Friday, November 11, 2005

Tokyo Pinsalocks At In The City

Thursday night, I went to a free show at the Shibuya Take Off 7 and there saw an amazing band called Tokyo Pinsalocks that made me both ecstatic and filled with mild despair.

Ecstatic, because I’d seen a lot of Japanese bands and was starting to feel that not much could surprise me, but then this all-girl quartet appeared and completely blew me away, making me realize there was a lot of great, unexplored music still out there.

Mild despair, because discovering them also made me think I’d never be able to see all the wonderful bands in Japan, that I’d always miss some group or another. The Tokyo music scene is like a huge, ever-changing organism, and no matter how many nights I go out or how many CDs I buy, I will only see bits and pieces of the whole.

I’d already known about Tokyo Pinsalocks because I saw film footage of one of their shows in a DVD called Indies Rock Vol. 4 Dramatic Girl. I wrote about this DVD before, and can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who likes Japanese indie rock. Not only does it include bands I'm already big fans of such as advantage Lucy, Condor 44 and School Girl ’69, but it’s also turned me on to groups I didn't know about, like Limited Express (has gone?), and, now, the Pinsalocks.

The Pinsalocks' live show was one of those happy shocks I experience every once in a while in Tokyo, like the first time I saw Orange Plankton or Pop Chocolat or Limited Express. The band creates a distinct musical world on stage. Singer Naoko, with long braided hair, reminded me somehow of a Balinese dancer: maybe it was her bright, flowing hippie dress, or the intense focus of her eyes, or her jerky dance moves. But her singing was pure cute Japanese girl pop.

The band says they were influenced by a wide variety of artists including Bjork, Kraftwerk, and a Japanese band called Super Junky Monky (who I’ve never heard of), and their music was eclectic too. At times Naoko played organ sounds on her synthesizer, and the band as a whole created psychedelic music like the Doors, though played by four attractive Japanese girls rather than American men. At other times she made beep-y, piko piko sounds with her synthesizer, and the rest of the band accompanied her with hard rocking parts. It was a cool combination of musical styles, and inspired me to rush over to their merchandise table immediately after the show to buy their first full-length album, rhythm channel (pictured above). At the table, Naoko autographed the CDs and shook hands with fans. I’ve listened to the album a few times, and it’s outstanding.

Smashing Mag has a lot of nice live photos of Tokyo Pinsalocks here.


The show was free because it was part of a multi-night event called In The City, which has been going on for a few years, and is meant to showcase up-and-coming Japanese bands. The shows, taking place at several clubs in Shibuya, are produced by influential people in the indie scene, like the owners of K.O.G.A. Records and Club Que in Shimokitazawa. One of my recent Japanese band favorites, The Kitchen Gorilla, played one night, but, sadly, I missed that event. All you have to do to get in is to pick up the tickets at Tower Records, and contrary to my expectations, you don’t even have to pay for one drink as you usually have to do when you enter a club (though I ended up buying something to drink anyway, two drinks, to be exact).

However, reading over the In The City pamphlet, I found out that these shows weren’t, strictly speaking, free. Whenever you buy recording media like disks in Japan, part of the amount of money you pay is supposed to go to musicians whose music you record, but since it’s impossible to keep track of whose music is being recorded, some of that money is put into a fund. That money is then used for things that supposedly benefit the music community as a whole, such as music events that introduce new artists like In The City, the pamphlet said.

So, in fact, I paid at least some money already for this event by buying things like mini-disks and CDs.

There’s no such thing as a free show, I guess.

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