Sunday, January 4, 2015

Salad Days vol. 305 @ Koiwa Bushbash

Way out in Koiwa there’s a venue called Bush Bash, which is a ridiculous name, but it’s a pretty nice venue and one where I’ve seen some of my favorite live acts. It’s spacious, the drinks are cheap, they serve food, their sound system is pretty solid and it manages to be big enough to support a large crowd yet simultaneously still feel intimate.

All the shows I’ve seen there have been pretty exciting, so when I heard about their December 14th show I was pretty amped about it. The lineup was going to be killer: Zothique, Funeral Sutra, Melt-Banana, Nepenthes, and a noise artist I had never heard of before, Painjerk.

The only act I had seen before that night was Funeral Sutra, and if you haven’t seen them perform yet I recommend you pull your head out of your ass and see them at the next available opportunity, which happens to be January 24th at Shibuya Cyclone. Marduk and Shining are headlining the night, so it’s not like you have an excuse NOT to go. Plus, their bass player is like ten feet tall and does karate, so if you don’t go there’s a very real chance he’ll find you and punch your heart all the way out of your body. And you will deserve that, because Funeral Sutra has put on a dynamite show each time I’ve seen them without exception.

Funeral Sutra aside, the show at Bush Bash was full of surprises. I thought I knew what to expect from Melt-Banana, but I don’t think anything could have truly prepared me for Yasuko Onuki and Ichirou Agata’s high-speed, face-melting, mind-flaying assault. The lights were low and at first all I could see of Onuki was the lit-up display of some bizarre electronic device she was holding throughout the show. It looked like a mix between a first-gen PSP and Simon: The Memory Game, and I have no idea what she was using it to do because I don’t understand electro-wizards, but somehow she and Agata were pumping out several more decibels of insanity than physics should have allowed.

So intense was their set that I could almost forgive the western asshole with the shaved head apparently having a religious experience in the front row and taking up way too much space. It’s impossible not to go nuts at least a little bit when Melt-Banana starts a song. It’s fair to say that Melt-Banana’s music triggers something in your brain akin to a seizure, but it also releases so many endorphins that it’s a genuinely pleasurable experience. What’s amazing is that they can turn it off and on like a light-switch: one second you’re milling around waiting for a song to start, and then CLICK oh hey look now you’re a crazy person. They can go from zero to insane in a heartbeat.

If you read my interview with Zothique, you may recall I’m no great fan of noise music. I can enjoy it mixed with other genres, but a strict noise-only sound always puts me in mind of a fax signal that doesn’t understand why someone is torturing it. “What have I done to deserve this” it shrieks, as a blank-faced DJ sets the dobermans on it. So it goes without saying that after a few minutes of the noise acts I took my leave. But I made sure to get inside for Zothique’s performance, which was another first for me.

Kenji Kuroda, aka Darklaw, aka the guy on the keyboard, once told me that they see their creation process as essentially rock n’ roll, and that really comes out in their live performance. These guys go nuts. Earlier in the evening I had overheard someone saying to a friend that Kuroda “makes playing keys look fucking COOL”, and now I know what they mean. He beats the keys like causing them pain is the only way he can make them really sing, I mean this guy was slamming his fists down and ripping the sound directly out of the machine with his bare fingers. He was fighting this goddam keyboard like it was a monster and it sounded fucking fantastic. Barely keeping up with his intensity was the vocalist/guitarist Shusuke, who, for his part, played his role as rock n’ roll frontman with gusto. He’s got a pretty classic look -- long hair and a thin frame, throwing himself around the stage and shrieking over Kuroda’s keys.

Wrap up: Zothique did not disappoint. Their set was just as exciting as Melt-Banana’s and far more to my personal taste. Zothique could get people to crowdsurf on an ATM line. Their show is one of my favorite of the year, and has become another reason I’m willing to haul my ass across the city to Bush Bash. Melt-Banana is even more insane in person than one can predict, and they can make your body do weird things and even worse they can make you like it. Funeral Sutra is a great band that you should go see at the end of this month, and I still hate noise music.


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