Sunday, July 17, 2011

Special #2: Reports from the Enban summer festival (Acid Mother's Tennis Coats and Nisennenmondai)

What: Enban summer festival
Who: Acts from Tokyo, Kansai and beyond with a link to Enban
Where: Shibuya's O-nest: 5th and 6th floors

I'm not much of a summer festival guy. Somehow I don't think I'll ever make it to Fuji Rock (particularly if My Bloody Valentine's triumphant return couldn't drag me there a few years ago.) Even a day trip to Summer Sonic seems like too much work, and Loud Park's focus on New and Hair metal this year leaves me cold.

About the only summer festival I do regularly make it to is the Enban Jamboree - recently renamed "Enban Summer Festival" (did Taguchi-san finally catch on to the Boy Scout connotations of "jamboree"?)

The word "eclectic" may be overused, but any festival which includes psych legends Acid Mother's Temple (playing with The Tennis Coats!) along with unknown trouble-makers like Takahiro Hirama (平間貴大) deserves to be labelled so. I saw a bunch of compelling odd ball acts over the two days of the festival, particularly in the 6th floor lounge. For these relatively unknown bands, I'll do separate entries in the next day or two.

This blog is meant to focus on Tokyo music which has received little or no mention outside of Japan, but I can't resist briefly commenting here on two of the big acts who played the last day of the festival. Firstly, Nisennenmondai played a stunning set on Sunday night. It's the first time I've seen them using synthesizer instead of guitar, and I was surprised to find that I liked it better than their traditional guitar/bass/drums sound. Of course the rhythm section is still the same, so the sound is unmistakably nisennenmondai, but the substitution of synth for guitar arguably drags them even closer to a krautrock sound. After a long break from seeing them live, I was struck anew by their admirable economy of sound. The bass and drums lock tight in simple, poweful patterns which usually mutate gradually, but sometimes turn on a dime. Layered on top is the sound of a small synthesizer (perhaps merely a keyboard with some particularly choice patches) run through a single effect pedal producing a spectrum of sounds from twinkly arpeggios to all out drone. The crowd couldn't get enough of them, particularly as they only played two songs (albeit longform ones.)

The  other big act to catch my attention was the unholy amalgam of Acid Mother's Temple and Tennis Coats whoch was dubbed "Acid Mother's Tennis Coats" for the night. Anyone who thought that Tennis Coats might prove a calming influence on the Acid Mothers was soon proven wrong. The performance was as ridiculously overblown as Nisennenmondai's was restrained. Tennis Coats allowed themselves to be absorbed into the Acid Mother's Temple sound, putting up little fight as their melodies were dissolved by reverb, and their song structures eroded by Makoto Kawabata's psych guitar attack. The sound was hardly the point though as the performance grew wilder towards the end. Clothes were shed (Mitsuru Tabata's "Jazz Belly" was on full display, as he traipsed  through the 6th floor lounge in his undies straight after the show), and Kawabata's guitar was set on fire (admittedly only the showy, methylated spirits kind of fire), smashed to pieces and flung into the audience.

On another day, I might have groaned at their self-indulgent excess, but it all seemed appropriate on a Sunday night in Tokyo in the sweltering summer heat.

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