Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mime, Funky Dancer, Vasallo Crab 75

It is pretty unusual for a Japanese woman, who is a mime, to do her act during a rock show, at a club in Shimokitazawa, right? I'm beginning to become unsure about these things. I've certainly seen stranger stuff.

In any case, the female mime was part of Vasallo Crab 75's 'one-man' musical extravaganza earlier this month that I'm now time-traveling back in my head to write about. I was really impressed by the mime—the only image I had of mimes before was of those white-face-painted guys in striped shirts patting imaginary walls in the air, the kind of thing they parody in Hollywood movies. This mime was dressed in fairly ordinary earth-toned clothes, and even spoke a bit when not in her act. She mimed along to Daisuke Kudo's solo acoustic guitar, and the cool thing was that it was an all-body performance: the legs, arms, head, neck, eyes, mouth all working together to create imaginary action. I wonder if there's an active mime community in Japan? Maybe one day this site will change to Japan Mime...

Vasallo Crab also got a funky dancer to shake her body on stage along with a couple of their songs, and the beginning of the show started with a recording of the choral part of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. It went on far longer than I expected, they played about 10 minutes of it, including the solos and the grand chorus, before they came on stage in their pimp/glam costumes, to play some funky rock under a spinning disco ball. So over the top, to choose as your stage intro the 9th Symphony's chorus, but that's Vasallo Crab 75, tongue-in-cheek, funny, but also one of Tokyo's best live bands I know.

Vasallo Crab 75 started out as two shy friends from high school who recorded atmospheric indie pop songs at home. Now, many years later, they are six guys who expertly energize the audience, with a music that's a combination of pop, rock, funk, and anything else the members like, including Yasuhito Kawabe's violin Bach solos and keyboardist Akihiro Yoshida's jazz improvisation (and the band played a Michael Jackson cover that night because his passing was recent, and vocalist Kudo grew up listening to Jacko).

You never know quite what will come out of a VC75 gig, but one thing you can count on hearing at their big shows is a song called “Vicious Circle”, which is one of their best and also one of my favorite Japanese pop tunes of this young century. It was one of the last songs that Kudo and his old high school friend Takayuki Fukumara made together before Fukumura passed away, and that simple, unforgettable guitar line was a creation of Fukumura's (he was a master of simple guitar licks that stay in your mind—the incomparable guitar intro to advantage Lucy's “Red Bicycle” was his, for instance). Below is a video of “Vicious Circle” performed at another place.

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