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Friday, September 08, 2006

Shimokitazawa ERA, Sep 3rd

A tiny venue, sweat dripping off the ceiling, ears still ringing two days later from standing too close to the speakers while all the time thinking what the fuck have I been doing and why didn't I start this blog sooner because all this stuff was out there and I just didn't get off my fat arse and find it. The lack of knowledge and the need for more thorough research being made clear to me when I find out that Akai Giwacku are a band, not a solo artist. The joy of being able to drink from a glass bottle in a venue and use a toilet that is cleaner than many people's homes. Brutal noise that makes sense within the confines of four walls and CDs that remind you of the night you had but just don't come close enough to capturing it. Sitting at home trying to think of a way of encapsulating and explaining to people just how good this all was and do it in a way that will make those who can go and see those bands, and make those that can't wish they could jump on a plane and arrive in Tokyo just in time. If you book that flight I'll happily put you up for a few nights as long as you're willing to put up with my rambling and the inevitable putting on of CDs preceded by the words "you've got to listen to this, it sounds like the bastard child of a and b and it's the missing link between c and d, and it's going to blow you away and make everything make sense at the same time, it's that good, and yes I may be a little drunk but you will hear this music sober and it'll still make sense because it's not the drink that makes the music sound good but the other way around, and wasn't that always the case even when we took drugs to listen to music that people had made by taking drugs to make music to take drugs to?"

First up, Idea Of A Joke. The drummer beats her drums and stares at them as if she expects them to hit her back at any moment but I think she's beaten them down. The bassist has a huge grin on his face as he wrestles his bass around the stage. It was a struggle but the rhythm section seem to have won the battle with their instruments. That leaves us with a guitarist who looks a little out of place among these people. He's wrenching some unholy sounds from his guitar but he's doing it with such a beatific look on his face that you can't help but think that somewhere off stage Mephistopheles is directing things and this guy is nothing more than a front. Then there is the singer. I've sat over this keyboard for ten minutes thinking how to describe him and do him justice. He sounds like Jello Biafra. He looks like Duncan Goodhew. He is utterly captivating as he kicks controlled fuck out of his mike stand, hooks his mouth with his finger as if he's a fish that's been caught (is this Satan's reel pulling him in from off-stage?). They inspire a four man moshpit that threatens to destroy the place and they're gone before you've even had time to realise it.

Time for a quick beer and a curry (this venue just gets better and better). The bonkers DJ who was playing a mix of We Are The Champions, old J-Pop songs, and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers before Idea Of A Joke came on is back and he has painted his body with pink and white stripes (not sure why but it suits him) and is entertaining us between bands. Group_Inou are next, but there's only two of them and they look like they should be in a computing lab on a quiet university campus somewhere. The only instrument is a synthesizer on a table: after Idea Of A Joke's ear-shredding set Group_Inou appear to be somewhat timid. This is why I am not in the FBI or the CIA, I am clearly a shit judge of people and situations. Group_Inou sound like Everything Must Go-era Moby and Orbital fighting for control of a studio and neither side is getting on top of the other. It's like pre-Queensbury Rules boxing when the pugilists used to knock fuck out of each other for as long as it took. The other half of the duo is rapping over this and I have no fucking idea what he's talking about (time to start the Japanese lessons again) but it's a world away from the shite J-Hip Hop wannabe gangstas that you see on TV: there's no bling here or macho posing, just a demonstration of how good Japanese hip-hop/urban music can be when the marketing cunts haven't been allowed anywhere near it.

ECD makes a similar point but in a very different way. One man, a sax and a little box of electronic tricks. It's a set-up that brings me out in a cold sweat: is this a Japanese Kenny G with a degree in electronics? Am I going to be sent running for the nearest exit and a convenience store where I can buy a can of something strong and fruit flavoured to try and wash away the pain? No. He looks monastic and his songs sound profound (even the one about Zombies), relentless monologues over a hypnotic and brooding backing. I bought one of his CDs and it's good, but as with many of these bands, it makes much more sense live.

Akai Giwacku tune up. Then they leave the stage, heading off into a back room somewhere. A few minutes later they reappear at the back of the club, the three of them walking in a line chanting doo wop backing vocals and clapping their hands. They make their way to the front of the stage through a crowd that parts biblically, the heads of those who've seen the band before nodding and smiling in the knowledge of what is about to come. After a brief bit of improvised MC-ing, and stories about the drummer who has apparently dragged himself out of his hospital bed to play tonight they take the stage and blow me away even more than they did the first time I heard them on MySpace. I found myself a good spot just to the right of the stage, got my notebook out, and proceeded to write absolutely nothing in it. All the bands before now had been outstanding in different ways and Akai Giwacku seemed to take elements from each of them and hammer them together to create their own sound, their pop sensibility taking off some of the rougher edges of what had gone before. Content with what they've done, they doo wop their way off stage and back into the same back room from where they came. Fucking genius.