The problem with being a fan of Shiina Ringo, Cocco and even BONNIE PINK is knowing how close a Japanese female solo artist gets to those benchmarks — or how far.
Natccu played to a very sparse audience at a Cheapo Discs in-store performance, but her band was loud enough to make me regret forgetting my ear plugs. Her music jumped from garage rock to post-punk, and a few technical difficulties didn’t throw her off.
But throughout her set, I couldn’t escape the notion Natccu still has a way to go. The songs, while good, didn’t inspire me to drop $5 on a CD, and her quivering, burnished voice seemed at odds with the music, when it should have suitable.
I’m sure she’ll find fans this side of the Pacific Ocean, and I’m hoping in a few years, I can check back with Natccu and find she’s become the musician she may still yet to be.
Because Japanese showcases at SXSW draw capacity crowds, anyone who actually wants to see a particular performer pretty much has to commit to sitting through all the bands that come before it. I was glad, then, that toddle was given the 11 p.m. slot — that meant I could leave after their showcase.
Of course, that also meant watching three other performers before then. When I first started attending Japan Nite, I was open to anything. These days, I have a sense of what gets programmed for Japan Nite, and I can tell which performers will interest me. Or not.
Rinka Maki started the evening with a cabaret-style showcase featuring classic songs, some with new lyrics in Japanese. I even heard snatches of Hawaiian music.
Rinka’s recordings are big affairs, with full orchestras and big bands. Her showcase, however, pared that band to a standard piano trio, and her choice of material tended not to be so boisterous.
I’m pretty sure, however, most of the straight guys in the audience weren’t paying much attention to the music. I bet some of them were busting a nut. Rinka’s impossibly blue outfit paid homage to the sailor-suit uniform of Japanese school girl’s while revealing a number of important … assets. Hold up your pinky finger — that’s her figure.
When SXSW comes to downtown Austin, it’s a rumbling of clashing rhythms and a cacophony of dueling bands. Charles Ives might have dug it.
Despite the festival’s best efforts to provide sanctuaries away from all the posturing noise, a reminder of its rock ‘n ‘roll foundation is never far away. A number of shamisen performers at Japan Traditional Nite in 2006 had to compete with the neighboring bands pounding away on a patio. Even at the Steve Reich showcase, quieter moments of a piece allowed the noise from outside to bleed through the windows.
And so it was with Wing’s debut at SXSW. Her showcase was housed in a room above a bar neighboring Maggie Mae’s, where another band made a ruckus. Maggie Mae’s actually hosted two other bands at the same time, so Wing’s performance was assaulted by all sides.
How could she compete with that?
Toward the end of her showcase, the strain of trying to hear over the bleed through the floors and windows was starting to show, and the audience itself, engaged in the first half of her set, were tuning out as well.
I have to confess the English Beat is a glaring hole in my music knowledge. I guess it’s one of those bands I should have grown up listening to but didn’t. I only recognize English Beat because of General Public, whose Top 40 hit "Tenderness" actually managed to reach the airwaves of Honolulu in the mid-’80s. I only vaguely remember the connection between the Beat and Fine Young Cannibals.
Despite that name recognition, I wasn’t on planning to go to the English Beat showcase at SXSW. But Thursday night ended up being a nomadic night, and I ended up there because a friend of mine didn’t realize they were playing and wanted to go.
"Mirror in the Bathroom" was the only thing I recognized because of its use in the soundtrack for Grosse Pointe Blank. And yes, Dave Wakeling, who’s essentially using the name, did bust out "Tenderness" toward the end of the set.
But nope — "Save It for Later" and "Twist and Crawl" didn’t register with me at all. It was like the Bob Mould showcase from last year. I recognized only two songs he played, even though his career spans a good few decades and a number of projects.
Wakeling was the only member of note in the line-up. As Wikipedia explains, Wakeling goes by the English Beat in the US, while Ranking Roger goes by the Beat in the UK. My friend dug the show, but all I could do was just shrug.
It was still a good show, but with my lack of history with the band, it didn’t resonate nearly as much as with the rest of the audience.
On more than one occassion, I was standing no fewer than 5 feet from Steve Reich, and in two instances, he was right in front of me. It was the opportunity for a fanboy moment, but I’m not exactly a fanboy. I’ve been an admirer of his work for years and only recently — i.e. with the purchase of the Phases boxed set — did I become a fan.
No, I was content to say nothing. What could I say that he probably hadn’t heard all evening? I was content to revel in one of those SXSW moments where the most unlikely confluence of events just so happens in my general vicinity.
Like sitting next to Tabuchi Hisako before Japan Nite 2000, at a time when I wasn’t really a fan of NUMBER GIRL. Or watching M join the stage with eX-Girl for a rousing rendition of "Pop Muzik". Or seeing ZZTop’s Billy Gibson wandering the crowd of Puffy Ami Yumi’s one and only SXSW performance in 2000. Or almost ringing up Elijah Wood’s purchases at Waterloo Records.
Standing next to Steve Reich at a concert of his own works? This week is prone to such situations.
This is a recaplet before the real review gets posted.
Nekomushi: Very theatrical. But I missed most of the performance because nature called, and there was a line to get back in.
Metalchicks: Couldn’t really hear the synthesizer effects, but Sugar Yoshinaga can thrash with the rest of them.
The Spunks: Songs about the lead singer’s tiny penis. Straight-forward purist punk — none of this pop-punk shit — which doesn’t really need much elucidation.
Gitogito Hustler: Left of Mummy the Peepshow and right of Kokeshi Doll.
Because of the aforementioned line to get back into Nekomushi, I cut my losses and skipped on Asakusa Jinta. Can’t say I was very much interested in seeing them, though. Hiromi and boris coincided with the Spunks.
This is a recaplet till the real review gets posted.
Overall theme of the night: Japanese women with horns.
Oreskaband: I’m not into ska, but I liked the band’s performance enough to get a t-shirt.
The50Kaitenz: I fucking hate garage rock.
Pistol Valve: I had a lousy view of the stage, so it wasn’t until toward the end of the set, when a few people went for beers, that I got a full appreciation for the spectacle of 10+ Japanese women playing horns.
GO!GO!7188: Yuu and Akko know how to strike the rock star pose, and even though I’ve been neglectful of following the band for the past six years, last night made me see the light.
I skipped out on HY because judging from the samples I heard, I knew they were going to be Core of Soul all over again. I’ve also seen the Emeralds before. See my comment about The50Kaitenz.
I knew the risk of attending shows by performers with a vast back catalog, when I’ve only listened to one album of theirs. But I went to the Bob Mould showcase anyway because, well, nothing else really grabbed my attention on the Thursday schedule.
(I opted not to see Cho Brother-Sister, nor Akiyama Tetsuji. I listened to their MP3 samples, and they weren’t enough to convince me to go.)
I didn’t know how difficult it would be to get into the show, so I decided to show up a showcase early just in case. I wasn’t the only person to come up with that plan. The line to get into Buffalo Billiards snaked along Brazos St. I got in half way through Say Hi to Your Mom. (Not bad, but not my thing, either.)
The evening started a smidgen to the ominous side when I headed to a garage where I usually park for SXSW and saw it was charging $10. I was willing to pay for the convenience and waited for an attendant to show up. And I waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.
OK. I know locals can get bitter about SXSW, but the church who owns the lot probably wouldn’t take too kindly to a loss of business. But lose it they did, and I gingerly backed out of the entrance and circled the block a few more times. I ended up parking in a state government lot across from the capitol. Free beats $10 anytime.
Of course, that meant a lengthy walk from 10th and Congress to 7th and Red River. It was 10 minutes to show time, and when I arrived at the Beauty Bar, there was a line extended past the block. Huh. Most SXSW venues are more than happy to open the doors and start taking liquor orders at least half an hour before show time.
I’ve told people the last time I saw … Trail of Dead was in 2002, shortly after the release of Source Code & Tags. I forgot I saw them earlier this year at SXSW. That show was not only truncated but relatively subdued.
I didn’t know whether last night’s show at Emo’s would be a repeat of SXSW. I should not have been such a doubting Thomas.
Let me just note right away there was no destruction of the stage at the end of the show. I must be getting older because I was not disappointed when that didn’t happen. Regardless, the … Trail of Dead guys still tore through their set.