Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Vasallo Crab 75's So Many Colours Event Volume ?

When DJ Kamaage and I got into the Que for the Vasallo Crab 75 event "So Many Colours" after a couple of beers at the nearby Shimo-Kitazawa stand-up sake joint Yocchan, the first band was already playing, and at first I didn't recognize who they were. The singer looked different in one of those mini-beards that are ubiquitous these days, but then, gradually, I realized it was Condor 44, the 90's alternative-inspired trio I've seen from time to time for the last decade.

The singer said they were excited about the event so went into a rehearsal studio in the morning to practice one last time, but, because they were getting older, now in the evening they were tired out during the actual performance. A standard gag. But at the same time, it's pretty Japanese to follow the script diligently in terms of age roles, I'm not entirely sure why, probably a lot of it is Confucianism, but maybe there are other cultural things going on too.

The second band was called Frisco, a fabulous rocksteady outfit with a horn section and a pedal steel guitar guy, among others. It's amazing that there's a great rocksteady group playing in Shimo-Kitazawa, Tokyo, Japan, on the other side of the world from Jamaica. They've been around a long time too. The singer said when they did their first show at the Garage, they were so bad the club's manager said please don't come back again. A long way from there...

And Vasallo Crab 75 closed their event. I think I've been to a few of their So Many Colours, but I didn't pay that much attention to event names in the past, because I didn't know how much thought and emotion went into them. This one was started by the late Takayuki Fukumura, and they've been doing it for about ten years, and VC75 vocalist Daisuke Kudo told me that he'd lost count of how many they'd put on--fifteen, sixteen? In the meantime, their music has evolved from bedroom-recorded indie pop to a jazzy, funky, show-off, rocking pop. I've run out of ways to praise them--scroll back and read my past ovations if you please, in this journal that's also almost ten years old now, wow... seeing them just feels now like going to a favorite restaurant that never seems to get bad, run by a chef that never seems to turn old.  

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Munekyun Arpeggio At The Que

Happy New Year. It's taken me this long to find the time to write about a show on Nov. 25.

It was the ninth Munekyun Arpeggio, an annual event to remember the life of Takayuki Fukumura, the former guitarist for advantage Lucy and Vasallo Crab 75. I thought about birth at this show that came into being because of Fukumura's death.

New sounds were being born. The first band was Bertoia, led by a girl who calls herself Murmur. She'd been an advantage Lucy fan since high school, when she went to see the band in Osaka with her mom. Now she has her own shoegazer group, playing for a packed audience at the Que.

Up until I stepped into the club and heard Bertoia's first note, I was feeling a mental chill--maybe going to this gig was like trying to relive something that had already passed me by. But then the first chord sounded, and the warmth returned.

I'd seen Murmur on stage before, but I saw that she and her band had grown as performers. Once shy and appearing almost afraid, she now looked at the audience, so that she could better tell her story of music. And when I listened later to their album Modern Synthesis that I bought that night at the club, I remembered what they created on stage--emotions melted and shaped into music.


When advantage Lucy came on stage and vocalist Aiko introduced the band, she said there was one other person there--she was almost seven months pregnant. Tiring more easily because of the baby, she still sang beautifully old songs like "When I Sleep" and "Nico" that she once played together with Fukumura. Almost ten years since his departure, a new life was being created--it was sweet to think about the old times those songs evoked and the days that had passed.

The bands made a compilation album for the Munekyun Arpeggio event, and advantage Lucy contributed a song called "Stars". Aiko teared up, saying women in her state became emotional easily, while explaining the song: it's about all those people who are gone, but may be looking over us from the sky. And if the death of one person hurt so much, what must it have been like, after the earthquake, when more than 10,000 lives disappeared? That was the emotion that led to the song's conception.


Last up was Vasallo Crab 75, Fukumura's final band, which he formed with school-buddy Daisuke Kudo.

If Bertoia and Lucy made me think of birth, VC75's music was about growth: from a duo that home-recorded guitar pop tunes a decade ago, VC75 had evolved and mutated into a funky six-piece ensemble that mashed together rock, soul, jazz and classical, always energizing the audience. But I felt that the sensibility hadn't changed, and Fukumura would have enjoyed seeing what the band had become.