Monday, January 24, 2005

Farmstay Vs. Elephant Kashimashi

Farmstay at the Que. Posted by Hello

Friday night’s Farmstay show at Tokyo’s Club Que featured what the club’s signboard outside called a "Very Special Guest". I didn’t recognize the, so to speak, V.S.G.’s when they walked on stage, but the gasps and excited chatter around me in the crowd informed me they were a big deal. They were Elephant Kashimashi.

I didn’t know much about Elephant Kashimashi except that they are a popular major-label rock band that wouldn’t usually play in a small club like the Que in Shimokitazawa. They weren’t bad. The singer had a nice, full-throated voice, and he marched across the stage radiating charisma. The three instrumentalists played blues-flavored rock skillfully. But I couldn’t get very excited about the band.

One problem was the group didn’t seem to try hard to connect to the audience. Their attitude appeared to be that they’re big shots now so they didn’t need to reach out to the crowd. It was quite a contrast to the typical band that plays at the Que who repeat their band name over and over, say lame jokes, and generally do anything to get the audience to remember them and buy their CDs.

Then there was the manager. He stood grim-faced at the side of the stage all through the show. Several times he walked over to one of the players, waved to the sound mixer at the back of the club, and gestured to the mixer to adjust sounds on the stage speakers the player was using– in the middle of songs. It was distracting. And tacky.

I don’t dislike all major-label bands. And I don’t consider myself a indies-music partisan like the Seattle fans who forsook Nirvana after Nevermind. If any of the indies bands I like make it big and end up playing the Budokan, I can’t imagine not going to their show. But, still, the Elephant Kashimashi gig reminded me why, generally I don’t go to many major-label band’s shows. Too many are prima donnas who don’t seem to care about their fans (though maybe that’s inevitable when the fans seem almost countless, the lucky result of modern mass-media marketing). Not to mention that their full-album CDs cost a ridiculous Y3,000, or a little less than $30, compared with about Y2,000 for indie releases.


Tokyo rock foursome Farmstay are good enough, and popular enough in local clubs, that they could eventually go major label, though they’re still at a stage where you can go up to them after shows and say hi. Listening to them again tonight, I felt I better understood what appealed to me about them. In a word, it’s their girl bassist, Yosiko. I wrote before that she is like a Japanese Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, brimming with attitude, her bass hung so low it nearly touches the ground. Her aggressive, repetitive, punk-rock bass lines form a foundation that lets the rest of the band head for the stratosphere with their guitars and drums. It’s a caveman sound that is sexual and violent. And the good thing is that it’s a girl playing these bass parts, one that never says anything on stage and ranges from being expressionless to the slightest of smiles. If she was a guy, she would be just another boring punk rock bassist. But she’s a girl, and that works for Farmstay.


Another band playing at the show was Bazra, from the northern island of Hokkaido, I think. Their singer was a round faced guy like a daruma doll with a beard, and he called the audience omaera, a way of addressing a group of people that is somewhere between overly familiar and outright rude. They’re pretty popular because of that sort of outrageousness.

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