"Shibuya no Radio no Shibuya-kei Festival"

Text by Patrick Benny for Tokyo's Coolest Sound

Shibuya-kei Festival T-shirt (by Kaseki Cider)

On Saturday October 21, 2017 was held a very special music event for Shibuya-kei music fans. Shibuya ward organizes annually a music festival called "Shibuya ongakusai" (or "Shibu-on", official site) and for its 12th edition this year they invited Nomiya Maki (ex-Pizzicato Five) and Kaji Hideki to curate the event. For a year and a half these two have been hosting a Shibuya-kei-themed radio show every Monday from 5pm to 7pm on Shibuya's community radio "Shibuya no Radio" (of which the studio can be seen from outside). In this special collaboration, they made a dream-like event for any Shibuya-kei fan. Titled "Shibuya no Radio no Shibuya-kei Festival", the show was held at Sakura Hall, inside Shibuya Cultural Center Ōwada, a seated venue most often used for classical concerts.

First let's have a look at the amazing line-up: Nomiya Maki, Kaji Hideki, Kaseki Cider, Takano Hiroshi, Vanilla Beans, and DJs Konishi Yasuharu (Pizzicato One, ex-Pizzicato Five) and Halfby! Until the show started it was unclear whether each artist would do their own set in turn, but there had been word that some collaborations were to happen. Nomiya Maki has collaborated with singer Takano Hiroshi on her brand new album "Holiday Shibuya-kei o utau.", and Kaji Hideki has collaborated with Kaseki Cider before, and also written a song and lyrics for Vanilla Beans ("Muscat Slope Love" (2013) and "LOVE&HATE" (2009) respectively). And of course, the two members of Pizzicato Five were to be on the same bill officially for the first time since they quit in 2001!

The show started at 5pm with a DJ set by Halfby, who played some Shibuya-kei classics and songs that influenced its artists. I was happy to hear Saint Etienne's "You're In A Bad Way", Lio's "Le banana split" and France Gall's "Poupée de cire, poupée de son". That set a very good mood for starting the event.

Kaji Hideki was the first to perform, starting his set with hit song "amai koibito" (from album "Lollipop", and also heard in movie "Detroit Metal City") followed by "Ice Cream Man". Guests Vanilla Beans were called on stage, but instead of performing the expected song Kaji wrote for them before, he chose to have them sing their 2nd single "Nicola" (2008) which he described as being of true Swedish pop taste. They were accompanied by just his guitar and cajón, which gave for a very unique performance! Next Kaji called rapper Kaseki Cider to sing "shakunetsu shōjo" (aka "Tropical Girl", also from "Ice Cream Man" (2014)) for which he wrote the lyrics. Then the roles were reversed and Kaseki Cider got to sing "Kung-Fu Dance" (from latest album "Onigiri University" (2017)) during which Kaji danced and sang chorus. The last song of his set was hit song "La Boum ~My Boum Is Me~" (1997), for which he called Vanilla Beans and Nomiya Maki on stage. Vanilla Beans had covered this one before and got to sing some verses.

DJ Konishi Yasuharu was introduced and asked what kind of set he would play, and he said "Shibuya-kei!" without hesitation. He started with "Theme From The First Question Award", and Kaji who had started to walk out of the stage just had to run back to sing and dance along. That was followed by Cornelius' "The Sun Is My Enemy" and then Ozawa Kenji. The set indeed has a very high dose of Shibuya-kei songs, including ones such as Negicco "Idol bakari kikanai de" (written by himself), Takano Hiroshi "niji no miyako e", Pizzicato Five "Let's Spend The Night Together", Vanilla Beans' cover of P5's "It's a Beautiful Day" (from the "Idol bakari Pizzicato" compilation (2015)), P5 "I hear a symphony", Kahimi Karie "Mike Always Diary", Roger Nichols & The Small Circle of Friends "Don't Take Your Time", P5 "Baby Portable Rock" & "Twiggy Twiggy"... and a whole lot more, all in Konishi's fast mix style using only 7"'s.

The last song of his set was a brand new version of "Tokyo wa yoru no 7ji" (aka "the night is still young") that he newly produced for Vanilla Beans' upcoming greatest hits album "Vani Best II" (to be released on December 6). It was played for the first time at this show! After a verse Vanilla Beans came on stage to sing it live, obviously very excited about being on stage with the hit's composer, and towards the end of the song Maki also appeared to sing and dance along, making that dream Pizzicato Five reunion happen!!! Yes!!! That was such a wonderful and priceless moment. It is to note that Vanilla Beans are this year celebrating their 10th anniversary!

Next it was time for Nomiya Maki's own set! She said that her set would consist of Shibuya-kei standards that Konishi Yasuharu translated to Japanese for her recent albums. She first sang "What The World Needs Now Is Love" (from the album of the same name (2015)), "Wonderful Summer" (from "Vacances Shibuya-kei" (2017)) and "Un Homme et Une Femme" (from "French Shibuya-kei" (2016)). She then invited Takano Hiroshi on stage, and together they sang Towa Tei's "amai seikatsu" (aka "La douce vie") on which he had played guitar. He then played two of his songs on his own, "180°ree;" from his new album "Everything is good" (out Oct. 25) and then hit song "niji no miyako e" (1990). Maki came back and together they sang "Winter's Tale" in duet as heard on her new album.

Maki continued her set with "The Bell That Couldn't Jingle", a Christmas song by Burt Bacharach which was also translated by Konishi, during which she shook two different sets of bells, one with a weak sound, and another that had a bright and beautiful sound. Maki finished her set with two Pizzicato Five favorites: "Twiggy Twiggy" and "Sweet Soul Revue"!

There was still the encore to go! Nomiya Maki and Kaji Hideki appeared again on stage to sing "You Make Shibuya" (YouTube), a beautiful theme song they made commissioned by Shibuya city. Then came a big surprise, a cover of Roger Nichols & The Small Circle of Friends' "Love so fine" with original freshly written Japanese lyrics by Konishi! That was just wonderful, and I really hope that it will get released eventually.

To finish things right, there was a medley of Shibuya-kei songs. It started with "Baby Portable Rock" sung by Vanilla Beans, a song that they often cover in their own shows. This was followed by Kaji and Kaseki Cider who sang Flipper's Guitar's "koi no Machinegun" (aka "Young, Alive, in Love"), and then Takano Hiroshi's with a moving cover of Original Love's "tsuki no ura de aimashō" (aka "Let's Go To The Darkside of the Moon"). The two last songs we sung with everyone on stage: Ozawa Kenji's "bokura ga tabi ni deru riyū" and Pizzicato Five's "Tokyo wa yoru no 7ji"! The whole audience finally ended up standing and dancing, something that had felt hard to resist during the whole show.

That was a truly perfect and amazing show! The whole had live music backed by Nomiya Maki's band of the recent years, credited as "Les Romantiques" in her albums. They have a great Shibuya-kei sound and the skills to play Pizzicato Five songs live! I really wish for a second edition (and more!) of this great event. One thing that's sure is that Shibuya-kei is definitely happening in 2017!

Pictured is the official T-shirt designed by Kaseki Cider. For show photos, check out this official report on Nomiya Maki's label site.

Some videos of a few songs heard in the show:

Kaji Hideki "Tropical Girl" (2014)

Vanilla Beans "Nicola" (2008)

Nomiya Maki "Winter's Tale ~fuyu monogatari~" (Duet with Takano Hiroshi feat. Smooth Ace) (Short ver.)

Takano Hiroshi "niji no miyako e"

Pizzicato Five "Tokyo wa yoru no 7ji"

Find out more about: Halfby, KAJI Hideki, Kaseki Cider, KONISHI Yasuharu, NOMIYA Maki, TAKANO Hiroshi, Vanilla Beans

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