Latest gig reports

Here can be found live show reports, as seen in Tokyo or elsewhere in Japan by us and our contributors.

If you are looking for shows to go to, have a look at Tokyo Gig Guide, a great listings site users can contribute to.


Text and photos by Patrick Benny for Tokyo's Coolest Sound

フレネシ

The last show I saw in 2014 was Frenesi, and it was a very special one. In November Frenesi announced that she would put a stop (though maybe temporary) to her music career. Her last activity would be this concert held on December 27 in the Denshō hall of the Shibuya Cultural Center Ōwada. This seated hall seems to be more often used for traditional performances such as rakugo (Wikipedia), so it felt special to see a pop-oriented concert there.

For the last 2½ years or so, Frenesi's shows have always had a "school" theme, where Frenesi is the "head teacher" and those who attend are "students". Also for at least the same time she has been hiding her face from the public (Internet and photos), except in her shows where her fans are allowed to see her. The reason is unclear as she is really a cute and charming person, although this definitely works great in building a lot of anticipation for fans who get to see her show for the first time.

The show began as a kind of ceremony. People sitting in the front row were called one by one on stage to receive a pile of certificates, and once back to their seat they had to keep one and pass the rest to the person behind. Remember those school days? Yup, this is Frenesi school! The large square sheets were distributed to everyone. On one side was the certificate proving that one attended Frenesi school's end-of-business ceremony, and on the back was... Frenesi's signature cartooned face, just like the board she holds as a mask every time a photo is taken!

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Find out more about: Frenesi

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Text and photos by Patrick Benny for Tokyo's Coolest Sound

On November 7 was a show by Nomiya Maki (ex-Pizzicato Five) at Billboard Live Tokyo. With the title "Miss Maki Nomiya Sings Shibuya-kei Standards", it was the 2nd of the series that began the previous year, an effort in passing the word on great Shibuya-kei and inspirational songs so that they don't end up forgotten. Last year's show was to be released on CD a bit later, so this doubled as a release party. There were two representations in Tokyo on the same day, and I went to the later one starting from 21:30.

The weekend before the same show was also first held at Billboard in Osaka, so I spent the week avoiding any spoilers online. Still, as soon as I reached my seat I couldn't resist opening the booklet on the table, and before I realized I already knew half of the set list, oops! :) That just made me yet more excited to hear some of the songs listed there.

Maki's band was formed of a pianist/keyboardist (on Fender Rhodes and piano), the bandmaster on keyboards (Hammond) and percussions, a bassist and a drummer. Maki appeared in an elegant off-white dress, and started the show with Pizzicato Five's "Tokyo wa yoru no 7ji (The night is still young)", the obvious choice especially that the first set started at 7pm.

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Find out more about: KAJI Hideki, NOMIYA Maki

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Text and photos by Patrick Benny for Tokyo's Coolest Sound

カセット&ラジカセ普及企画(仮)On March 19, Minekawa Takako played a solo show part of a cassette-themed exhibition. Held at Asakusabashi Tensai Sansūjuku, a multipurpose venue, the exhibition showed various artworks made using audio cassettes, and also boomboxes of all kinds were on display. The small venue has two floors, with a bar counter on the 1st floor and a tatami room on the 2nd, that's where the show was held.

After a little wait, guests were led to the 2nd floor, where Takako was already playing some tapes as BGM. She had remade a broken cassette into a cute hair accessory. It was a bit unclear when the show officially started, as people were still chatting while she had already began adding synth sounds over the tapes.

カセット&ラジカセ普及企画(仮) カセット&ラジカセ普及企画(仮)

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Find out more about: MINEKAWA Takako

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Text and photos Patrick Benny for Tokyo's Coolest Sound

ザ・スクーターズ

On December 5 was a show featuring The Scooters, and it was held at my favorite venue, WWW in Shibuya. Since their official come-back last year, after some 30 years, The Scooters have been staying active. This event also featured Juicy Fruits and Kōtarō & The Bizarremen.

First on stage was Juicy Fruits, another band from the early 80's that has reappeared a few years ago. The renewed Juicy Fruits features two original members, singer/guitarist Iria and drummer Takagi Toshio, and two new recruits, a guitarist and a bassist from the neo-GS scene. They gave an impressive show, mainly of their early hits but also playing a new single released earlier this year. Singer Iria skillfully plays most lead guitar and solos herself. All members also sing chorus, making the chorus of "Jenny wa gokigen naname" (the band warned younger listeners that it's not a Perfume song) sound just like it should! I didn't know much of their other songs, but the show gave me new favorites.

ジューシー・フルーツ ジューシー・フルーツ

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Find out more about: Juicy Fruits, Kotaro & The Bizarremen, Scooters

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Text and photos by Patrick Benny for Tokyo's Coolest Sound

playtime rockOn Friday July 12 was a show of Playtime Rock, the Nagasaki-based band of Takanami K-taro (ex-Pizzicato Five) (blog). Nagasaki being part of the Kyūshū island in the south of Japan, it's a rare treat to see them on stage in Tokyo! The show was held at the very nice Saravah Tokyo in Shibuya.

This event was organized by a band called BANK, actually the same band as the first time I saw K-taro live in 2007 (report). So this was a happy and nostalgic match for me!

BANK played first. The 5-piece band is led by Nakamura Dai, and members include Hirami Fumio (ex-Love Tambourines) on bass and Ōhashi Nobuyuki (Pate, ex-Bridge) on guitar, both of who are also part of the recently formed Misola. The two other members are Suzuki Bō on drums and Kitami Nao on keyboards.

During their set were constant ocean wave background sounds that helped freshen the atmosphere after the recent hot days (it's was over 35C on that day in Shibuya!). The guitar-driven pop songs all felt very good. I especially enjoyed the drums that used a bass drum, hi-hat, and what looked like a Roland SPD-SX sampler that produced many cool retro sounds.

BANK BANK

Next up was Playtime Rock, main members Takanami K-taro (guitar and vocals) and Ichiba Mina (flute and vocals) were accompanied by guitarist Hirami Fumio (BANK, Misola), bassist Sally Kubota (Sally Soul Stew, Love & Revolution, ex-Phantom Gift/Les 5-4-3-2-1), and drummer Tsuji Mutsushi (ex-Oh! Penelope).

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Find out more about: BANK, Playtime Rock, TAKANAMI K-taro

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Text and 2nd photo by Patrick Benny for Tokyo's Coolest Sound. 1st photo by Kaz Sekiguchi, courtesy of Yoko Fujiwara.

On July 5th was the 4th edition of Vanilla Beans' series of shows with a live band. Every time they share the bill with another band. Last time was Kaji Hideki (report), and this time was Nomiya Maki (ex-Pizzicato Five)! Vanilla Beans just keep strengthening their Shibuya-kei connections. Actually they have been covering Pizzicato Five's "Tokyo wa yoru no 7ji" and "Baby Portable Rock" for a while, so this time's bill allowed for a lot of anticipation. As always the show was held at rock venue Shinjuku Loft.

So first on stage was Nomiya Maki & BIBA, that's her unit with guitarist Bravo Komatsu (who previously toured the world with Pizzicato Five) and visual artist UJINO. Ujino had first collaborated with Maki for a show at the Luminato festival in Toronto (Canada) in 2010. At the back was DJ Noboru, Maki's longtime hair & make-up companion.

The show started just past 7 o'clock, opening perfectly with "Tokyo wa yoru no 7ji". Maki appeared in a white one-piece dress, the front had a trompe-l'œil print of a pink dress. The sound was loud and on top of it were added live guitar, and Ujino's spacey bleeps coming from his huge shiny phallic green instrument (excuse the description, it's what it is!) that has coachwork making it look like a scooter.

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Find out more about: NOMIYA Maki, Vanilla Beans

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Text and photos by Patrick Benny for Tokyo's Coolest Sound

mishmash* Julie WataiOn Saturday June 22 was an event presented by blue marble, a band that released first album "Valerie" (Amazon) four years ago to then sort of disappear. This was to be their first official show ever, and some 50 fans gathered in a small venue named strobe cafe (ran by the Strobe Records label) for something they had been waiting forever.

The show started with a guest performance by mishmash* Julie Watai. I had been wanting to see them for some time but this was the first occasion for me. Their stage setup has musician Mishima Toyoaki (long-time programmer for Cornelius) on the left, with two MacBooks and a lot of cables dripping from his desk. On the right is drummer Tarawo, and in the center stands Julie Watai holding a vintage-looking microphone. Julie wore a white dress she made herself.

The electronic music and effected vocals sounded quite like the packaged version, though some synth phrases were played live. The biggest difference to the recordings was the powerful drumming that added loud breakbeats, making for a completely different experience. The large screen behind the stage showed each video and lyrics in sync with the music.

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Find out more about: blue marble, Julie Watai, mishmash

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Text and photos by Patrick Benny for Tokyo's Coolest Sound

バニラビーンズUntil recently, Vanilla Beans had always performed their shows "idol style", singing karaoke over a backtrack of the music. Last year marked their 5th anniversary, and then came 3rd album "Vanilla Beans III" which featured a steady band of four musicians. Following the release, Vanilla Beans started a series of two-man with always another band playing as the opening act, and Vanilla Beans backed by a live band of their recording musicians. Vanilla Beans, despite their "idol" branding, keep surprising by doing new things out of the common.

On May 1st was the 3rd show of this series, and the front act was Kaji Hideki who is producing their upcoming single "Muscat Slope Love". The event was held at rock venue Shinjuku Loft. This evening was definitely going to have a high dose of Shibuya-kei essence.

I had booked my ticket on Vanilla Beans' free official mobile site (vanillabeans.jp), which offers a newsletter with early info about upcoming events. Being a member also lets you collect "beans" when you go to their events (I got 5 this time), and those beans can later be used to attend member-only events, etc. Upon entering I was also given a numbered "special fan pass" featuring a photo of the girls in their brand new costumes for the upcoming single.

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Find out more about: KAJI Hideki, Vanilla Beans

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Text and photos by Patrick Benny for Tokyo's Coolest Sound

CTO LAB.On Friday April 19 was the 133rd edition (!) of electro-themed event series "Joy Ride" that started in 2006. That's an average of 2+ events per month! I went to this one especially to see CTO LAB., the all-star band of polymoog (Elektel), Okada Tohru (Moonriders) & Imai Kentarō (Aprils), who I felt I hadn't seen in a while. Although I hadn't heard of the other acts before this show, I found myself enjoying all of them very much.

soyuz project is the solo project of Fukuma Hajime (ex-P-Model). Actually it used to be a unit with other members, but after a split-up he turned it into his solo project. His set consisted of him standing in the middle of 3 tall stands, respectively holding a laptop, a small keyboard and a mixer, and in the center of which he stood controlling each device in turn.

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Find out more about: CTO LAB., NeoBallad, soyuz project

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Text and photo by Nicholas D. Kent (Japanese Electronic Music) for Tokyo's Coolest Sound
Here's a report of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's latest show, held last weekend in New York. Big thanks to correspondent Nicholas D. Kent. Read on!

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
April 14, 2013, Best Buy Theater, NYC

While waiting on a line to get in that wrapped around 2 corners and half way down the long block, a teen with her grand dad in tow randomly stopped by some 20-somethings next to me and asked "Could you explain to him who she is?", as if she had just tried and failed. He volunteered "This has something to do with animation, right?". Actually on line there were many small nods to Harajuku style, lots of bows, a few in full cosplay gear, a couple punks and goths who might always go out that way, but the audience to me seemed to be lots and lots of anime fans.

To digress a moment. I found out about the NYC show because I had been curious about Lowe's Astor Plaza, the largest movie theater (single screen) in NYC from the 70s to the 2000s. I remember seeing Star Wars movies there. I suspected it had been closed years but I was curious what was there now. Last time I was there was in 2001 to see "2001". Kubrick had it in his 1960s contract that MGM had to show the film in NYC properly in 2001. Quite an experience as it was a great theater. So one day, I walked to where it used to be and up on the big color LED marquee was splashed "Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, April 14" with her face and lots of colors... and unfortunately "Sold Out" over 6 weeks before the show. I found out the movie theater had become a 2200 capacity music venue and Kyary could sell it out well in advance.

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Find out more about: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

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Continue reading in the March 2013 gig report archive.
Next entry: "Takako Minekawa & Dustin Wong debut live w/ Living Astro" (March 26, 2013 at 21:04)

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