Back in late 2009 Tomoe asked to let her listen to some Hikashu (MySpace) tracks, specifically "Biro Biro", a classic 1980 released track of theirs because she was going to their concert and guessed that I had it. I was wondering what was up but unfortunately she stopped talking to me not long afterward.
Turns out about a year and a half later I found out about Hikashu & Tomoe and didn't even have to go to Japan to find out when they played New York on May 13, 2011. While Hikashu had done 2 smaller shows in NYC before and Tomoe might have done an unannounced jam thing once, umm, this was more or less their first prominent gig and was sold out with half the ticket sales going to Japan relief.
First on line waiting to get in was a loyal male Shinorer (a person who dresses like teenaged Shinohara) wearing vintage 90s accessories and his female friend whom I think borrowed his "Dream & Machine" era T-shirt, but otherwise contrasted as not being a Shinorer.
I had been to Japan Society many times and was used to their wood toned theater with seats for films and live performances. Surprisingly the place was transformed into a smaller black painted space with round paper lanterns and a different stage opposite where I think it was for other shows and closer rock oriented lights. They are a reasonably large non-profit foundation presenting Japanese art, culture and education located within view of the United Nations though non-government affiliated.
The set opened with Shinohara's collaborator, percussionist Steve Etō (Demi Semi Quaver, The Pugs, etc.) and Hikashu drummer Satō Masaharu (MySpace) in a vocal beatboxing(?) match trading verbal rhythms. Then the rest of Hikashu minus vocalist Makigami Koichi entered the stage and traded short musical phrases. As the tension mounted Tomoe made her entrance tossing a flurry of heart shaped confetti looking like sakura and wearing the first of her self-made costumes. Her first song was "Oh Yes, Say La La" which played on her website in demo from six years ago but was never released on CD. Later on she'd sing "Night & Day", also demoed on her website and I think maybe excerpted on her MySpace at one point. Unlike her 15th anniversary show in 2010 she did not revisit her old material and I didn't recognize much of it. I wouldn't want to guess which ones were covers either without a careful listening.
Her set had a flow of louder more up-tempo numbers and some slower more introspective ones. She also made her kids show host experience known unexpectedly with what seemed to be a one to five counting song in English with hand moves including unknowingly but gleefully calling Mr. Spock's famous hand gesture "pig's feet". She spoke a few phrases and greetings in English, especially soliciting clapping and having the audience say things, but I presume seeing many Japanese people in the audience and the Japan Society venue made her more comfortable talking between songs in Japanese. She did have an ever accelerating tempo song in English that seemed to go "baby bump, baby bump, time to wash the baby". Or at least that's what it sounded like as it got faster and faster. She also had a disco-funk sort of number "listen to my heart, the knock knock knocking of my heart tonight." with verses in Japanese.
Tomoe looked gorgeous in not one but 2 self-created costumes and performed a thrilling show.
They all took a break and Hikashu re-entered with Makigami Koichi (MySpace) who started with some avant-garde trumpet. He'd later play some jaw harp but for most of the set his main "axe" was a Theremin with guitar pedals. Hikashu has been around since a bit before Tomoe was born. In 1980 their sound as well as the the Techno Pop music genre were synchronized and they became one of the major bands most associated sounds with the genre at pretty much it's popular peak. One might say what they are really up to is music as a theatrical art (not musical theater!, if anything the opposite). There is always a sense of play and drama. They can rock out at any time or veer into catchy pop as well as turn towards the avant-garde. They played their ever popular "Pike" as their closing number. It was covered in 1980 by the American band the Ventures and in more recent years by Polysics.
Of course the audience had to have an encore and Hikashu came back with Tomoe and Steve. Tomoe said "Biro Biro" was a favorite and they launched into a duet.
Hikashu will perform in Tokyo with Shinohara Tomoe on June 2 at Shibuya Quattro. Find details at Tokyo Gig Guide.