blue marble, mishmash* Julie Watai

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.

mishmash* Julie WataiThe set had a total of 7 songs, with no pause or MCing in-between, not even giving the audience a chance to applause until the end of the show.

Set list: Reverb no oku ni (Veiled by Reverb) / koi no tamashii (Roll of Love) / Go Furby Go / 3pun Shakespeare (3 Minute Shakespeare) / Gradol o utanai de (Don't Shoot Me. I'm Only the Pin-up Girl.) / kidenryoku Romance (Electromotive romances) / suna ni kieta namida

blue marbleNext up was the main act, blue marble. Since their first album, the band had changed singers, now settling with Mari aka Takei Mariko (previously in 8-bit unit usagi no heitai wa taiki. (SoundCloud) and a band called City Lake Mirai). This also made for a lot of anticipation!

Throughout the show there was some talk about why singers changed and why there had been no shows. Turns out that blue marble was first meant to be a songwriting unit of the two main members, keyboardists Shock Tarō (who also plays piano in Frenesi's live band) and Ton-chan, who wanted to make songs for other artists, although that didn't work out as well as they expected and they ended up with lots of unused good songs on their hands. So the next plan was to record an album as a band. After album "Valerie"'s release they didn't really have plans to promote or play live shows, so the band project faded out naturally.

Back to Mari, Shock Tarō found her band on MySpace and loved them so much that he wanted to be part of the band. Eventually it turned the other way around, and Mari became a full member of blue marble! A 2nd album was announced at this event, to be released in September, and most of the lyrics are written by Mari herself.

The show mainly consisted of songs from that upcoming album, plus a few songs from the previous album, and two covers. The band's main three members were accompanied by bass, guitar and drums, and the sound was pop and tight, always with a focus on Shock Tarō and Ton-chan's keyboards. But singer Mari got all the attention in her fun blue dress, as she moved around the stage while singing, often friendlily looking into the eyes of her audience.

Like for mishmash*, each song had matching video projected on the screen. Not video clips but more like what seemed like specially selected archive or movie footage. The best of it was that the song's title and a "blue marble" caption sometimes appeared, kind of like a film's opening credits, giving the whole a consistent feel.

Set list: mimei sensō / boy MEETS girl / mirai toshi Drive / Unknown / You're My Special (Suzuki Saeko cover) / Woman・S (PSY'S cover) / birōdo Roman / sora, midori / Flowers / sora ga wameku
Encore: machi o aruku Soldier

blue marbleSeeing this show made me really eager to hear the new album! Frenesi fans should also check this out, because as I learned from a friend who was there, she owns the label Otomesha on which blue marble (and also Frenesi herself) are, and Shock Tarō being a member of Frenesi's live band there definitely is a bit of a familiar sound to be found.

On my way out I grabbed a limited CD-R EP (the sticker on it reads "BM 1st EP") that contains new song "mimei sensō" (unmastered version), and a non-album B-side called "ribbon". I also got an autograph and the chance to take a photo with the singer. :) (Thanks to my friend Yuya (ICON.jp) for the photo!

While I didn't know much at all about the band before going, this is a show I'm really happy to have seen. I'll be looking forward to more from blue marble this year! Of course mishmash* Julie Watai were great too and I'll hopefully get to see them again sometime soon (though neither of the bands seem to have planned shows at the moment).

Larger sizes and more photos at Flickr


mishmash* Julie Watai "electromotive romances"

blue marble "machi o aruku Soldier"

Tags: blue marble, Julie Watai, mishmash (click for more info)

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