At last year’s Japan Nite, I unwittingly created a test to see how much I would like a band. It’s called the Smoke Break Test. The premise is simple — would I rather go outside to smoke a cigarette than watch the rest of a band’s set?
Of the five bands I caught at the Japan Preview show at Creekside Lounge, two did not pass the test. I arrived late to the show because I wanted to catch Department of Eagles at Waterloo Records. The only new band I missed was HONEY SAC — I had already seen Peelander-Z, Natccu and Rinka Maki.
BO-PEEP started just as I arrived. The trio pretty much played garage rock, nothing terribly earth-shattering for anyone familiar with the roster of Benten Records. Actually, past alumni such as Tsu*Shi*Ma*Mi*Re and Kokeshi Doll were more interesting. One song at the end of the set dissolved into nothing more than a four-on-the-floor beat by the drummer. I surprised myself by lasting that long before I took my smoke break. Test result: No pass.
Unlike the impeccable schedule of a SXSW showcase, the Japan Preview got each band off and on the stage in a matter of minutes. The lag time between sets was pretty brisk.
Special Thanks followed, and judging from the MP3 samples on the Japan Nite website, I didn’t expect much range. Your basic punk rock, pretty much. I would have been more of a fan if I drank more, but I didn’t. After two songs, I took a smoke break, just to see if I would hear anything different by the time I got back. I didn’t. Test result: No pass.
FLiP went on next, and the all-girl band from Naha actually had songs to offer. The band’s playing was rough in a good way, but it’s clear that if they got tighter, their shows would rise to another level. FLiP’s songs were good enough to make me get a CD. And their performance had me rooted in place. I didn’t have a cigarette till after they were finished. Test result: Pass.
detroit7 was pretty much the headlining act of the afternoon, and the small club was predictably full. What I said about the band last year still very much applies this year. They were clearly the most seasoned act of the afternoon, and their set got more intense as the set went on. I didn’t even entertain a notion of getting a cigarette. And I bought a t-shirt. Test result: Pass.
The club emptied out by the time Anchorsong came on, with festival-goers heading out to find dinner before the evening’s festivities began in earnest. The minimal electronic set-up — mixer, drum machine, keyboard — brought back dreadful memories of last year’s "performances" by KbN and Quartz-head 02.
Depsite those misgivings, It’s too bad so many people left early. Anchorsong was a riveting to witness. He manipulated loops with the dexterity of a juggler tossing chainsaws in the air, jumping back from keyboard to drum pad, tapping out rhythms with a drummer’s precision.
I’m not a fan of electronica — see my comments about the illusion of repetition vs. actual repetition — but Anchorsong actually performed his songs. I would have loved to stay for his entire set, but my feet were starting to wear out. Still, test result: Pass.