September 10, 2006

The Japanese New Music Festival, Bottom of the Hill, SF, 9/8.

About a year or so ago, The Wire ran an article about humor in music -- I don't remember much about it, but I don't think they included Acid Mothers Temple and Ruins! I was prepared to have my mind blown, but I didn't expect to be laughing.

The Japanese New Music Festival is something of a misnomer / inside joke -- yes, there are indeed seven bands playing, but they're all composed of different combinations of the same powerhouse trio: Atsushi Tsuyama, Makoto Kawabata, and Tatsuya Yoshida. What made it even funnier was the recited / sung / chanted introduction prior to each "project:" "Welcome to the Japanese New Music Festival. In San Francisco. This first project is..."

Seikazoku (all three) was up first. In comparison to the acts that followed it, Seikazoku's blend of prog / hardcore / psych / plainsong seemed oddly normal. Great beginning to the concert.

Akaten (Tsuyama and Yoshida) came next, with contact-mic fun: short pieces for voice, a duet for toothbrush and grated daikon, zipper, crumpled water bottles, and my favorite, Yoshida fiddling with a camera and feeding the sounds through a sampler with lots of dubby reverb, and Tsuyama singing about Nikons and Minoltas. Quite compelling actually. (Here are sample videos, one in a park, and one in concert.)

Next: Zubi Zuva X (all three), a self-described "eccentric poly-rhythmic a cappella ensemble." Not sure if I'd watch a Zubi Zuva X concert on its own (not that that would happen anyway), but it was loads of fun to hear their coordinated babble (and watch them crack up during their performance). I can't exactly think of any parallels -- a trio of Bobby McFerrins performing a Magma song, perhaps?

Shrinp Wark was next, I think, with Kawabata and Yoshida. I don't remember much about this, except that it was fairly similar to Seikazoku.

After the 15-minute beer break, Yoshida stepped onto the stage for Ruins Alone. Truly an amazing drummer, Yoshida played (and sang) along with sampled bass. This was probably the highlight of the whole show; imagine taking 30-second excerpts from different Ruins songs, splicing them together into a 20-minute piece, and performing the whole cut-up mess live. Unbelievable.

Next was Zoffy (Tsuyama and Kawabata), described by Kawabata himself as "the most stupid rock duo in the world." While the first track was one of their trademark acid-folk renditions of (I'm guessing) an Occitan song, the next was a detourned rock cover. This was preceded by a hilarious, mimed critique of drinking and smoking policies in California delivered in a bizarre girly falsetto to "Dear Mr. Schwarzenegger" ("Smoke only outside. Drink only inside. The only thing you can smoke inside is marijuana."), and the introduction went something like this:

Tsuyama: This next song...

Kawabata: This next song...

Tsuyama: Is a very very famous rock song.

Kawabata: Is a very very famous rock song.

Tsuyama: Very very famous.

Kawabata: Most incredible famous rock song.

Tsuyama: Incredible amazing rock song.

Kawabata: This song is by Deep Purple.

Tsuyama: Very very famous rock song.

Kawabata: Smoke on the Water.

Tsuyama: Smoke on the Water.

Kawabata: Smoke on the Water.

Tsuyama: Played by Captain Beefheart and Bob Dylan.

In which Kawabata played the main riff completely out of tune and Tsuyama proceeded to sing as if he were Van Vliet and Zimmerman himself. Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" (introduced as above and "played Mongolian style") followed -- though the audience was asked to keep it a secret because Jimmy Page's royalties were expensive -- and then Tsuyama sang the song in a Tuvan throat growl, complete with overtones and all.

The next pieces (covers of Miles Davis's "Bitches Brew," "Agharta," and "Pangaea") were rather tiring because of the lame punchline -- Tsuyama, in dark glasses, forever putting the trumpet to his lips, but managing to blurt out only a couple of trumpet chirps before the song ends abruptly -- but the introductions were classic:

Kawabata: This next song is very very famous song.

Tsuyama: Very very famous.

Kawabata: Revolutionary song.

Tsuyama: By a jazz giant.

Kawabata: Jazz giant.

Tsuyama: Not San Francisco Giants.

Kawabata: Jazz giant.

Tsuyama: Jazz giant. Very very famous song.

Kawabata: Jazz giant.

Tsuyama: Not San Francisco Giants.

(Mind you, I'm not poking fun at their English -- which clearly wasn't limited -- because the sheer absurdity was clearly part of being "the most stupid rock duo.")

And wrapping up the whole festival over a couple of hours later: Acid Mothers Temple SWR. Though only a trio here (though a mighty one indeed), the band soldiered on with their patented psychedelic hard-rock swirl. (Kawabata made up for Cotton Casino's birdlike vocals by pulling what looked like a screwdriver across his guitar frets.) He also had trouble with the guitar plugs, but managed to fix them in time for a series of sky-splitting Mainliner-type solos to end the concert. Awesome.

[Update: Never tried embedding something before, so let's see how this works. Here's Ruins Alone:

And if you do a search for "KevinBrownsvideos" on YouTube, you get 10-minute excerpts or so from each "project."]

Posted by the wily filipino at September 10, 2006 03:51 PM

Sounds fun. More fun than the boredoms. I guess Mr. Ongaku Otaku Mason Jones was there...escorting of course. Now if O. Yoshihide would only tour again...

Posted by: brown on September 10, 2006 09:20 PM

Cool Blog!


maraming salamat!

Posted by: orion quest on September 13, 2006 11:53 AM
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