Friday, December 23, 2005

Vasallo Crab 75; Cerebral Vs. Physical Shows

Vasallo Crab 75

Thursday night’s show at the Shibuya Eggman looked promising on paper, and I was looking forward to it: it featured Vasallo Crab 75, an indie pop/funk band I’ve written about many times before, as well as Shugo Tokumaru, the internationally respected alternative music guitarist, and the Tenniscoats, a guy-girl duo that came highly recommended by Tokyo Gig Guide.

It turned out to be an interesting event, but also one that made me think about the True Essence of a good live show. Vasallo Crab 75 played last, and there was a big divide between their energetic, physical set, and the much more cerebral performances of the two acts that preceded them, the Tenniscoats and Shugo Tokumaru. Those latter two’s attitude toward a live show seemed to be, ‘we will now create beautiful, innovative sounds for you, and we won’t move around that much on stage or do much else besides play our instruments, but we hope you will enjoy the music for its own sake’. Tokumaru, in fact, asked for the stage lights to be darkened so that he could barely be seen, and didn’t say much other than some nearly inaudible mumbled words at the start.

And indeed, the Tenniscoats and Tokumaru both played compositions that were admirable for their adventurousness and beauty (in particular, I found it remarkable the way that Tokumaru would seamlessly switch from jazz styles to classical to Latin to trash culture pop to create his own sound). These guys seemed like musicians’ musicians. The problem is, I’m not a musician, and as a regular live-house-going music fan, I found that the earnestly played, innovative music made me sleepy after a while. Maybe the venue was part of the problem. I felt this type of music might work better where you could relax and listen, like a café, or maybe played somewhere that is beautiful such as a cathedral or an outdoor natural site, rather than a basement live house.

In the end, though, live music is entertainment, and I need an ingredient in addition to the music itself to be entertained. I want to see that the musicians are into their songs, like it when they hop around and dance on stage, and I appreciate it when they make an effort to draw the audience into their music. If not for those things, is it even worth paying money and sacrificing an evening to see a band play live? Every band I go to see often is full of life on stage, though each in its different way. Vasallo Crab 75 certainly is, and was at the Eggman show, six guys that are totally into their music, but at the same time want the audience to get into the songs and dance along to them.

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