Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Art-School Plus Three Sold Out at the Loft

I knew that Monday night’s show at the Shinjuku Loft wouldn’t be a comfortable one as soon as I saw the number on my ticket. Number 381. I thought about my previous visits to the Loft, and had a hard time imagining more than 200 people in the hall. But the number 381 meant there were at least 380 more people planning to be there. It was going to be like the rush hour train.

The sold-out show featured four popular bands: Art-School, Bloodthirsty Butchers, Fuji Fabric and Meringue.

When I arrived at the Loft, it was even worse than I expected. The crowd filled the hall all the way to the back door. And because of the (stupid) layout of the club, with a big pillar between the stage and the back door, people standing near the door couldn’t see the stage at all. We instead watched the action on two small TV’s on the pillar. I could also see shadows of the musicians on the left wall of the stage.

It reminded me of Plato’s cave. I hear loud music and see a band playing on two small TV’s, but is there really a band playing behind the pillar? Is that shadow on the wall actually that of a member of the band shown on the TV? Or is it, in reality, the shadow of a ballerina maybe, or a mime, or Butoh dancers, and the music and TV images recorded? There was no way to know for sure.

After the first band, Meringue, finished their set, however, I was able to creep up closer so I could see half of Fuji Fabric. By the third act, Art-School, who I had come to see, I had a complete view of the singer Riki Kinoshita.


Kinoshita, who looks a bit like a praying mantis, shuffled wearily onto stage. Why do I like Art-Shool? Kinoshita is a Rimbaud-reading, Kobain-copying, fragilely-sensitive rock star stereotype come-to-life, whose pronouncements in his Internet diaries are sometimes laughably pretentious. His fans mostly look much younger than me – in their late-teens to early 20's. I liked Art-School’s latest single, but I haven’t listened to it much. I wondered, before the show got underway, whether I had outgrown this band.

That thought vanished as soon as Kinoshita began singing. He has a stellar voice. The voice is an adolescent-sounding one, but one that grabs you and fills the hall with its presence. I feel, listening to his voice, that this moment, when he’s singing, is all that concerns him.

I like Kinoshita. He is funny, without maybe intending it always. He can’t speak very well on stage. There are silent moments between songs as the band tunes up. Tonight when he does decide to say something to the audience, his words are: "Ehhh... It’s hard to live. So... a song should be about what doesn’t matter... Please have fun tonight." OK, Riki. Yet, the lyrics he writes are heart-felt and full of vivid images.

He wrote in his Internet diary that his sound guy told him that there are always cute girls and model types at the back of the audience at Art-School shows, which, as someone who was standing in that location, I can say isn’t an entirely inaccurate picture. But Kinoshita went on to write that he wasn’t sure whether this was true, because he always sang with his eyes closed.

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