Friday, March 03, 2006

3 * 3 * 3 Girl Singers (Tornado Tatsumaki)

March Third is Girl’s Day in Japan, and in living rooms across the country red-clothed steps are set up and lined with dolls representing a royal family and its retinue. On this third day of the third month of the year, three musical units featuring female singers played at the Club Que in Shimokitazawa.

The event was one of a long-running series organized by pop band Tornado Tatsumaki, called “One Night Robot Kicks The Rock”. The concept of the event is to showcase new, innovative groups that Tornado Tatsumaki likes. Its first installment, which I saw and wrote about here, featured On Button Down and a great band that I saw for the first time, Travelling Panda, and was a big success.

Friday night’s event looked worth checking out because in addition to Tornado Tatsumaki itself, a three-girl band I gushed about in a previous post, called Pop Chocolat, was playing.

I must be honest, though, Pop Chocolat didn’t strike me with lightning like they did at the last show of theirs I saw. They were still good, their music’s combination of hard rock instrumentals and classical music-like vocal arrangements interesting to listen to, but they didn’t knock me out. Maybe it’s the curse of being the first band on the bill: it takes an exceptional group to get an unfamiliar crowd going before the crowd is warmed up.

One thing that can be said about Pop Chocolat—they look like average pretty Japanese girls in person, but on stage they are radiant. I noticed that last time too. Maybe it helps that the bassist and guitarist have matching aqua-colored guitars. After the show they were at the stairwell outside of the Que selling their CDs, and the enchantment of the stage had worn off and they were back to being ordinary girls. They were like members of any band just starting out, doing everything they can to get people to listen to their music.

The second artist on the bill was a female singer/pianist called Akiko Higashikawa, a decent performer who did pop songs about life in Tokyo.

The third and last band of the night, Tornado Tatsumaki, is a group I wonder why isn’t better known outside of Japan (they are fairly popular here). They are one of those bands that throw into their cauldron of sound a diverse range of styles such as soul, funk, jazz and progressive rock, to come up with their own thing. Female vocalist Makiko Naka has a sweet, high voice, as if she were a Japanese idol singer who could actually sing (the Amazon Japan review described her style as somewhere between 80’s singers Taeko Onuki and Hiroko Yakushimaru, if that means anything to you). When I listen to my iPod on shuffle mode and a song I’m not that familiar with that has a gorgeous intro comes on, it’s often Tornado Tatsumaki. If you like bands like advantage Lucy and Spangle call Lilli line, you might want to give Tornado Tatsumaki a try.

Their live show was satisfying—the musicians were skilled and confident. Naka, the singer, is good-looking, with fine facial features and an ever-present slight grin, but she has bad posture: she’s always slouched forward a bit. The Japanese call this neko-ze, literally “cat’s back”, and come to think of it there is indeed a feline quality to her, the way she moves lazily but also with precision on stage.

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