Friday, March 11, 2005

Waffles and Mirrorball-Rock Disco

Vasallo Crab 75 at the Que. Posted by Hello

Shimokitazawa’s Club Que featured three fabulous bands on Friday night: Plectrum, Waffles, and Vasallo Crab 75. I’m a big fan of all three, but since I’ve already written so much about Plectrum and Vasallo, before the event I was planning to focus on the Waffles, a pop quartet led by the singer and keyboardist Kyoko Ono. However, Vasallo Crab 75, who was the last act, put on such a wonderful show, turning the floor into a mass dance zone with their funky pop music, that I need to talk about them first.

It was the first of four monthly shows at the Que organized by Vasallo called "Mirrorball-Rock Disco", and in line with the theme, before the live show the DJ played disco classics, and a mirror ball and strips of reflecting sheets on the wall behind the stage shone in rainbow colors. The members of Vasallo marched on stage dressed up like characters in a hip 70's TV show – singer Daisuke Kudo wore a jacket but was bare-chested except for a silky scarf.

As with the disco theme tonight, Vasallo’s shows are never boring because they are constantly trying out new things on stage, though some of their experiments are more successful than others (for a period, they played in near total darkness other than a lone lit mirror ball). Musically, their innovation is to mix in funk to guitar pop and add an electric violin for a classical music touch. Teenage Fanclub meets James Brown and Bach may sound like a recipe for dissonance, but it works for them.

Tonight, Vasallo’s non-stop funky bass lines worked up the normally shy audience of guitar pop fans into a dancing frenzy. In the middle of the show, an excited singer Kudo tossed the hat he was wearing into the audience. He later said that he was going to give the hat to whoever caught it, but at the same time he liked the hat and was a bit reluctant to let it go. Perhaps sensing Kudo’s latter sentiment, the fan who caught the hat immediately threw it back to Kudo. Not knowing what to do, Kudo then tossed it over to the violin and bass guys. They then lobbed the hat back into the audience, and this time it hit my poor friend Dr. I in the eye. It was a fun, absorbing show that left the crowd smiling and telling each other how great it was.


The event really was a satisfying one. Plectrum played with their usual exuberance (they started with their one song in Korean, Myongdong Calling). And there were the Waffles. Formed in college, they have been around for a few years, and their gentle, melodic pop sound has attracted a following. Singer Kyoko Ono, who writes all the songs, has a good distinct voice that sounds as though she is smiling as she sings. On stage, she often looks up at the ceiling as if chasing her voice as it soars heavenward.

For their second to last song they played a tune called "Tsugi no Hikari (‘The Next Light’, my translation)", which I think is a classic, one of the best Japanese pop songs I’ve ever listened to. It stands out in the Waffles repertoire too. It’s hard to do justice to the song with words. If you like Japanese bands like advantage Lucy or the Cymbals, or pop music in general, I highly recommend their album Pool, which contains the song.

I don’t really understand what ‘Tsugi no Hikari’ is about. It’s unclear whether the ‘I’ in the song is a boy or girl (both the masculine ‘boku’ and feminine ‘watashi’ are used), and in some parts it sounds like the song is talking about a couple that’s drifting apart, but elsewhere the song seems to be about ‘I’ trying to reassure his or her friend. But probably the storyline isn’t important, and what the band wants the listener to get out of the song is an image or an emotion. Ono helps the listener do that with her impassioned singing. Tonight she sang the tune on stage with the same deep emotion as on the album, and it was exhilarating to hear and see.

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