I’m not sure if Yoshi’s has ever had a crowd surfer before. The venue, near San Francisco’s Japantown, is primarily a jazz lounge, but Sunday night it hosted the Japan Nite Special Girl Rock Explosion! + Harajuku Kawaii Experience presented by NEW PEOPLE, and all of the bands that played really knew how to put on a show.
I arrived early to dine in an effort to reserve a seat — I had never been before and wanted to make sure I would be able to see everything — but it turned out that we were allowed to get on our feet and jump around a little bit. This is a very fortunate thing, especially when the party starts with Omodaka and the 6%DokiDoki dancers.
If you’re like me, you still remember the kokirikobushi YouTube video that got traded around in 2007. The disembodied hands, dancing skeletons, and eyeball babes blew my mind at the time, along with Omodaka’s fusion of a traditional vocal style and electronic music, but watching him perform it live by holding a microphone up to a virtual geisha and using a touch screen to improvise wild solos over the top of his danceable beats was amazing. 6%DokiDoki added some nice visuals besides his projected video pieces, but mostly I think they helped him fit the theme of “Girl Rock,” since, really, he is neither.
Of course, he also performed [Bach’s] CANTATA No. 147, which is somehow made better by the fact that he occasionally missed a note on the tiny DS Lite keyboard — and apologized for it. The way he let members of the audience try out his touch pad device for their own solos during a couple tracks no doubt made this a concert some will remember forever.
To be honest, this is where my familiarity with the line-up ended. That said, I was prepared to fully enjoy the rest of the bands, even though I had never heard of them. The rest of the night seemed almost organized across some kind of continuum, from more punk to more kawaii.
All of the bands consisted of three girls — drums, bass, guitar and vox — but Red Bacteria Vacuum was definitely the most snarly. Even once the songs mellowed out a bit from straight-up punk shouts and screams, they still retained a rougher edge than the bands that followed. They also had what seemed in the frenzy to be the widest variety of merch on-hand at the table in the back, from t-shirts to stickers, and requested that we acquire some, “We are going away tomorrow. We need gas money, and beer. Please help me.”
noodles was the second girl band, and definitely fit right between Red Bacteria Vacuum and TsuShiMaMiRe in my continuum, which also somehow ends up making them the least descript. They didn’t have the howl of RBV, but didn’t go to other lengths to make themselves stand out — they seemed the most “straight ahead,” albeit alternative, rock band, if there is such a thing. No less solid, though, and it would’ve been their CD I had walked away with had TsuShiMaMiRe not blind-sided me next.
This year is their 10th anniversary, and it makes me wonder if I had been living under a(n American) rock until now. TsuShiMaMiRe is like kawaii, except they’ve chewed off the polite little leash. It’s kawaii exploding around you, wailing for attention — these girls were crazy and knew the kind of theatrics that would get the audience going, including yes, crowd surfing, which the lead singer practically begged for, or perhaps one should say, “asked permission for,” but the people up front complied.
The use of moe girl vocals (occasionally slipping into rap-like rambles) is nothing new, but putting it with a surf/ska/rock/funk band gives the TsuShiMaMiRe some real freshness. Their set featured songs from all three of their albums: from “Man Hole” (which sounded alarmingly like “My Whore” for a while — I couldn’t figure it out) to “Yoi Tempo Desu.” (“Next song is exercise song. Please exercise with us. She is great dancer!”) to their ultra-peppy encore — they were the only band who got one — Tea Time Ska.
As it happily happens, all of these groups have extremely affordable albums available on iTunes, and I’d highly recommend any/all of them. If you’re interested in future shows of the Japan Nite variety, keep an eye on the Benten label page. I would’ve paid the $23 just to see Omodaka all the way from Japan, but they brought us four bands! Well worth the Sunday night sleep I missed.