Bluebadge Label is a nerve center of Japan’s guitar pop scene, so when I heard about their annual music event at the Shibuya O-Nest I was expecting an evening dominated by crisp, vernal melodies of the Prefab Sprout variety. That didn’t turn out to be the case--'guitar pop crazy summer vol. 2' was quite an eclectic extravaganza.
The closest to guitar pop purity was the Caraway, Swinging Popsicle guitarist Osamu Shimada’s band, which went first, playing as a trio without a drummer, and where Shimada showed he's just as mind-blowing a guitarist on acoustic as on electric.
On the other end of the spectrum was the third act of the night, Eel, a girl from Osaka who combines soft girl pop vocals with raucous techno/electronica. For much of the show she stood motionlessly at the center of the stage, while a trio of male dancers hopped around her, wrapping themselves up in an American flag, tying each other up with plastic cords, and in general making up for the main performer’s statuesque stillness with hyperactive stage antics. But during the last song she sprang to life and pulled audience members on to the O-Nest stage for a mass dance session. (Somewhere in the picture below is my friend Dr. I, who boasted later that he always wanted to stand on the O-Nest stage, and tonight he finally got the chance.)
Hazel Nuts Chocolate
Between acts, two girls in yukata, marino and Hazel Nuts Chocolate, did ‘DJ Live’s, which were simply their singing over recorded output like at a karaoke. Still, one doesn’t see comely Japanese lasses in kimono singing in DJ booths every night... I liked the way that marino put two plastic, watering-can-shaped handbags on the turntables, so they spun around and around while a toy bear (or monkey? can't remember which) in front of her pounded on a drum. Hazel Nuts Chocolate's Yuppa played a new song that will be released in a K.O.G.A. Records compilation in early-September. A new K.O.G.A. compilation with a new Henachoco tune....that's two pieces of good news.
The other two bands, Spaghetti Vabune and Clean Distortion, both seemed to be more on the rock side than pop in their shows (even though Vabune's last album was called Guitar Pop Grand Prix).
It had been a while since I'd seen either, and while the final act of the evening, Spaghetti Vabune, did a fantastic, fun set (at one point they passed around a huge, pink bunny mask that they wore while they played), what stayed in my mind was the gig by the quartet Clean Distortion.
It was a ridiculously rocking set for a guitar pop event, and, in fact, vocalist Jun Inoue apologized between songs: "This is a Bluebadge event, and here we're playing like this." But...wow. Inoue's lips twitched during the songs, like some sort of explosion warning. The band was as tight as your standing space in a rush-hour Odakyu train. The lead guitar blitzed through solos effortlessly, like he was making toast for breakfast.
It's as hard to describe how great a show like Clean Distortion's at the Bluebadge event was as it is to put in words what an explosion sounds like or the feeling of the heat of fire. Still, it does inspire a fool like me to keep trying.