Monday, April 18, 2005

Round Table, Vasallo Crab 75, Swinging Popsicle

Vasallo Crab Kudo's Christmas-lit guitar. Posted by Hello

Sunday was Major League Guitar Pop night at the Shimokitazawa Club Que. The three pop bands that played—Swinging Popsicle, Round Table and Vasallo Crab 75—were all outstanding, veteran groups, each with a big fan base of its own. Those three came together for the second installment of the Vasallo-hosted monthly Mirrorball Disco Night, at which the idea is to get down to cool Japanese pop music (though in reality most of the shy audience do no more than shake their heads a bit).

Swinging Popsicle's Fujishima with Vasallo Crab's Kudo. Posted by Hello

It had been a while since I’d seen the first act, Swinging Popsicle, and I was happy to see them once again. Singer Mineko Fujishima was spectacular as always—she’s a Soul Woman wearing the body of a petite Japanese girl. Osamu Shimada, the guitarist, and Hironobu Hirata, the bassist, are both virtuosos and also play for a number of other good bands (Shimada is in Caraway, while Hirata is in Auroranote). When the three jam together, the playing is joyful but also professional—this isn’t a band that loses its cool, or gets mushy, but they put their hearts into doing the show.

The second band, Round Table, I’d seen once before. A smooth pop band that reminds me a little of Flippers’ Guitar, the trail-blazing 90's Japanese group, guitarist Katsutoshi Kitagawa sings while keyboardist Rieko Ito punches out explosive solos.

Swinging Popsicle's Hirata with Vasallo Crab's violinist, Yasuhito Kawabe. Posted by Hello

Last was Vasallo Crab 75, who I’ve written about many times before. Any music fan in Tokyo who has a taste for funky pop music should check them out. Recently at their shows they’ve interspersed their pop songs with long funky jam sessions. A friend said he preferred the old Vasallo with its more ordinary pop sound, but I’m no pop purist and have to say Vasallo’s sound now gets me moving like an internal metronome.

Vasallo likes interesting stage visuals—for a period a few months back, they played in the pitch dark except for a lone, lit disco ball—but they are an indies band so there are no pyrotechnics or Stonehedge descending down to the stage or what have you. Instead, the band put up reflective sheets on the back wall that glittered in the colors of the stage lights. And at a key moment guitarist Daisuke Kudo said to the audience, ‘look at my guitar’, which then lit up like a little Christmas tree with green light bulbs.

Later Kudo said he bought the mini-lights, taped them onto his guitar, and had a switch on his side to turn it on at the right moment. What if it malfunctioned and the guitar didn’t light up? Yeah, I actually regretted bringing the guitar to the audience’s attention even as I was doing so, he said.

In front of the stage were a mother and her daughter, who looked about eight, with intricately braided hair. The girl had a look that alternated between bewilderment and boredom all through the show, and she glanced nervously once in a while at the dancing adults around her. She made me remember that rock ‘n’ roll made no sense to me either as a child until one pre-pubescent day, when I suddenly understood, and was hooked.


UPDATE: For people who will be in Tokyo in May and June, just to let you know that Vasallo Crab 75 will be doing a solo show on May 26, and a show with advantage Lucy and Condor 44 on June 22, both at the Que. Both are must-see shows!

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