Saturday, September 17th: After an exciting dash through Tokyo’s rough and tumble “Electric Town” with Shingo of the Heisei Democracy, I found myself in a section of Tokyo completely unknown to me: Ebisu. I had partaken of the neighborhood’s eponymous beer in the past, and was aware that Misato was also a fan, but that was all I knew about this section of town. What brought me here was news that my favorite vulgar Japanese soul group–Omokage Lucky Hole–would be playing in the neighborhood’s famed LIQUIDROOM live house.
This was my first time in a live house, but between watching Beck and K-ON!, nothing seemed too out of the ordinary. There’s a drink bar and a numerous unoccupied coin-lockers leading up to the main show room, conveniently allowing you to pick up your required drink (a plastic cup of Heineken) and store any crap you happen to be carrying (A limited edition fourth volume of the NHK ni Youkoso manga that came with a Misaki figure. There’s a long story behind this.) The main room itself is modestly sized, probably unable to hold more than couple hundred people at full capacity. There are no seats, just some bars by the stage and through the middle of the room for people to rest on if need be. There’s a staff and VIP seating area near the back, which is also home to another bar, if you happen to need a drink mid-show. I found myself a place to stand right near the stage. Scanning the main standing area, I could easily pick out some obvious OLH fans donning t-shirts bought at previous shows, as well as fans proudly sporting the group’s hilarious pink towels around their necks.
As for the show itself, OLH wasn’t the only group on the ticket. The show actually consisted of three different acts, kicking off with a quirky guitar-pop duo made up of two brothers from Fukushima who call themselves Brown Nose. Their music was fast, scatter brained, and completely crazy, making use of children’s noise makers along with traditional instruments. Songs were primarily sung in incomprehensible English, but they did a few in Japanese. Their best song by far had no vocals at all, and was just an extended psychedelic guitar solo that went on for about four minutes. Another stand-out song involved a lot of fart noises between the vigorous strumming of their guitars. They were all smiles during their chats with the audience, and generally put on a good show, but they’re not kind of band I’d listen to in my free time.
Up second was the one and only Omokage Lucky Hole. Their set opened with a jazzier and slightly laid back rendition of one of their staple songs, Konya, Sugamo De (Tonight, In Sugamo). In lieu of their normal saxophonist–a woman by the name of Kaori, who was unable to make it that night–there was an older man who was apparently well acquainted with the band and knew his way around a saxophone quite well. As such, during the instrumental section of the song, the audience was treated to a sweet saxophone solo instead of the usual guitar solo, really solidifying the mood of tis slightly jazzier rendition.
Up next was my personal favorite, Pachinko Yatteru Aida ni Umarete Mamonai Musume wo Kuruma no Naka de Shinaseta… Natsu (The Summer I Left My Baby Daughter to die in the Car While… Playing Pachinko). Rather that singing it straight, aCKy–the band’s over-the-top and showy vocalist, who was donning his usual loud pink suit and hat–opted to sing it like a Japanese housewife. I was initially thrown for a loop by this, but got into it by the second verse, and came out finding it quite funny. During the song, aCKy engaged the audience in a simple dance during the chorus, adding another layer of morbidness to the already morbid lyrics and delivery. That said, in future shows I would like to see a straight performance of the song, but given OLH’s attitude towards live shows, I’m not sure if I’ll ever see it! More of a reason to keep going to these shows, I guess.
Following Pachinko was Rabuho Checkout Shita Ato no Asa Makku (Breakfast at McDonalds After Checking Out of a Love Hotel), the opening track on their latest album. As this is newer song, they played it pretty straight. From what I’ve seen and heard of their live shows (which isn’t much) it seems that they mix things up when they perform older songs to keep them fresh, while playing the newer stuff straight.
After three songs, aCKy MC’d a bit. In stark contrast to Brown Nose’s positive and all-smiles chat with the audience, aCKy’s monologue had Conan O’Brien levels of self-depreciating humor, coaxing a few “EEEEEEEE”s out of the audience. “We thought our new album would create a revolution but… it didn’t. I’m thinking that maybe we should just quit doing these shows.” Of course, immediately aferwards he announced that they’re having another show in a couple of weeks.
Once aCKy was done being down on himself, the guest saxophonist launched into a sexy solo that turned out to be the opening to a wonderfully smooth version of Annani Hantai Shiteta Otousan ni Beer wo Tsugarete (Despite Seriously Objecting, His Father-in-Law Poured Him Beer). It almost felt like spoken word poetry.
It was at this point that the set transitioned into three songs from their new album that I’m not totally hot on. Those being, Gomumari (Rubber Ball), Senaka Moyou (Expression of the Back) and Second no Love (The Second Lover). Despite not being super enthusiastic about these songs, they sounded great coming through LIQUIDROOM’s superb sound system. Gomumari is a bit too country for me, but aCKy belted it out with soul, and it sounded great. Senaka Moyou was a lot better live, as I could feel the sound of the horns pulsing throughout my body, and aCKy took it upon himself to touch his man breasts in weird ways during the song, driving home its sleaziness. During the fast-paced Second no Love, aCKy engaged the audience in another simple dance routine that really shot up the energy levels in the crowd.
The band then launched into a hilariously sloppy version of Ore no Sei de Koushien ni Ikenakatta (It’s All My Fault That We Couldn’t Go To Koushien). In live versions of the song, you often hear aCKy yelling at the audience to dance along with band, but this time he got to so distracted that mid-way through singing the first verse, he switched to the second verse after yelling something incomprehensible. The second verse was then sung again by the vocalist for the next band set to perform–Carnation–and the last verse was sung by the both of them. It was pretty fun.
OLH closed off their set with a rousing rendition of Tokyo (ja) Nightclub (wa) ((In A) Tokyo Nightclub). The band went all out for their last song, closing their set off with aCKy removing all of his clothes, and throwing his pink leopard-print socks at the audience. By the end he was clothed in nothing but a sheer pink bikini bottom, and thrust his crotch towards the audience, with his package in clear sight rocking back and forth. He then gave himself a wedgy and took it upon himself to moon everyone.
His body was absolutely hairless, by the way.
After that incredible performance, people demanded an encore. Their cries would be in vain however, as Carnation was actually the main event at this show. I had never heard of Carnation before, but they’re a rock band with something of a funky edge to some of their songs, slightly reminiscent of what I’ve heard from bands like Scoobie-Do and Super Butter Dog. Unlike OLH, whose top priority is storytelling through their music, Carnation was all about rocking out for extended periods of time. While I’m not always in the mood for straight rock, they sounded great live, and I really enjoyed their more funky pieces. I may just pick up an album!
Carnation did get an encore, and their grand finale enlisted the talents of Brown Nose and two parts of OLH: aCKy, and the band’s guitarist, Tetsuya. aCKy came out dressed in drag, clad in a gaudy silver jump suit, garish make-up, and a hot pink beehive-haircut wig. At the end of the song he put his mic to his crotch and pretended to jerk off the audience.
I mentioned this earlier, but LIQUIDROOM has a great acoustic setup, at least to my untrained ears. OLH’s horns came through strongly, and gave every song–even the ones I wasn’t too hot on–more power than they ever had on the album. And while OLH isn’t the sort of band to do complicated dance routines, a lot of their songs have established gestures that the band does at certain points during their songs. As I mentioned before, they often try to get the audience involved with a lot of their more upbeat songs, doing a good job of keeping the energy in the room at an all time high.
If I had to complain, I would have rather gone to a show where OLH was the main event, so they wouldn’t have to rush through their set just to let the next band play. I also would have liked a more varied setlist–half the songs were from their new album! Also, their guitarist seemed slightly out of sorts. In the videos from their shows he always seems pretty laid back, but he still plays with a lot vigor. At this show he didn’t really live up to his work on both the studio recordings and the live recordings, so I hope he’s in better shape during the next show I go to. Everyone else was great though, especially the two backup singers, Kaoru and Fumiko, who always have tons of fun dancing in front of the mic. aCKy’s antics were over-the-top and crazy, as expected.
All in all, it was a pretty good show, and finances allowing, I’d love to go more. I’d also just like to go more live shows in general. Soutaisei Riron was actually holding a show at LIQUIDROOM that week, but I wasn’t able to go. But money allowing, I’d love to see all of my favorite bands live while I’m here.
I would have liked to take pictures, but like most Japanese venues, photography at LIQUIDROOM is restricted to people with press armbands. Though, if I had a camera that was good at taking pictures in low-light situations, I wouldn’t have minded discreetly whipping it out for a few shots.
Oh, and there was loot. Since all their CDs were on sale, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to fill in some holes in my collection…
Pictured: Album Whydunit?, album Dairihaha, single Pachinko Yatteru Aida ni Umarete Mamonai Musume wo Kuruma no Naka de Shinaseta… Natsu, single Atashi Dake ni Kakete, NHK ni Youkoso limited edition volume 4, and an Omokage Lucky Hole towel that I wore around my neck on the train ride home…
(Yes, I did just want to say “discreetly whipping it out” and “fill in some holes” in an OLH concert report.)