. Check them out at his page of Depth and Coa pictures , and his page of U. and Volume Dealers pictures . Go to top…
April 29th, 1999 , Club Quattro in Shinsaibashi: OOIOO with guests Kiyoshi Izmi and GJ:GUITOO - What a strange show this was. I had just bought the new OOIOO CD and was getting into it, but it was all very mysterious. Once at the show, the opening act was a DJ. He had some cool spacy sound-effecty tunes at his disposal. I can't figure out why he did the whole thing from under what appeared to be a large umbrella? After he went offstage, all I could wonder was "who was that umbrella man?" Following that, guitarists came onstage and produced a humming buzz of low-level distortion, a buzzing hum that increased and increased, until finally OOIOO themselves came out and began their version of what neo-primitive techno should have sounded like a million years before electricity. The beats, the strange sounds, the pulsing bass, the riffs and drums and percussion, the yelps and hollers, the "lyrics" and "harmonies." OOIOO were fantastic, the played a set and finished and walked off, the guitarist (Yamamoto Seiichi from the Boredoms perhaps?) was there again making wild noise with is guitar, a bellow of steady sound that moved around like a think alive, then subsided, and it was time for him to walk offstage and for the rest of us to go to the next pub and have a beer and talk about what we had just witnessed... Go to top…
April 25th, 1999 , Rockets in Namba: U., Golden Syrup Lovers, Henricoots, Happy Under River, Hot Buttered Pool, Klingon, and Jakarantan . It looks like before this show I hadn't been to a show in more than half a year and that is probably the truth. I moved from Himeji to Nishinomiya (perfectly situated between Kobe and Osaka and only 15 minutes away from Fandango , which is great) and it took me a while to understand the concrete maze of confusion that is Japan. Once that was taken care of, I started going to shows. I went to this one to see U. on the advice of Matt Exile, who I had met at a Bears anniversary event (not a real concert) a week before, and I met Jeff Bell of Empty Orchestra at the show (I had also met him at the Bears event) as well. U. were astounding - they put on a great atmospheric thing with spooky lighting, moody rock operas of sound and energy and had the audience wandering in and out of an exciting dream. They were taking us on a wild electric high. Wow! The other bands didn't make much of an impression, although I remember that Golden Syrup Lovers and Hot Buttered Pool had some tight grooves and made good punky rock that had its heart in the right place. Jakarantan (whose lead singer was a former student of Jeff's!) needed more practice, and the retro schtick of Klingon (think shades, polyester, wide lapels, starchy big hair, and a lead singer behind a keyboard) didn't really work for me. Still a great night with a lot of musical variety topped off by the greatness that is U. Go to top…
April, 16th, 1999 , at Namba Bears: Bears anniversary show: A free show with free beer wine and sake for Bears' anniversary, an improv set of Osaka underground heroes playing to a pretty full crowd. A first for me in many ways - first time at Bears and a first time meeting some of the friends I would see reguarly attending shows or performing at shows, great. A very drunk Nana (now in Star Star and Star, VooDooBrooYoo , the Futures, Teem, Grind Orchestra, and other bands ) is the MC for the evening, but I have no idea what he's saying. A folk quartet plays, Dave Watson, the man in the trenchcoat, is goaded into going onstage by Matt Exile and does his impression of Boredoms lead "singer" Yamatsuka Eye. Was Matt expecting Dave to do a nice a capella version of "Fake Plastic Trees"? Eddie from Coa picks up a guitar and plays very sad folk songs, she seems to be improvising and not sure what she wants to do, very different from the tight, loud music she usually does with Coa. Two guys in suits get onstage and work away for ten minutes on a mic and effects pedals making feedback and noise - wow! Four guys get onstage and do a silent, frantic air guitar performance - hilarious! Guys come out in KKK cloaks and hoods and do an absurd performance, showing off feats of strength like breaking a Japanese radish in half. Some guy streaks around the stage. Jeff Bell gives a short speech and gurgles water. Kawaii also gives a speech, grunts and groans, then sets his pubic hair on fire. Kawai walks up to Dave Watson and orders him to burn his hair, meaning perhaps the pubic hair. Dave then sets a lighter to his own hair. My friend Takuya, who is not the least bit interested in underground music even though he lives a one-minute walk from Bears, leaves in disgust. The rest of us go drinking. (Thanks to Dave Watson for the reminders of the evening's activities). Go to top…
August 11th, 1998 , Bayside Jenny's in Tenpozan: Suicidal Tendencies with Yellow Machinegun and John Holmez - When I saw that Suicidal Tendencies were coming, I couldn't believe my eyes. I hadn't heard anything from them in years, and here they were coming to Japan. Their songs (and especially their lyrics) got me through a lot of tough times, so although I didn't listen to them much any more, I still had a soft spot for them. I couldn't find anyone to go with me to see S.T. in Osaka, so I paid the $80 ticket and went all the way from Himeji (2 hours on the train) by myself and had a great time. I saw a group of S.T. merchandising-clad stoners hanging out at the door with some foxy Japanese women, and thought that one of them was Mike Muir so I yelled out "Hey Mike!" I got closer and saw that it wasn't him, so I talked to the guys a bit, they said that they had come down from Tokyo, I thought "wow, dedicated fans, foreigners living in Tokyo who saw them in Tokyo and then came down to Osaka to see the show." The one guy said his name was Dennis. After a while I felt like going in, so I said goodbye. I saw a bit of John Holmez, who were quite good - loud, fast, half-naked. Then the Infectious Grooves came on. They did a ton of their songs, including "All the Rules Just Went Out The Window." Great, nasty stuff, fast and furious. I don't know if these guys were as good as they had been in their prime, but they were pretty good. I was happy to be seeing them since I had been a long-time fan of both Suicidal Tendencies and the Infectious Grooves, but especially the former. Man! What struck me the most was how many young fans there were in the audience. Many of the girls there looked about 20 years old, they would have been 12 when the last S.T. album came out! Still, it was good to see people were into it and could understand the S.T. spirit, a complicated philosophy summed up best in the last album title: "Suicidal For Life." Finally S.T. themselves came on and there they were in all their glory, full of spit and energy. I was a little surprised to see "Dennis" there onstage with the band, he was really Mike Clark, their anonymous rhythm guitarist bumped up to the lead when Rocky George left. Man, I should have done my homework. Naturally, I felt like an ass, and still do... Go to top…
April 19th, 1998 , Club Quattro in Shinasibashi: Cornershop - I have been a fan of Cornershop since their "Woman's Gotta Have It," which included the remarkable "Jullander Shere" song on it, wow, great stuff!! I didn't actually have their first or third (most recent) releases, so I wasn't familiar with "Brimful of Asha" and other songs, but I didn't care. There was no opening act, cheap promoter! The band came on and they had a tabla player, a sitar player, a drummer, a keyboard techno wizard and lead guy Tjinder Singh playing guitar and singing. They ripped through their best songs, everyone had a great time (except maybe Tjinder who looked bores). Somebody tapped me on the shoulder during the set - she was looking for some recreational medicine for the band, but I couldn't help her out. (Maybe that was why Tjinder looked so down?) They saved "Julander Shere" for last. The song went on and on and on and on and became a superhuman techno marathon of a jam. Tjinder left the stage, other people left the stage, the drummer and the percussionist just kept going and going and going... until they finally had to leave the stage... and then we got going ourselves.
email: Peter Höflich
All original writings copyright Peter Hoflich, 2000
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